Haiti claims the world’s first successful slave revolt, yet 300,000 Haitian children live in slavery, Conn said.
Conn, who grew up in Cleveland and now owns Tricon Inc., presented the philosophy and goal to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday.
The goal of organizers is to see child slavery in Haiti end within their lifetimes.
While his first trip to the country was for pleasure, consecutive trips have made him a man on a mission. He said this first trip for him was an eye opener, and after that what he had seen stayed with him. After researching child slavery in Haiti, he and his wife reached a point where they strongly felt they had to do more.
“So, Joan (his wife) and I set about with a group of friends and people in Haiti doing research and trying to research how we were going to attack that problem,” Conn said.
Many children living in slavery in Haiti come from families that could not support them or give them an education. Some go to work for families with the promise of educational opportunity, a promise Conn said is rarely kept.
“I do not mean to be negative of Haiti — beautiful country, beautiful people, rich culture, incredible things there. But there is an issue with Haiti,” Conn said.
Haiti is a failed state, Conn said.
“A failed state in essence — no government, no economy, no services. If those are there, they’re there in such small quantities, that they truly have no practical application,” Conn said.
The foundation works as advocates for children in slavery to ensure they are allowed to attend school. In severely abusive situations, the organization works to free the children involved.
The organization has 692 children in its Advocacy Program, 11 girls in its transitional home and has partnered with more than 250 churches and 55 Haitian schools. The foundation also served more than10,000 Haitians through its programs for adults.
Restavak Freedom Foundation was already established in Haiti when a massive earthquake hit in 2010. Conn and his wife were living in an apartment there at the time. The apartment was destroyed, but they were safe.
Conn said many people in Cleveland gave to help in the aftermath of the earthquake.
For more information on Conn’s organization, visit www.restavekfreedom.org.
Rotarians were also made aware of a local opportunity to make a difference. Rotarian Dustin Guyton of All-Timate Exteriors presented information about the company’s third All-Timate Blessing renovation.
“It a very simple concept. Its an ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ concept on a local level,” Guyton said.
For more information on donating or becoming a part, visit www.alltimateblessing.com.