Maryville ministry hoping to rescue child slaves in Haiti

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It was a sight even missionaries weren't prepared to see - a group of children working as child slaves, or restavicks, in a remote area of Haiti.

"Some of them are being used as sex slaves, some of them are just simply labor. Some of them just simply cook all day. Some of them are used like servants, where the family eats in one place and they get the scraps, but they're the ones who prepared the meals," said Andrea Brewer, with the ReachHaiti ministry.

Founded in Maryville, the ReachHaiti ministry has been in the country since 2009, doing humanitarian work and helping orphaned children. It's new goal: rescue the child slaves and put them into a safe home called the "Freedom House".

"Some of them don't know their name, and a lot of them don't know their ages because they don't have a birth certificate. So by rescuing them and putting them into this house, not only will we be able to rescue them and to give them a name, but we will also be able to nourish them, find out exactly what's going on medically with them," said Alicia Meeuwsen, who is on the Child Advocacy Board for the ReachHaiti ministry.

Of course, all of that costs money - they estimate about $15,000 for the building, staff and expenses. That's why they're holding a fundraiser at Vienna Coffee House in Maryville at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

They said raising the money by July is important:

"The goal of getting this house - the urgency for getting this house by July is that the lease is up. And in Haiti, the way that works is that you have to provide a year's worth of rent up front in order to renew the lease," said Meeuwsen.

The ministry plans to rescue as many of this group of child slaves as it can, and eventually, it hopes to house up to 30 kids in the Freedom House.

If you can't make it to the fundraiser, you can still help by donating online by clicking the link below or by sending a check in the mail to:

Reach Haiti Ministries
P.O. Box 5945
Maryville, TN 37802

Click the link below for more information.

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