from Henry, Project Director in Ghana
“It is my job to protect children. In this country and in this community there is a lot of abuse going on. People use them and abuse them. They need to be protected. They are vulnerable! What I do is advocate on their behalf. I’ve seen the effects of abuse kill the talent in children. I’ve also seen that when a child is protected, they are given the opportunity to explore and the best is brought out in them.
In our community people suffer a lot from hunger. They can’t find food, they can’t buy personal items and they certainly can’t afford school fees or uniforms. Sometimes, the only thing they can find for their children to do is work. But where I come from, it’s the right of children to have shelter, health and food. Teenage pregnancy is also a big problem.
When I see this happening I feel bad. Children’s rights and their dignity should be respected! We have all the laws to protect them but they are not being implemented! That is a great loss to this nation. I’ve always loved working with children. Even before I came to Compassion I was volunteering. It’s not a job, it’s a call. It’s my ministry.
When it comes to child labour I can see how it happens. When families have six to twelve children to take care of, they sometimes sacrifice two for work so they can take care of the ten. Their poverty and ignorance is how these children get into this mess. They are lied to by the people that come to their village. And because children are cheap labour, they are exploited. A child doesn’t know anything. They cant ‘report you’. They cant ‘call home’. They don’t have a phone! There are a lot of greedy, wicked men that take advantage of this.
These children are taken to Lake Volta. Health wise, they will not receive anything. Education won’t happen. Instead they will wake up at 4am and work up until evening. They will be beaten with bamboo if they don’t obey. They are between 4 and 15 years old and mostly boys. Children sometime die doing this work. They might hit their head on a rock, might dive too deep and not be able to get back up, get tangled in the nets, get stuck under the boat or cut themselves and bleed. They have no freedom to leave. This is the largest manmade lake in the world. Tens of thousands of children work on it.
The Masters they work for shout and yell instructions at them. He receives the money for their hard work and they do not get paid – even though their parents are told they will. Masters don’t allow people to speak back. You don’t interrupt. When these boys are eventually returned back or are rescued they are often traumatised as they think about what they have gone through. They have marks on their body from where they were hit with paddles. Marks on their face too.
I empower children and educate parents about what is happening on Lake Volta. I make noise. Ignorance on their part will be loss. We have to educate people as to the reality of what is happening out there. We also have to see justice and consequences for the Masters that are doing what they are doing. The children in my care through Compassion know that if anything happens to them, I will intervene. If a child is in a Compassion project there is no way anyone would take them. That child would say, “Go see Henry”, and they would be afraid.
These children are more than just “registered.” They are known, loved and protected. God doesn’t say children are half human beings. He says you have to protect them because the Kingdom of Heaven is for them. That motivates me to do more. My prayer and vision is that no parent will be willing to give their kids away. I’ll be happy when every child in Ghana is free.”