You may have read my post on trafficking in Ghana titled “I Am Not a Burden, I Am Just a Child.” In honor of January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I would like to give voice to three children who, without Bethany Christian Services’ intervention, would have otherwise remained voiceless.
Meet Joseph. Joseph's parents were impressed by the friendly man who came to their village. He ran a successful fishing enterprise and was looking for new recruits. Joseph’s parents felt this was an excellent opportunity for their son. But now he does backbreaking work every day on a fishing canoe.
He works in brutal and dangerous conditions for up to 18 hours a day, hauling nets and paddling a canoe. Sometimes getting a meal, and sometimes not, he experiences hunger and exhaustion. If he doesn't work fast enough, he is beaten.
Joseph is one of over 24,000 children in Ghana working as a child slave. Lured by false promises of an education and a future, children as young as 4 end up working for slave masters in cruel and inhumane conditions.
Meet Johanne. Johanne works long days as an unpaid domestic servant. Her parents were too poor to provide for her and send her to school, so she had to go live with a family in town. Now she cooks, cleans, and carries heavy pails of water. She sleeps on the floor.
Johanne is unable to go to school, though an education had been promised to her. She works for more than 12 hours a day. She has no opportunity to bathe or care for herself. She lives in daily fear of physical and sexual abuse.
Johanne is one of 250,000 Haitian children forced to work in harsh, exploitative conditions. And since the devastating earthquake of 2010, there are even more orphans and vulnerable children in this impoverished country.
Meet Edmond. Edmond only got to Grade 3 before he dropped out. His mother is alive, but his father is dead. He lives in a partially completed building with his mom and six siblings. It’s the only accommodation they can find.
Living in such extreme poverty, Edmond’s only means of survival is to beg on the streets for money—so that’s his daily work. All day he sits at a corner and asks people to give him a few coins. For food, he scrounges for whatever he can find—leftovers, rotting fruits and vegetables, scraps. Without access to showers or indoor plumbing, he is constantly at risk of disease.
As we consider the plights of Joseph, Johanne, and Edmond, we are all too aware that they are just three faces representing millions of children whose childhoods have been stolen at the hands of trafficking.
We have been able to provide Joseph, Johanne, and Edmond with medical care, counseling, and education, and a nurturing foster family. Most importantly, we have been able to ensure they are safe. No longer exploited. Together, we must continue to work—removing children from these horrible conditions and place them with families that will teach, nurture, and love them.
If you are interested in joining our efforts to rescue children from trafficking in Ghana and Haiti, please visit www.safenotsold.org. We only ask for $7.99—even this small amount helps to restore dignity and possibility to a vulnerable child. I can’t imagine a better way to spend eight dollars: intervening on behalf of Joseph, Johanne, Edmond, and the many others awaiting rescue.
Today, in response to Human Trafficking Awareness Day, take a moment to consider how you might respond to the worldwide epidemic of child slavery. We all have the opportunity to give voice to those who have been rendered voiceless, to restore a stolen childhood to an innocent child. Safe not sold. That’s our goal today and every day.