It’s been three years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, but what only lasted seconds has continued to reverberate for young girls there. Many were orphaned by the disaster and left to fend for themselves in the dangerous, overcrowded camps. Vulnerable, hungry and alone, many were forced into survival sex — exploited by men who give them basic necessities like shelter, food and water in exchange for sex.
But with your help, we’re breaking the cycle. MADRE and our Haitian sister organization KOFAVIV are working to meet the critical needs of these girls, including a warm meal, shelter and medical treatment. And our Saturday workshops at the KOFAVIV Center are giving them the counseling and social support they need to break free from survival sex and rebuild their lives.
At the Saturday workshops, the girls are able to build their confidence through the support networks and friendships that they form at the Center. One way they do this is through sharing their stories. This therapeutic process allows these girls to begin healing from the physical and emotional traumas they’ve endured.
Recently, KOFAVIV shared some of the stories of these courageous young girls with us**. With permission, we’re sharing them with you now. I hope you’ll read them and see how together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of these brave girls.
**The names of the girls have been changed to protect their identities.
Simone, Age 15
“I don’t have a mother, she died. My dad doesn’t take care of me. I’m living at someone’s house because I don’t have anywhere else to go. But when that person doesn’t have anything for me, I have to go ask the guys who are by my house for a little money so I can eat. They want me to sleep with them before they give it to me. Finally, I gave in. I sold my body to live. Sometimes I sleep with people so I can have a little money to eat. I came to the workshop because I see that it will be good for me. It will help me manage my life and pay for my school. The skills I am learning will help me live.”
Annette, Age 16
“I live with my aunt. She doesn’t help me at all. She just gives me a place to sleep. To be able to live, I have to sleep with a lot of different people. Sometimes, if I don’t want to, they’ve pointed weapons at me. Sometimes they don’t give me anything afterwards. Or, they give me 50 gourdes, which I can’t buy anything with. I don’t go to school. I’m embarrassed because I don’t even know how to write my name. I come to KOFAVIV because I want my life to change.”
Patricia, Age 14
“I am living by myself in a camp. A married man reached out to me. I don’t have a choice so I’m forced to have sex with men. I go sleep with people to find a way to eat. Sometimes I can make 200 Haitian dollars in a day [$23USD]. But sometimes, I don’t make any money. There are some people who make promises, saying that they will give me the money, then I sleep with them and they don’t give it to me. What pushed me to come to this workshop is that I saw that it will be very useful to me. It will help me be autonomous, and be independent, so I can get out of this life, out of this situation.”
Johanne, Age 13
“I am living with my older sister. She’s 15. Our parents died in the earthquake. Sometimes, I will do people’s laundry to make money. Other times, I will sleep with guys so that I can feed myself. I am proud to come to the workshops. It will be so good for me. I’m going to learn and practice these skills and I will be able to provide for myself and my sister.”