Trafficked after the Haiti earthquake – A child’s story
Ludginie was twelve years old when the Haiti earthquake struck – leaving her city in ruins and Haiti’s society in chaos. When a group of people from America offered to take her abroad for a better life, her parents agreed.
“I remember it as if it happened today,” Ludginie, now 21, told us.
“I left my home with strangers who said they were taking me to the US. My parents agreed that I leave, since they had lost everything in the earthquake and had no money to support me.”
To be given up so easily was traumatising, Ludginie says. “They handed me over with no guarantee that they would ever see me again. I have often thought about the ease with which my parents were willing to believe in these strangers’ motives.”
The group also attempted to smuggle 32 other young boys and girls out of the country and into the Dominican Republic. They were intercepted at the border, and all the children came to live with an SOS family at our SOS village community in Port-au-Prince Santo. But not before a frightening ordeal where police stopped their bus and took them to the police station.
Ludginie remembers being held in a juvenile facility for two days before welfare authorities arranged for her to move to SOS Children’s Villages. She was cared for by her SOS mother, Rachelle, for two months while SOS worked to reunite her with her grandparents. Her parents, now separated, have their own lives apart from her, she says.
“When I arrived [at the SOS village community] I was frightened and stressed because I didn’t know what was happening to me,” recalls Ludginie. “I did not sleep the first night I arrived. But I remain very grateful to my SOS mother Rachelle. She reassured me until my fears faded away.”
After a few days, Ludginie began to settle in to her new home and make friends. She keeps in touch with many young people she met there, who she still calls “my brothers and sisters.”
She also recalls some of the counselling activities that helped her, and the other children, recover from the trauma of the quake and being separated from their parents.
Her childhood experiences have left her resolved to never repeat her parents’ mistakes. “This taught me that I have to prepare before I have children of my own,” she said. “I have to be able to provide for a child, to avoid what happened to me 10 years ago.”
The chaos in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake created an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to exploit the most vulnerable. The number of desperate parents who were convinced to let their children leave with strangers after the earthquake is “the saddest lesson of this catastrophe,” says Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Haiti.
SOS played a key role in protecting children from being trafficked out of Haiti into the Dominican Republic in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. In the months and years since we have reunited children with their families, rebuilt schools, and helped families, and communities, recover from the tragedy.