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Haiti’s Fight for Freedom

Haiti’s Fight for Freedom

The day slavery ended in Haiti the country was morally, physically and emotionally bankrupt. It was, to put it bluntly, a murderous, bloody, revolution against the French, erupting in 1791 and concluding nearly 13 years later with a hard fought victory in 1804. But, without the Louisiana Purchase, freedom might never have come.

Slavery became a part of Hispaniola soon after Columbus discovered it in 1492; it was, in fact, the first place he landed in the New World. The island was eventually divided into two colonies; the east owned by Spain, and the west by France. Today they are known as the Dominican Republic and Haiti respectively.

Both countries brought their aristocratic ways to the island, implementing the long- standing history of slavery. When not enough slaves were available for the huge plantations they built, they brought slaves in from West Africa. Haiti, or Saint Dominique as it was known then, prospered well under the whip of slavery. Huge plantations produced sugar, coffee, and cotton making France rich. But not everyone prospered.

The conditions slaves lived and worked under were harsh. They had hard taskmasters and the work was backbreaking. And, as all people do, they yearned to be free. France was in the middle of its own crisis at the time with the French Revolution breaking out two years earlier in 1789. To appease its citizens, it published the Declaration of the Rights of Man, August 26, 1789 in which it declared “all men free and equal.” The slaves of the French Colony believed this should apply to them as well and the revolt began.

When Napoleon Bonaparte takes power in France in 1799 he vows that slavery will return to all its colonies. But the revolution is not going well and the troops are outnumbered with many dying from sickness as from combat. With the French in desperate need of money they sell 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River to the United States for 15 million dollars. Known as The Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, the deal nearly doubles the size of the U.S.

This ends France’s claim to North America and results in the French withdrawing from all its colonies in the Caribbean, leaving the inhabitants of Haiti to fend for themselves. The new country is poorer now. France demands reparation for the loss of its slaves and Haiti plunges into poverty while paying the debt in exchange for recognition. Nevertheless, it encourages free former slaves in the United States to immigrate to Haiti.

By September 1824 more than 6,000 blacks have come, however, many return to the U.S. finding conditions in Haiti too harsh. Today, Haiti is still poor and has discovered that freedom can be challenging. The 10,714 square miles of country has nearly ten million people struggling to improve the land they inherited from their enslaved ancestors. But, there is hope for this land of contrasts.

The people have shown time and time again their resolve for independence and willingness to combat the evils that have plagued them in the past. In a world where traffickers are capitalizing on their vulnerabilities Haitians have turned to organizations such as O.U.R. to give them the tools they need to stand stronger.

The United Nations, along with several countries, is also reaching out to help Haiti improve their infrastructure, reduce corruption and assist in the rebuilding of various government entities such as the police force. In a country where seventy percent of the population makes an average of $2 a day and crime and corruption still exist, slavery remains present — it has just gone underground.Haiti is stepping up, however, to save its children and in the process they are reaching out to O.U.R. to help. We are proud and humbled by their requests. Their government is a true partner and eager to use the tools and resources we can provide.

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*Operation Underground Railroad has rescued 28 children from being sold in Haiti and continues to help those who have no voice all over the world in its fight for Freedom For All.

By: Cheryl L. Karr

Sources: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/beard63/beard63.html?sa=X&ved=0CB0Q9QEwA2oVChMIt4myqIL6xgIVRC2ICh0cSwh3 http://www.library.brown.edu http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/louisiana-purchase http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/haiti/new-year-day https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

Matt with Blind Orphan
Matt with Blind Orphan

It was a chance meeting in a third world country. Two American men, so inspired by the movie The Abolitionists, that they went to Haiti to help at an orphanage. They ended up face to face with Operation Underground Railroad Founder and CEO Tim Ballard.

“He saw us in our O.U.R. T-­shirts in Haiti and thought we were part of his group,” said Matt Wells. “When he came up, also wearing an O.U.R. T-­shirt, he said, ‘Oh, I don’t even know you!’” But, that clandestine meeting turned into an opportunity for the Wells as Ballard helped them connect to people who could open doors for them and the orphanage.

Matt and his father Claude Wells are doers. Matt says he’s always considered himself an entrepreneur, working in construction and real estate while earning a degree in Global Management. Claude is in sales. Together they make a pretty formidable team.

When they saw a private screening of the movie about Operation Underground Railroad and the many rescues they have done to save children from sex slavery, they knew they had to act.

