When Helia LaJeunesse was five years old, her mother died. She went to live with her grandmother until she too passed away. A neighbor took Helia in until she was about twelve years old. The woman of the house made Helia do all the cleaning and all of the chores around the house. Helia was verbally and physically abused, and she wasn’t allowed to go to school. Even the neighbors would tell the woman that she was mistreating Helia. The woman would reply that since she didn’t have a family, Helia was an animal, and should be treated like an animal. Not until the community threatened to burn down the woman’s house did she let Helia go to communion class.
Helia finally mustered enough courage to escape. She was enslaved again, “I would have the hope that somebody would deliver me. I always have that hope and I believe that not everybody can be the same way.”
Eventually, Helia married and had children. One night during the political unrest in Haiti, masked men broke into her house, raped her and took away her husband. She has never see him again. She couldn’t feed her children and eventually sent them into the child ‘restavec’ [slavery] system in Haiti. Finally, with the help of Limye Lavi – an anti-slavery group FTS works with in Haiti – Helia has brought her children home. Despite her optimism and sheer will power to create a future different from her past, times are incredibly difficult for Helia.
Click here to read the story in Helia's words: http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=368