Haitian drummer, orphanage founder talk child slavery at USF

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Many people think that slavery in the past but it is happening in countries all over the world. According to the International Labor Organization more than 40 million people are in modern slavery and more than 150 million are in child labor.

One man who escaped his captors in Haiti shared his story with students and staff at the University of Saint Francis. Haitian drummer Bill Nathan was 6-years-old when he became an orphan and was sent to live with a family in Haiti that mistreated him.

“When the family took me in I thought life would be better than living on the street,” said Nathan. “But they started to treat me as a slave. I got beat up, no food, no schooling. It was really tough for me.”

He was often alone but found entertainment in a five gallon bucket.

“When I was a child slave a bucket was my best friend,” he said. “I would use the bucket [as a drum] and people would say, ‘Bill you’re so good!’ Well, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

He was eventually able to escape with the help of a group of Catholic nuns. Now, he has made it his mission to give back. Nathan runs an orphanage for former child slaves.

“With my music and with my talent I’m going to help my brothers and sisters,” he said. “[We have] music classes and we have a choir for the women in the community and our children involved in all kind of music and art.”

Nathan joined founder of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage for a seminar at the University of Saint Francis. USF makes an annual mission trips to help in Haiti and organizes a 5-K run/walk to raise money for the orphanage.

Father Andre Sylvestre founded the orphanage in 2010 after the earthquakes destroyed much of Haiti and left many children without parents.

“Many children lost their parents, became orphans,” said Sylvestre. “I felt that was the time to start.”

With the help of the USF the orphanage has grown over the last 9 years. It is now home to 37 children.

“They would be children of the streets,” said Sylvestre. “We never know what they would become without the orphanage.”

During the seminar students and staff were able to see the fruits of their labor. Nathan left them with a very important message.

“Dream big. Invest in people. And pay it forward,” he said.

For more information about Formula For Life’s 5K, click here.

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