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#2181: Author exposes Haiti child-slave system (fwd)


Published Saturday, January 29, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Author exposes Haiti child-slave system______ BY JACQUELINE CHARLES

 To Dottie Mark and most of the educators in the classroom at J.P.
Taravella High in Coral Springs, the word restavec sounded as archaic as
the practice it describes: child slavery. But as author and American
history teacher Jean-Robert Cadet described his life as a restavec in
Haiti -- routinely beaten, forced to eat alone in a corner and scrub
 the chamber pots -- Mark and the others began to wonder:

 How many of their students had lived the life of a restavec -- a French
term meaning ``to stay with'' that describes a form of servitude forced
on many poor Haitian children. ``We get so caught up in the everyday
life of being a teacher that you sometimes forget to be more aware of
the children before you and their experiences,'' said Mark, 46, a
guidance counselor at Wilton Manors Elementary School. Haitian
 children presented the fastest-growing student population at the
school, Mark said. As part of his ongoing mission to bring awareness to
the still-widespread practice, Cadet, who lives in Cincinnati, made the
rounds in South Florida on Friday, meeting with members of the Haitian
community. But his primary reason for being here was to speak with the
teachers. He was invited to speak by the school district and Plantation
family therapist Margaret Armand. During a workshop for about 40 of the
400 teachers who attended Broward Schools' 10th annual Languages and
Cultures Symposium, Cadet described his tortured past. His mission: To
get the teachers to understand that many of the kids in their
 classrooms might have been restavecs or, in some cases, might still be
living in that situation.  ``It's not a dead issue,'' said Cadet, whose
book, Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American
(University of Texas, $12.95) was published in 1998. ``It's still out
there.'' In October, allegations surfaced in Broward about a 12-year-old
Pembroke Pines girl who said she was forced into slavery inside a
$400,000 home in an upscale suburb. The young Haitian girl said she was
beaten, forced to clean house, and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her
``step-brother.'' The girl was eventually taken into Department of
Children and Families custody, where she remains.
 The investigation remains open, with Pembroke Pines police looking for
the ``stepbrother,'' Willie Pompee Jr. He is being sought on a warrant
for sexual abuse, a warrant investigators were reluctant to seek for the
first three weeks of their investigation. Cadet, who briefly mentioned
the Pembroke Pines incident on Friday, said it demonstrates that the
practice isn't confined to Haiti. ``This is where you come in,'' he told
the teachers. ``You have tremendous power to not only change lives but
rebuild lives.'' Recalling how a New York state high school social
studies teacher, Mr. Rabinowitz, changed his life, Cadet said: ``Mr.
Rabinowitz restored my humanity. He put his hands around my neck. He ate
with me. I had never eaten at the same table with an adult before him.''
 Lisa Dos Santos, a history teacher at Forest Glenn Middle School in
Coral Springs, said that while she came to the conference to pick up
pointers on how to infuse the Haitian and Hispanic cultures into her
regular curriculum, she left with something more.``As a teacher, you
always know you can make a difference,'' she said, ``But listening to
him speak, seeing what he achieved with so little, makes you
 appreciate what you do even more. Just by looking a little deeper, you
can make even more of a difference in a child's life.''