Guesno Marty was at the screening as well. His son is a kidnapped victim and O.U.R. is working to find and rescue him. The Wells connected with Marty and offered to help with the private orphanage he runs in Haiti. From there everything just seemed to fall into place. “I call it effortless,” said Matt.

The orphanage is set in a suburb of Point-­‐au-­‐Prince about ten miles outside the city of 10 million. As Matt and Claude drove through the city to the orphanage, they were alarmed at the amount of poverty they saw at every turn. Buildings falling apart, ragged children, and people everywhere.

Fortunately, they found the orphanage quite different. “It was like an oasis from the dilapidated buildings in the area, “ said Matt. “The kids are clean and happy and very polite. I was very impressed.”

Running an orphanage isn’t easy, however, and Guesno is always in need of supplies for the children. The Wells not only saw that need, but jumped in to do what they could to help. Their goal is to help the orphanage become sustainable by running operations that will bring in enough income to keep the orphanage funded.

“We don’t want to give them fish. We want to teach them how to fish,” said Matt. The orphanage already has 150 chickens, which produce 150-­‐170 eggs a day. Rather than be eaten, the eggs are sold to help pay for expenses. With the Wells’ help that number will soon be 1000 chickens. Guesno estimates that will produce a profit of $3000 a month while still providing a few eggs for the children’s consumption.

Long-­‐term plans are being made to build a brick plant where they can make bricks to sell and bring in an income to sustain the orphanage. The Wells went to Mexico to look into machinery for bricks and paper and are creating a business plan for the orphanage.

“We’re learning as we go, said Matt. “There’s so much that goes into it. We’ve pledged a certain amount, but it’s not enough money.” As a result the Wells are creating a non-­‐profit organization called Thrive with a goal to help with sustainability.

For the orphanage’s immediate needs the Wells filled a 40-­‐foot shipping container with diapers, bedding sheets, clothing, baby formula and toys, and sent it to Haiti two months ago. It took two weeks to fill and includes “My Little Pony” toys as well as 3,000 hot wheels in their original packages, donated by a family whose late father collected them for years.

“Eighty percent of the children in the orphanage are five years old and younger,” said Matt. That fact, alone, makes toys a necessity. If you would like help please contact us at info@ourrescue.org.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Searching for the One: Gardy Mardy

Searching for the One: Gardy Mardy

Three-year-old little Gardy sits on his father’s lap at church in Haiti. Happy. Content. Free.  His papa gives him a gentle hug, enjoying the loving bond between father and son. Sadly, it is only a memory now as Guesno reflects on his last moments with Gardy who disappeared right after church. A frantic search only confirms Guesno’s worst fears: Gardy is gone.

What do you do at a time like this? A million thoughts go through your mind at once.  Is he hiding or did someone take him? Who would do this?  Is he safe?  Is he scared? Where is he? How can I save him? Why Gardy? He’s too young; too innocent; too sweet.

Eventually, the painful truth becomes clear. Little Gardy was kidnapped and a ransom demanded. In his despair Gardy’s father turns to the FBI since Gardy was born in the United States and carries dual citizenship with Haiti. Unfortunately, the FBI investigation only brings partial comfort and not the hope for return of Guesno’s son.

It turns out the man allegedly responsible for the kidnapping is an employee of Guesno’s who runs an orphanage in Haiti. There are over 50,000 children in Haiti without parents, and the orphanage is always struggling to help as many children as possible. In what appeared to be a blessing, a generous donor provided materials to help improve the orphanage. The employee, seeing an increase in affluence believes Guesno has come into some money and begins to make a plan; kidnap Gardy and collect the ransom money.  But he can’t do it himself, so he turns to others who have experience in this loathsome  business.

The traffickers who take Gardy know they can make more money off him by either selling him or using him as a labor or sex slave and have no intention of returning him for ransom. And that is the heartbreaking truth. The now former employee is in jail, refusing to cooperate, while it is believed the traffickers are exploiting poor little Gardy for their own enjoyment.

The distraught father now looks for any way he can to find his son. If the FBI can’t do it, maybe a private military company can. But hope quickly turns to despair once again as Guesno learns of the $500,000.000 price tag. An impossible sum. Is there no help to be found?

Related: Slave Stealer Podcast: Interviewing Gardy’s Dad

Four years have passed since that fateful day when Gardy was kidnapped. Four years of not knowing. Four years of praying, hoping, begging for his return.

Operation Underground Railroad’s Founder and CEO, Tim Ballard, became aware of Guesno’s plight through a mutual friend nearly one year ago. Operating strictly from donations, it doesn’t cost Guesno anything to have O.U.R.’s help. A blessing he can truly appreciate.

