The Legacy of Lafanmi Selavi

Street Children in Haiti – part II, 2000-2008

Lafanmi Selavi (The Family is Life) was a home created for street children by Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1986 when he was still a parish priest. It was closed down in 1999 after a demonstration by some of the older boys, but with the hundreds of children and little oversight and supervision, it was going to happen sooner or later. Aristide was also running for president again and security was a big issue.

After the closure, many children no longer had the opportunity to go to school, a place to sleep, food and clothing, sports, music, art, or a family that their former home provided. Street life is harsh, miserable, and dangerous for children in Haiti, and many of the children dreaded going back to it. After acclimating to a life of school, schedules, and safety, they didn’t want to remember how they had to behave to survive out on the streets.

These children were still associated with Aristide and his politics, and although Lafanmi Selavi was closed, continued to be targets of anti-Aristide forces. Many have been killed because of this. Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. In the context of extreme economic and political instability, the vulnerability of children rises significantly.