Gary and Mavis Unger originally came to Haiti in December of 2014 on a two week trip to help host a conference for local women. It was then that they met their now daughter Mitchella. The organization that ran the conference was affiliated with the orphanage Port Au Prince, Haiti where Mitchella had been living for the previous 4 years.
During that time two North American families had pursued adopting her and then for varying reasons failed to follow through. Gary and Mavis were drawn to her and after hearing her story committed to be her third adoptive family, the family who would bring her home. Child and Family Services in Haiti and in Canada both gave them the green light and with Mitchella’s permission they put together their paper work while going back and forth between Canada and Haiti to keep bonding with their new daughter. One year into the process everything came to a screeching halt.
We are committed to helping these girls overcome their past and reach their future potential.
Gary and Mavis were not within the age parameters to adopt Mitchella internationally. However, there were allowed to foster her domestically. This was their daughter and this was their only option to have her in their home. In January of 2016 they moved to Haiti to raise their now 12 year old daughter with plans to provide administrative and maintenance support to the orphanage where they had first met her. God used their time at Maison des Enfants de Dieu (MED) to stabilize the direction of the ministry, to teach entrepreneurship, and to help start a bakery which helped the organization be more financially self-sufficient among other things.
It was during their two years working with MED that they started to see a dramatic difference in the social classes of the kids in their neighboring communities. Some kids were wearing clean uniforms, with combed hair, and light heartedly chatting with friends on their way to school each morning, while others who walked alongside them were wearing ratty clothing over their thin bodies with matted hair carrying the other child’s books, or backpack, or a pail of water. These children did not have a light heartedness about them. Their demeanor was serious and they seemed weary.
Still being relatively new to Haitian culture the Ungers asked around to find out why there was such a difference in these two groups of kids. They were told that the child with the lower station in life was a restavek. This was the first time they had heard that word and it would become the word that changed the course of their lives.
A restavek is a child bound in domestic servitude to a host family. Though generally not bought and sold, but given as free labor, the reality is that these children are child slaves. Upon further inquiry with Haitian Social Services (IBESR) they found out that the there are an estimated 300,000 restaveks in Haiti, with up to 75% of them being girls.
Beauty Out of Ashes was born in the summer of 2017 by Gary and Mavis Unger in collaboration with IBESR as one of the first restavek foster homes in Haiti. By March of 2018 IBESR had removed 12 restaveks from deplorable conditions and united them with the Ungers at BOA in Fort Jacques, Haiti. Their family was now full but the journey is only just beginning.