Through intense investigation O.U.R. traced little Gardy to an illegal orphanage in Port-au-Prince,  Haiti, where children are sold with no questions asked. Many are turned into labor or sex slaves. It was this illegal orphanage that O.U.R. went to in February and rescued 28 children, hoping that Gardy would be among them. Unfortunately, he was not. But that is not the end. New intelligence is leading the Jump Team to an area where they believe he may be and, in the continued search for Gardy, numerous other children are being rescued.

Gardy Mardy

It’s difficult to find good sometimes when there is so much ugliness in this world, but Gardy’s father is finding comfort in the fact that in searching for his child many children are being rescued from traffickers.  Most are now in legal orphanages hoping to be adopted by loving families. But, even if they’re not adopted, their life in the orphanages is a blessing compared to the future that awaited them with the traffickers.

Three-year-old little Gardy is now seven. He is still missing, but he is not forgotten. We are looking for him and we believe we will find him and bring him home. One look in Guesno’s eyes tells you what we are doing means everything to him and, one day soon with God’s help, this nightmare for Gardy and his family will be over.

Written by Cheryl L. Karr

Rescue Update: Operation Voo Doo Doll in Haiti

Rescue Update: Operation Voo Doo Doll in Haiti

The following are excerpts from an interview with Founder and CEO of  O.U.R. Tim Ballard on his recent visit to Haiti to check up on the 28 children he and the “Jump Team” rescued in February. 

Q: You just went to Haiti right and checked up on those children you rescued in February. Can you give us an update?

A: Yes. To see these kids, they’re totally happy now.  They were just shattered before, and now they’re not. After just two months there, we can see physically they’re getting fed.  They’re being taken care of. They’re licensed, and it’s a pretty nice facility where they’re at.

Q: Are there any of them that will be returned to their parents? 

A: No.  None of the parents have been found. In most cases, they probably wouldn’t be. But, we don’t know about all of them.  They’re still looking into some of them.  Half the kids went to one orphanage and half went to the other one. They’re (the orphanage) still looking into the whereabouts of the kids and a lot of it is still tied to the investigation which is still pending. The women are in jail still. That’s just part of the process.  So, we’ve had a lot of people interested in adopting these kids, so we’re working with adoption agencies, and there’re several families who really want to get these kids.

Q: I heard you were interested in adopting two of these children.  Can you tell me about that?

A: Yes. We’re one of those families.  The hold-up right now is that they’re tied up with the investigation so once there’s a sentencing of the women and the cases are over, the kids become adoptable. When I was down there, I met with the head officer who runs all adoptions in Haiti, a very high level person, and she was so gracious, and she knew exactly who we were and about the operation. She’s going to help us.  We consider adoption part of the rehab process, too, if we can get these kids into homes.

Q: So the child you’re holding in the picture, is he the one you want to adopt?

A. Yes,  him and his sister.

Q: And how old are they?

A: Three and four.

Q: And what is their story? I mean, where are their parents?

A: The story the traffickers gave us is that they are both dead.  They were killed in a murder/suicide, but that’s something they would say anyway.  That’s what they (law enforcement) are investigating right now. But unless they can find the parents, or find that there are no parents, or find the parents and they say that they can’t take care of them, then they are not adoptable. So right now they are working on tracking this.  And we’re still heavily involved with the operation in Haiti. We’re closing in on some of the traffic organizations.  That’s one of our next sting operations that we plan.

Q:  If someone wanted to adopt one of these children, what would they do?

A: I would send them to our web site at OURrescue.org and we can connect them with the adoption agencies.

Q: A lot of people ask what they can do to help.  Is this something you would like to see them do?

A: This is something we want to start a chain reaction with.  Do you want to help? Do you have space and means to take one of these kids in?

Q: Do they speak English or French?

A.  They speak Creole and a little French, maybe.  They learn English real fast.  Actually, in the place we have them, they teach them English.

Q: So the three women are in jail?

A: Actually, there are two.  The other woman is an undercover cop.

Q: What is the latest on that?

A: It’s in the judicial process.  They do hearings, and they’re investigating.

Q: Do you have to go back for any of that?

A: I might have to go back and testify.

Q: Do you have any upcoming rescues planned?

A: We have several, but we can’t really give any details.  We have one in Guatemala…We have two in Colombia we’re working on.  Another Haiti one.  And then we have several in Mexico that we’re working on.  

For more information or to help with the cause, please visit ourrescue.org

Interview by Cheryl L. Karr