Haitian children are Kids too
Teen writes booklet to help young children
A 12-year-old girl follows a family tradition by getting behind a good
BY ESTEPHANIE RESNIK, email@example.com
While most kids her age only compose essays and poems as homework
assignments, Sara Berlin is already the author and publisher of a book that promotes
Haitian Children Are Kids Too!, a 28-page booklet, conveys the plight of
Haitian children who immigrate to America.
Sara, a 12-year-old who lives in North Miami Beach, was first inspired to
take up the cause after attending a fundraiser for People for the American Way, a
national civil rights group, with her father Louis Berlin last year. The
event featured an exhibition of photographs, and she saw one of a boy holding a
sign that read ``Haitian Children are Kids Too!"
Unsure what the sign meant, Sara later became distressed as her father
explained that Haitian children are shut in detention centers, sometimes for months
at a time. She decided, at her father's suggestion, to write a book about the
situation to inform and motivate other kids to get involved in the issue.
Sara wound using the photo, by photojournalist Al Crespo, for her book's
cover and title. "They should be treated with respect, like human beings," she
said of Haitian children. "They shouldn't be locked up and they should have
the right to be free."
Written for elementary-aged readers, Haitian Children Are Kids Too! is filled
with Sara's short essays on problems faced by the Haitian people in their
country and in the United States. Photographs were donated by photojournalists
and organizations such as Project Medishare, which provides training on how to
deliver medication to indigent, rural parts of Haiti, and the Green Family
Foundation, which supports local social programs.
Sara got the information for her essays, which describe everything from life
on the impoverished island and the dangerous boat trip to the angst of
detention center limbo, through Internet searches, encyclopedias and newspaper
articles she researched at the library.
In one section entitled "Detention," Sara writes: "The Immigration police
get them once they come to shore. They get locked up. They don't get to see
their family. In the centers they sit and do nothing all day. They are so bored,
and can't go outside. Kids can't live like that. They have to wait such a
long time to see a lawyer or a judge. It is so frustrating and boring. They miss
their family and friends... "
In some parts of the book Sara's father Louis, the owner of a small business
who is active in many political causes, adds background information to clarify
her points. For example, on the page where Sara describes the detention
process, he weighs in with a paragraph expanding on the possible psychological
effects of detention on children.
In the back, Sara lists organizations that assist Haitian refugees.
The booklet, which Sara worked on in the summer and fall of 2003, is the
latest of the 12-year-old's social-minded initiatives.
In June 2003, Sara launched a letter-writing campaign at her school to
support a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek which would allow Haitian
children to be released to relatives within 72 hours of arriving on U.S. soil. More
than 2,000 letters were mailed from the Jacobson Sinai Academy.
The bill is now stalled in a House subcommittee, but Sara was honored for her
efforts as a recent winner of the Miami Police Department's "Do the Right
"Doing the right thing" is a family affair for the Berlins. Haitian
Children Are Kids Too! is published by the Derech Elokim Fund for Jewish
Values, which is a philanthropic fund set up by Sara's family, which
also includes her mother Nancy, an older sister and three older brothers.
The fund maintains a website, www.worldrepair.net,
to encourage philanthropy among teens.
Louis and Nancy Berlin also set up individual charitable funds in their
children's names at the time of their bar/bat mitzvahs. The ages of Sara and her
siblings range from 12 to 23. For those funds, the family asks guests to make
donations in lieu of presents.
"When we get involved with charitable projects, we always include our
children," Louis Berlin said. "They need to realize why we do what we do and that
they have the potential to also make changes in the world."
Sara printed 5,000 copies of Haitian Children Are Kids Too! and has
distributed them at her school, bat mitzvah and at a fundraiser for the Florida
Immigrant Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services
to immigrants. "We want teachers to use it as a teaching tool," Louis
Sara, who says she's seen her peers become aware of Haitian current events
through her efforts, hopes Haitian Children Are Kids Too! will continue to have
a positive impact.
"I think that me having a book, being published as a kid, will encourage
other kids to help out in the community,'' she said. "If somebody else can do
it, they can do it."
Notes her father: "We're just beginning, but the goal is to empower other
people of Sara's age to realize they can make a difference when they see things
they know in their heart are wrong."