One year voluntary work in Africa: project against child trafficking in Ghana
I’ve been in Ghana since march 2012, where I use my long work experience being a counselor and social worker as a volunteer in a project against child trafficking.
Unfortunately child labour and child trafficking are still common in Ghana. Children are there for the benefit of the parents, which is a common belief in the Ghanian culture. They have to contribute to the family income from a young age and have to help around the house. Being in Ghana you see children working everywhere: fetching water, selling fish, sweeping floors, doing laundry, taking care of other children. Poverty, ignorance and lack of education are three other reasons why children don’t attend school, but have to work.
Child trafficking is a notorious problem in Ghana. Under false pretences parents are being convinced to sell their children to middlemen (“uncles” and “aunts”). These people know how to persuade the parents: ”You have trouble taking good care of your child and you can’t send him to school. Let me help you. I give you some money and take the child with me. I will take care of him and make sure he goes to school.” If you are desperate it seems to be an answer to your prayer, right? The parents don’t know their children will be sold to fishermen in the Volta region, where they are used as cheap labour in the fishing industry. They make long working hours on Lake Volta under tough and dangerous circumstances: paddling, scooping water, fishing and untangle the nets without having enough food, water or medical care. Many children die, simply because they can’t swim.
Being on the Lake, especially in the early morning, you see lots of canoes with children, doing their work, often with this terrified look in their eyes, feeling miserable or sick.
Sometimes parents are selling their children to middlemen, knowing that they become little slaves. But they don’t really care. Sometimes I wonder if this is not worse.
If you ask why people are not protesting or helping these children the answer is simple: it’s part of the culture and deeply ingrained into society, especially the fishing communities on the islands in Lake Volta. Since 2007 there has been a law in Ghana against child labour and human trafficking, but the legal system is not working well yet. Fishermen and other traffickers know that they will not be seriously taken to court for it and a lot of people think it’s no use to report the traffickers, because the crime will not be punished.
Despite this, there are people in Ghana who believe it’s unacceptable that child labour and child trafficking exist! I work together with a local NGO, called Pacodep (Partners in Community Development Programme), who go to the Lake and rescue children. The founder of the organization, George Achibra sr, is a passionate teacher who believes children have to go to school instead of working. He and his organization (partly family) has rescued, since 2003, over 500 children and sent them to their families and communities, to school or skills training programs. If it is not safe to send them back to their families, because of trafficking or because the family cannot be traced, the rescued children stay in a children’s development centre, called the Village of Life. At this moment there are 27 boys and 10 girls living here, in the age of 6 till 19 years.
As a counsellor and social worker it’s my work to rehabilitate the victims, helping them to recover from their trauma.
Surrently I‘m in Ghana (for 7 months) and assist in several rescues and 9 recently rescued children are under my care. Beside this I give training and lectures in the community about mental health, child development and child trafficking.
Maybe you ask yourself, if it is possible to give these Ghanian child slaves a better future. My answer is YES!
Take, for example, Michael, a 13-year old boy. We rescued him about 4 months ago and brought him to the Village of Life. Although he has a difficult time once in a while and his rehabilitation is not completed yet, he is already a totally different child, because he can be a child again! He goes to school, plays football with the other boys and loves to ride a bicycle.
Læs også: “Børnehandel i Ghana: Michaels historie”
The children are the future. I give the youth of Ghana one year of my time for free using my knowledge and experience to give them a better future.
Till next time,
Patrice van Zimmeren