Young Kojo, now free from forced labor, walks away from the camera with a worker from Challenging Heights in Ghana.

Life After Forced Labor

Young Kojo, now free from forced labor, walks away from the camera with a worker from Challenging Heights in Ghana.

GHANA – Lake Volta is one of the world’s largest reservoirs and an essential cornerstone of Ghana’s economy. The huge lake was created when the Akasombo Dam was constructed south of where the White Volta River and Black Volta River converged to form the single Volta River. The dam now provides electricity to much of Ghana, and to neighboring countries as well. The lake also serves as an important transportation route for shipping and hosts an enormous population of fish.

Those fish are big business on Lake Volta, but the fishing industry here has a terrible dark side. Thousand of children are pressed into forced labor as child slaves on Lake Volta’s dangerous waters. Until his rescue, young Kojo* was one of them.

As a young child, Kojo lived in the town of Winneba in South Ghana. One day he was sent to Lake Volta to join his father’s business, but his move didn’t go as planned. “I was young when I was sent to Yeji, along Lake Volta, to work in my father’s business, but I was swindled as my uncle used me in his fishing enterprise,” Kojo said. For ten long years he endured a life of forced labor on the lake. The work was hard and dangerous and Kojo often had to dive into the water to untangle fishing nets from submerged branches and trees. The hours were long and he suffered from lack of sleep.

Kojo’s nightmare continued for 10 years until, one day, he was rescued by Challenging Heights, Operation Blessing’s partner in Ghana. He was taken to a shelter where he underwent six months of rehabilitation. Thanks to Challenging Heights and Operation Blessing, Kojo was given lessons on how to read and write, medication and care to treat health problems from long labor on the lake and therapy to help him reintegrate into society. He recalled, “I have fond memories of the Challenging Heights shelter due to the breath of freedom there with the loving care provided by the social workers.”

Kojo is just one of many children rescued from a life of forced labor on Lake Volta through the partnership between Operation Blessing and Challenging Heights. Now that he’s free, Kojo has taken an apprenticeship at an auto mechanic shop, and hopes to build a new life for himself — a life of freedom and opportunity.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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