For the past six years, our family has been involved in supporting the effort to eradicate child slave trafficking in Ghana, Africa. The fishing industry in the Lake Volta region in Ghana is notorious for using child slaves as young as age four. These children dive into murky water to untangle fishing nets, paddle boats, empty buckets of water from the bottom of the boats, do domestic work and more. In addition, the children sleep on mud floors, receive no medical care, are severely underfed, and are forced to do such physically demanding labor that it distorts their growing bodies by causing microfractures. It is truly heartbreaking.
Thankfully, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a program to rescue, rehabilitate and educate the trafficked children and ultimately reunite them with their families. As part of this program, the fisherman are educated about the ills of child trafficking, are given equipment and other support so they are not reliant on child labor, and must sign an agreement not to take on new slaves. Over the past six years, we, along with Evan’s students at Metuchen High School, have raised over $75,000 which has secured the freedom for over 30 children.
Over the past year, this effort has taken a new direction: establishing schools in rural villages that lack schools in exchange for releasing the village’s trafficked children. Construction has begun on our first school in Awate Tornu, Ghana, and 19 trafficked children were released last spring as part of this agreement. The school is expected to be completed in February and our family, along with another family and friends committed to this cause, are planning to travel to Ghana for the opening of the school.
As a reading specialist, Lisa hopes to provide teacher-training to the teachers of the new school (English is taught in Ghana). While in Ghana, our group will visit children who were rescued during Evan’s previous trip to Ghana and spend time with children currently being rehabilitated. We are collecting school supplies, soccer equipment, clothes, footwear, medication, and other supplies to bring with us. Our daughters, ages 16 and 11, will accompany us and interact with the children as well.
We currently have a funding gap of $7,000 for the school construction, so we are stepping up our efforts to raise awareness and money.If you’d like to learn more, or to donate, please visit our website.
Lisa Robbins, a teacher at Bradford Academy in Montclair, and her husband Evan Robbins are a married couple who founded Breaking the Chain Through Education, a non-profit that supports the effort to eradicate child slave trafficking in Ghana, Africa. They are leading a group of 11 people — 10 from Essex County — who will be traveling to Ghana later this month.