We've been telling you about the painful stories of children who have been sold into slavery inside a tiny remote fishing village on the coast of Ghana, Africa. We've even heard directly from the slave masters themselves on why the problem persists. In her continuing special report, News 3's Nicole Morten shows us how an organization based in College Station is trying to rescue these children.
Mercy Project has been working in the villages of Ghana for the last two years to educate villagers on new ways of fishing --- and each trip had a sole purpose -- to finally get the villagers on their feet financially -- so that one day Chris Field and his team at Mercy Project could walk out of a village with children who were no longer slaves.
It might be hard to see at first glance -- but in the horizon -- hope begins on Lake Volta.
“This trip is significant for us because until you actually do a rescue, you're hoping and dreaming and you have an idea you hope works, so tomorrow when we walk out of the village, we will finally be able to say, 'this is what we've been doing for two years and it worked,” said Chris Field, founder of Mercy Project.
Members of the Mercy Project demonstrate a capacity to love that is rare, refreshing, and breathtakingly beautiful. These people are devoting their life to children they've never met. What's even more compelling is the compassion and concern for the slave masters. Rather than swooping in to rescue a group of trafficked children who will be quickly replaced by more, for the last two years, Mercy Project has been on the ground in Adovepke building trust, and fostering a lifetime of relationships filled with hope inside Adovepke.
“From the first time we came into this village, you've received us as friends,” said Field to the villagers during a welcoming ceremony. “We've eaten your banku, we've even slept in some of your beds and we're so grateful for the ways you've treated us as friends.”
Finding a means to an end is through education; which will consequently provide each and every master with alternate means to earn an income that does no longer relies on children. Not only are these children granted a better future; so are the men and women who enslave them.
“We've helped the community go on the journey from shame to pride; they've got these kids that they know they probably shouldn't have them, but they just don't know what to do and now they can be proud of the fact that they have these cages, they're monitoring these cages,” said Field. “They're taking care of these cages; they're growing these fish and because of that -- they're able to release the children voluntarily. They weren't forced to do anything.”
And for the first time -- on the day a village is to carry out their promise; scarred souls are embraced with hope.
“They get the pride of saying, 'We did this. We are actually releasing these children so they can go have opportunities that we never had,’” said Field. “We've also made it clear with the villagers that if we come back to the village and see that they're re-trafficking children, and then we are going to take the cages from them. So I think that internal pressure that everyone has something at stake. We've also got Ghanain employees monitoring the villages, making sure the cages function properly, making sure any concerns or questions they have are answered and making sure there are no more trafficked children brought into the community."
Twenty-four trafficked children watched their slave masters voluntarily surrender.
“The entire community was there for the sendoff and there was speech I gave in the community and I asked how many of them had been trafficked themselves and slowly more than half of the adults in the village raised their hands; men and women alike. And I said thank you for being so unselfish because what you're doing in releasing these children is giving them an opportunity you never had.
“We begin this procession down to the boat and there are 24 kids and they have no idea what's happening and the fisherman they're banging the drums and they're singing their native song and it was just this surreal moment,” explained Field. “In that 200-300 yard walk from the center of the village to the shore where they were going to get into that boat, that was a walk where all kinds of life and possibilities opened up and they could suddenly begin to dream about what they're life might be able to be like."
For Ruth, Leticia, Daniel and the 21 others -- they're no longer slaves -- rather living stories of freedom.
Click on the link below to learn how you can get involved, also catch up on the entire series that's aired this week, check out photos from Africa and watch RAW interviews!