On March 24, 1980: a man named Oscar Romero got killed in El Salvador. A man who stood up for the poor and oppressed.
Thirty years later, CWS named its vocational school after this man. Oscar Romero, a dream that arose from the rubble of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A place where youth get a second chance. Single teenage mothers and ex-gang members learn a profession, from masonry to cooking and sewing, from plumbing and electricity to cosmetics.
March 24, 2013: 41 students graduate from Oscar Romero. Proud students, ready to take their lives into their hands, to leave behind a past, to start a future. At the graduation ceremony there is singing, dancing and sketches. Throughout all of the performing speaks a deep longing, a deep understanding of life’s challenges, a history of young people still. Do not look at appearances, is the message of a sketch. Nothing and no one is as it seems. Many hands make light work, another sketch shows. The songs testify of Jesus being the centre and source of our lives, but are also a prayer for God to carry the heavy load for them.
A choir of younger children joins the voices of the graduates. Children who attend the accelerated primary school program for restavèks; children who live with people other than their biological families, often lured away from the countryside under false promises of a better life in the city. Children who end up working hard, from early morning until late evening, carrying water, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, being denied access to food, school, health care, love and affection. CWS goes to the families where they stay, often poor families, who are just looking for a cheap servant. They convince them to let the children go to school, to treat them better. And sometimes even to let them go home to their biological families. CWS talks to those families too, explaining the harsh reality of the life the children go to if their families let them go to the city.
The children sing and dance. Children whose lives have changed, who get a chance to use their talents, to look at life and participate in society in a different way. Young people graduate; a start of a new life, a life of peace, a life that Oscar Romero died for.
Margot de Greef, country representative, CWS, Haiti