Friday, July 16, 2010


I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up with my journal...but there is just so much going on and too little time to type!

Last Thursday (a week ago Thursday) we arrived in Winneba from up north. We are staying here for the remainder of the trip and so far it has been wonderful. Our hostile is about 400m from the ocean and you can hear the waves in the distance before you fall asleep at night. For once, we get to sleep in our own beds with our own rooms. It's such a luxury! We have a kitchen as well and the owner of the hostile, named Emanuel, cooks African dishes with us at nigth sometimes. This week we learned how to make a delicious African Jollof rice with its "secret ingredient" and Red-red with fried plantains. Red red is a type of bean dish usually made with palm oil and different vegetables/herbs. Sooo yummy! (fyi..If you read my earlier posts complaining about the food, I can completely say the opposite after the last few weeks. Most of the African dishes our actually really good! You just have to know where to look or be lucky enough to get a home-cooked meal. )

While we are in Winneba, we are working with a school called Challenging Heights. It's a school that was originally created for rescued child slaves. The children that attend the school have either been rescued from a human-trafficker or our at high-risk to be trafficked. The school is in a poorer part of town (which is already poor so it's really rundown around there) where the traffickers our known to come looking for children and/or the children can't afford for normal schooling. (In Ghana, school costs money and, when most of the country is below the poverty line, it doesn't make much sense at all to charge people...) Anyway, I helped teach at the school earlier this week. All of the children our uniformed and the rescued children our not identified on order to treat all of the kids alike. Everyone in our group was asked to pick a class to help teach and I chose the 1st grade. While grading papers, I caught myself glancing around the room and wondering about which children had come from where and what kind of stories they possessed. Although, some of the trafficked children were pretty obvious. The ones who were recently rescued from slavery hardly spoke and would barely look me in the eyes when I taught. Also, many of them sat together in one corner of the room. The teacher later told me to be gentle with that section because they were still adjusting to everything (confirming my suspicions).

The level of abilities was just about as diverse as you could get in a school. One day, we (me and the teacher) went over the different types of rocks for about 2 hours and, after repeating the same information over atleast 50 times (by writing and speaking) we gave the 30-some children a little quiz. Half of them failed it. I was shocked, and kind of frustrated. Were we just wasting our time trying to teach them? Were they even trying to learn something? The teacher tried to explain how this was normal and that different children had not fully developed b/c of their situations. The school is trying hard to identify the ability levels of the kids, but it is so diverse and financially challenging that they are forced to group them in grade-levels. Rosemary, the teacher I worked with (who I thought was at least 24, but was actually only 18!), told me all about how many of the children were never given the chance to go to school before now and that in the first grade class alone, there were a few students over 20 years old mixed in with the kids. I couldn't believe it! How had I not noticed? Plus, she said many of them had been severely mentally abused along with the typical physical abuse.... Some were never allowed to speak when enslaved and, now, had the hardest time just getting a sentence out...

Wednesday, we traveled 8-9 hours by van to a Lake Volta where most of the children in Ghana our trafficked into the fishing industry. Guided by one of the rescuers himself, William, we took a boat ride across the lake to one of the villages where trafficking was very prevalent. The entire experience was unexplainable. I did a huge research report on this very subject and area last year and seeing it with my own eyes was just... unreal. On the boat ride, we could see children (as young as 5) on other boats with their "masters" helping them to haul out the fish and doing pretty much everything that the master didn't want to do. William informed us that many children die from diving into the deep waters to untangle the netting (which is a very common task for them.) Their little bodies our then buried somewhere far from the village and, after a few years, the children's family are informed that their child died from some sort of |sickness". How disgusting....
When we arrived at the village across the lake many of children came running toward us and William told us that these were the children of the families from the village. Apparently, the fishermen never use their own children to do work, but send them to school like any "responsible parent" would. Instead, the fishermen travel to far-off villages where they can "buy" children from desperate families, who have really no idea where their child is going...On shore, the fishermen tried to hide or disguise the trafficked children by having them duck in the boats or claiming the trafficked children as their own(beforehand, commanding the children to remain silent). The traffickers also tell the trafficked children that we are policemen coming to arrest them, so that they run and hide from us. William, with his year of experience, pointed out many of the disguised trafficked children for us. Most families played the act well, but some children seemed all-too obvious.. at some huts, a few children would be dressed in uniforms just hanging out and smiling up at us(the fishermen's children), while one or two would be standing off to the side untangling a net in some pathetic version of a dress. (These families claimed that the child was just doing a chores...uh huh...)I was soo frustrated at these fishermen to say it lightly...I can't even explain how angry it makes me.. How could they EVER think that was OKAY to completely ruin a child's life like that?? They treat these children like rats...and,then, these kids grow up knowing no better...and guess what they end up doing for a living?

I just don't even know what to say anymore...But the reality of these kids is so real and so evil it is just disgusting...and, when I get back, I think that is what I may concentrate trying to change...

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