Last month, MADRE Program Coordinator Sahita Pierre-Antoine was in Haiti, visiting our sisters at KOFAVIV. She spoke with Malya Villard-Appolon, co-founder of KOFAVIV, about the Shoes for Haitian Girls project. We’d like to share those updates with you now:
KOFAVIV’s latest shoe distribution coincided with KOFAVIV’s launch of their Saturday workshops for young teenage girls at risk of sexual exploitation. While speaking with the girls participating in the session, KOFAVIV staff noticed that many of their sandals were completely worn out from the long distances that they walked each day. KOFAVIV donated new shoes and sneakers to the participants so that they could walk comfortably and safely to and from the KOFAVIV Center.
The girls who participate in the Saturday workshops do not live with their families. They have been left to fend for themselves, and many are struggling to do so. Most—if not all—of the girls have turned to transactional sex (exchanging sex for basics such as a meal, shelter, or daily supplies) to provide for themselves, and sometimes for their children. Most of these girls are under 21 years of age and have left school before reaching high school. Many want to go back to school to learn and to help secure a better future, but socio-economic circumstances prevent them from doing so.
KOFAVIV offers them a place of solace where they can participate in various arts and crafts activities as well as group therapy sessions. They can talk openly to KOFAVIV counselors and peer mentors about their troubles. They are also able to meet other young girls their age who are facing the same issues. They learn skills such as hair dressing, jewelry making, t-shirt printing and other income-generating skills, and receive a hot meal and a snack for the day.
One of the main objectives of these Saturday sessions is for KOFAVIV to reassure these young girls that they have not been forgotten and that they should not give up hope.