Two East Tennessee experts in mental health care took their skills to Haiti and came back with a fresh perspective themselves.
"Esteem de soi means self esteem," Mary Katsikas said.
That's a little bit of Creole Mary Katsikas and Mono Blanton-Kitts learned in Haiti.
The Helen Ross McNabb Center workers went there with the Restavek Freedom Foundation.
"Their mission is to eradicate child slavery in Haiti and that is what restavek really stands for," Mona Blanton-Kitts said.
In Creole, the word restavek means 'stay with.'
Poor families give their children to more affluent families to stay with them to have a better life and education.
In practice, restaveks become virtual slaves and perform most of the household chores.
"They typically sleep in a different area in the home, typically eat out of different bowls or silverware, and they end up baby-sitting the kids and taking care of the kids, ultimately never going to school," Katsikas said.
Restaveks suffer mental, physical, and sexual abuse. That's trauma the Helen Ross McNabb Center is very familiar with.
"We do what we did in Haiti working with children of trauma and working with staff who work with children of trauma every day here in East Tennessee. And so it was really an extension of the services we provide and we took that to Haiti," Mona Blanton-Kitts said.
Posters welcomed back Mona and Mary from Haiti after two weeks in Porta Prince.
They lived next to a tent city, saw extreme poverty, and endless rubble from last year's earthquake.
They empowered child advocates there who provide counseling and support in schools and at a residential transitional house.
"They are pretty amazing, courageous, and brave children just as much as the child advocates are also," Mona Blanton-Kitts said.
The child advocates they trained had all suffered trauma themselves, either from the restavek system or the recent earthquake.
"Being able to watch our training actually impact them personally was very rewarding and then we know that it will do the same for every single person that they touch," Blanton-Kitts said.
"Each day you could see the workers just change before your eyes, Katsikas said. "To see them grow through the training and really apply the skills and the knowledge that we were bringing to them and just see them evolve through their healing journey I think was really amazing."
The clinical training they provided will give restaveks hope.
And their two weeks in Haiti gave Mona and Mary something, too.
"Seeing how little it takes to really love and just live makes you appreciate what we have here," Katsikas said.
The Equitas Group in Knoxville funded the training trip to Haiti.