Firefly Imageworks

A Week in Ghana | Hovde, Sunwest, + Challenging Heights

September 16, 2011
Ghanian Fishing Boat

Ghanian Fishing Boat

A couple weeks back, as I was literally in the middle of a morning of cleaning up debris leftover from a tree that fell on the studio during Hurricane Irene, I received a pretty wild email from Jeff Boyd at the Hovde Foundation. He was in Ghana and had a number of volunteers from Sunwest Bank flying in to help build a home for children there. Having enjoyed the work I did onĀ a quick video showcasing the house the Foundation helped build in Kenya, Jeff asked if I was available for a week photos and video production work in Ghana starting that Friday. Pretty last second stuff, eh? Well, after checking my schedule, apologizing the clients who’s work I’d have to delay a bit, and lucking out when it came to getting a Ghanian visa in time, I was on my way.

Once on the ground, not only did I have the privilege of getting to know an entirely new country on the western side of Africa, and making a number of new friends in the amazing team from Sunwest, but I was also able to get to know more about the amazing work James Kofi Annan and his organization, Challenging Heights, was doing to end child-slavery in the country.

You see, in Ghana, despite its illegality, the impoverished conditions so many live in lead to parents selling their own children to fishermen for around $40. For the most part, parents do this with the fisherman promising to teach the child a trade and suggesting a better life and future for the child, so in addition to the financial benefit, many parents believe they’re doing what’s in their child’s best interest. Still some do it merely for the benefit and the alleviation of responsibility too. The reasons are varied, but well-intentioned or not, these children end up in a situation that leads to tremendous psychological and physical abuse and far too often death.

For instance, a fisherman pays around $250 for the net he uses to fish. When this net gets caught at the bottom of the lake, he dislodges it by sending a child he’s purchased down after it. With the cost he’s paid for the child being so small compared to the cost of the net, very often children drown while doing their master’s bidding, and for the fisherman, are much easier replaced than the net itself.

James, a form child slave himself, has been working for the better part of a decade rescuing children from slavery in the fishing industry and advocating for legal changes that have led to child slavery becoming illegal in Ghana. Enforcement is another issue entirely, and his team at Challenging Heights works tirelessly to inform Ghanians of not just the illegality of child-slavery but also it’s horrible consquences. Additionally, they regularly travel out onto the late to save children from the situations, bringing them into a loving rehabilitative environment that offers a caring home and education. The goal is not to keep children here forever however, and instead aims to reinsert these children into Ghanian society by finding and educating the child’s original parents or other means.

The home that the Hovde Foundation and the Sunwest volunteers helped build is a home that’s meant to house and rehabilitate up to 60 children at a time. With this, Challenging Heights will be capable of rescuing children at a rate only dreamed about before.

Below you’ll see some of the better shots I got during my week, including Ghanian society, the building of the Hovde House by Sunwest and hired Ghanian workers, and all sorts of other goodies. The goal of the trip however was to tell these stories with video, so you can expect to see final videos coming soon too. For now though, hope you like these!

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