Friday, July 16, 2010

Lake Volta

Macha from Winneba!! (That means good afternoon, but it's probably spelled wrong)

We are now in the final stretch of our trip. We have been working with Challenging Heights, an organization that has two essential functions. One is the rescuing of children being trafficked and the second is the running of a school here in Winneba where the rescued children are streamlined into an education system with local and at-risk children. In the beginning of this week, we did a lot of work at the school. I have been helping a teacher named Peace with her second-grade aged class. The first lesson I experienced was French so I was completely useless, but I've helped Peace with a lot of grading, scorekeeping, and even taught a lesson of algebra to the children. It's amazing some of the things the children are being taught... I don't think I was doing algebra in second grade. And I definitely wasn't learning three languages (Fante, English, and French).

Our guesthouse has been amazing. The owner is a man named Emmanuel. I went into the little community kitchen the other night planning to make rice and onions (lets be honest, I was just going to throw the odds and ends I had bought at market into a pot and see what happened) when Emmanuel intervened and taught me how to make Jollof rice. It was amazing, Kaleigh and I know the secret ingredient and Leena (aka the Quality Sugar Mama) will never find out haha. Since then, we've also had an amazing meal of redred. Fried plantains are a new favorite of mine.

On Wednesday four of us embarked on a trip to Lake Volta, the site of the rescues that Challenging Heights does. We traveled with three Canadian volunteers and Challenging Heights Rescue Coordinator William. It was seven or eight hours to the biggest lake in Ghana, we stayed the night nearby and then traveled by boat very early in the morning to one of the fishing villages. Lake Volta is notorious for its fishing industries that use children as slaves. Even while traveling on boat, we could see little fishing boats with children aboard. The fishermen catch fish using very fine netting strung between stumps (formerly tree tops) in the lake. When the nets become tangled, children are sent into the water to untangle them, but often become entangled themselves and drown.

In the fishing village, we met with the chief and talked a bit about modern slavery and what is being proposed as a solution. The chief is hoping to have a school built that will give children an alternative to being used in the fishing industry; however, we toured a school while we were there so I don't fully understand the plan of action. William was able to recognized trafficked children on shore by their reactions to be addressed. The fisherman warn the children that visitors come with bad intentions, so they scatter when boats approach the shore. The children who do not hide are noticeable by their fear of visitors. A result of this is that it is difficult to gauge how many children are actually be used in such a way.

On the whole, my visit to Volta was not as staggering as I expected it to be. Conditions of enslaved children are not deplorable: often, the children are embraced by families and given food and shelter. Also, children do not necessarily resent the fishermen who use them as slaves. Often, the chief told us, these children grow up and become fisherman themselves- and they too use children. This let me view the problem from a new angle. It is common for us to think that those who traffic children are evil men who disregard human life, but in truth they just know no better way to conduct their businesses. It is a vicious cycle that the educated people in the village lack the resources to bring to a halt. The issue is much more complicated than I'd ever assumed.

The ride back to Winneba was one of the low points of my trip. The seven hour drive, while bad enough, turned out to be a thirteen hour ordeal. Think of everything that could possible go wrong, and there you go. I don't even have to type it. I got an interesting crash course in Ghana night driving. Ghanaians are much more liberal with the use of their brights. Apparently you're supposed to turn on your brights as you pass someone to let them know you're there. In America, we call this asking to get shot.

We're taking things easy this weekend. Next week is our next full week and we'll be doing more work with the children at the Challenging Heights school. That weekend we'll visit Cape Coast, and on Wednesday of the following week, we'll say goodbye to Ghana. Where has our time gone??

Looking forward to a few specific amenities I haven't had for a while here. Perhaps a future entry will include a list of things I would like to have waiting for me back in the states (including but not limited to three pints of Ben & Jerry's). Hope things are well for everyone and I'll see you in not-so-long!!

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