2008 Freedom Award winner James Kofi Annan is a survivor of childhood slavery. He was enslaved in Ghana’s fishing industry, forced to work in hazardous conditions on Lake Volta, beaten and subdued, given little to no compensation.
Annan was able to escape. He went to school and embarked on a successful business career. But he was compelled to go back to Lake Volta to face the trauma of his past. He now dedicates his life to rescuing other child slaves. By doing so, he says, he is “correcting the injustice” that was done to him. Annan started Challenging Heights to rehabilitate rescued child slaves by offering counseling, support, and education. For Annan, access to education was the key to his emancipation. He wants to pass this on to the children he rescues. By going to school, these children have a chance to “recover from trauma and regain hope for the future.”
The video above is a short documentary, “Slaves of the Lake,” produced by British cable network Community Channel. It follows two former fishing slaves rescued by Challenging Heights, and chronicles the boys struggles as they try to re-integrate into lives of freedom. Often, the real challenges of emancipation happen after an enslaved person is rescued. The road to recovery can be a long and treacherous one. True and lasting freedom comes from holistic, community-based solutions—as the documentary above illustrates.
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