Project #1847

Saving Children Sold Into Slavery in Ghana

by US Association for International Migration (USAIM)
A reintegrated child speaks about his experience
A reintegrated child speaks about his experience

Since 2010, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Ghana has welcomed students for an eight (8) week summer practicum, bridging the gap between the academic and professional divide. Forged as part of a partnership with Syracuse University, located in upstate New York, USA, this study abroad programme allows the next generation of aid workers to take classroom principles and apply them in a field setting, with guidance from seasoned IOM staff members.

The 2013 group of students was comprised of three undergraduate students and one graduate student, eager to learn about IOM programmes and adapt their experience to match their unique area of study (photojournalism, social work, public health, and international relations). The Syracuse students were in a way a cross-section of a typical non-profit aid organization. A team of individuals working to implement projects in their specialised area at the request of and for the benefit of their assigned community, and taken as a whole contributed more than just a development project or proposal, but also a knowledge bank and a contagious enthusiasm for making a difference in the lives of others.  

The internship started off with a one-week orientation to IOM programmes and Ghanaian language and culture. This was followed by a six week internship assignment at a community that has been affected by child trafficking and completion of a community development project for those in the field. Finally, the programme concluded with a one-week proposal writing and debriefing seminar in Accra.

This year the summer interns focused their community development projects on: interviews with reintegrated trafficked boys; improved hygiene through the installation of hand washing stations at the local schools; waste disposal; and work on the child protection toolkit ‘Free to Be Me’. In just a short time the students were able to become part of the community and leave a lasting impact. Hear from the students:

“One of the biggest problem parents face when deciding to sell their child, is not being educated on the conditions the child will face. Listening to the stories the boys shared, you feel an urge to put a stop to this horrible issue.” – Lauren

“The students and teachers were very receptive and I am convinced that they will utilize the hand-washing stations effectively. I am hopeful that they will translate this practice to their homes. This could ultimately reduce illness and disease in the community.” – Alexa 

Of course as anyone who has worked abroad can attest to it is the final days of your stay in a new place when you realize you have learned a great deal more, even in a short period of time, than the impact you have undoubtedly left behind. So too was it difficult for our students to say goodbye, far too soon. Although, we know they are better
prepared for their future careers and will always receive a warm welcome in Ghana.

On behalf of USAIM and IOM Ghana we would like to thank you for your continued support and encourage you to tell others about our work! Please take part in the September fundraising initiative, where you can have a direct impact on our work through your own fundraising initiatives. See below (more details are available through Global Giving).

How does it work?

  1. create a fundraiser page on GlobalGiving.
  2. Fundraisers that raise at least $500 from at least 10 donors receive an additional $50 match for
    the project from GlobalGiving and become eligible for prizes
    —JetBlue tickets, flip cam, and more!
  3. The top three organizations with the most fundraisers that raise at least $500 from
    10 donors will win bonus awards of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 respectively.
Students learn how to use the hand-washing station
Students learn how to use the hand-washing station
Painting the
Painting the 'Tree of Life' - Nicola Simmonds

Excerpt from Diary of a Roll-out

 Tuesday - March 19, 2013

Today has been a long time coming. We’ve created a pilot Child Protection toolkit – with a special emphasis on counter trafficking/child protection - based on self-empowerment from within the communities. The information has been gathered not only from loads of research but from long and numerous discussions with, not only the Ghana Police Service and District Officers for Health, Social Welfare, and Education, but ultimately, and most importantly, from the communities themselves: the Chiefs and elders, the women, the men, the teachers and the children.

The plan is that today we paint a mural on the school wall of the Tree of Life – the community’s contract with themselves and with us, of their buy-in. We arrive at Agbagorme community at our pre-arranged meeting place and time – under the big tree to the side of the school grounds. We’re excited, ready to go and with a truck full of paint.

No-one’s there but us. We find out that not only are the teacher’s on strike but it’s market day. “Nothing will tear them away from market day,” says Doris, IOM’s Counter Trafficking officer and, for now, our head mobilizer. Yikes. We wait. And wait. A group of mothers arrive and sit near us but not with us. It’s something. Only it’s not – they’re here for another meeting. We wait some more. Finally, in dribs and drabs we get a rather large group of maybe 200, including school kids, parents and elders, the Chief.

Doris asks the community if they know what their responsibilities are as parents, as children and as elders. Our advice that the men should help with the parenting brings uproarious laughter – we’re a comedy act! Clearly, we have quite a journey ahead in the Responsible Parenting department, but the ice has been broken and we have their attention.

Next we ‘break ground’ on the wall: we paint a big white square – the empty canvas. Next the parents, one by one paint some roots – symbolizing that they will provide steady roots for their children in the form of Protection; the Chief and a teacher, plus a couple of elders paint the trunk – their buy-in for keeping an eye on things and taking action where necessary; then some women, chief/elders and a school teacher paint the branches;  and then everyone, but particularly the school kids paint the leaves and fruit with their handprints – their signature.

It was a hectic and happy day, which left the team hot and exhausted but pumped. We’d begun…

To keep reading the journal visit click on the link: 

On behalf of USAIM and IOM Ghana we would like to thank you for your continued support and encourage you to tell others about our work! Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming Bonus Day 12 June – as a Superstar organization any donations made to us on GlobalGiving will be match 50% up to $1,000 per donor.

Little All About Me Booklet - Nicola Simmonds
Little All About Me Booklet - Nicola Simmonds
Teacher working with students
Teacher working with students

The IOM counter-trafficking team in Ghana is moving swiftly ahead with plans to implement a new child trafficking and child protection campaign in 2013 called Free To Be Me. The initiative was officially launched in November 2012, and aims to building the capacity of local communities to address and prevent child trafficking and protection violations occurring in the Volta region of Ghana. With support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), IOM is developing a toolkit set to be piloted in 6 communities in Ketu South & North and South Tongu Districts of Ghana’s Volta Region in 2013.

In order to achieve these goals IOM counter-trafficking Field Coordinators conducted a week-long outreach effort in February to meet with government, non-government organizations, community leaders and members. The Free To Be Me toolkit was introduced and input was sought at each meeting.

In the field, the team met with local counter-parts and officials within the North Tongu and South Tongu Districts and Ketu South Municipality. These visits were meant to discuss the toolkit and to pinpoint and understand the problems facing children living in the community from the perspective of the teachers, parents, children, district officials, and chiefs and elders. This information will then be complied and the toolkit will be adjusted to reflect local perspectives on child trafficking and child protection issues.

The meeting with counterparts in South Tongu focused on issues of poverty and parental neglect as causes of child abuse within the district. They emphasized the need for livelihood assistance such as irrigation projects so parents can better take care of their children and live up to their responsibilities. Meanwhile, in North Tongu, local representatives and leaders embraced the project and looked forward to being part of the input and testing process for the toolkit. The main outcome of these discussions revealed that religion and poverty are impacting child protection issues/problems for communities in this region.

The team also traveled to five communities in: North Tongu District, Ketu South Municipality and South Tongu District to hold focus group discussions with school children, teachers, chief/elders, women and the community. The purpose of these meetings was to bring out child protection issues within the communities and suggested solutions. Within all communities, issues relating to education, health and parental care were very prominent.

On the whole, outreach visits were found to be very fruitful despite of the tight time-table. The team will now focus on consolidating information and refining the toolkit.

We invite you to be part of our efforts to help raise awareness on child trafficking and child protection in the Volta region. With your support we can reach many more vulnerable communities and help to rescue and rehabilitate children exposed to dangerous living conditions and forced labour.

Please consider making a donation on 13 March 2013 during Global Giving’s One-Day Matching Campaign. Your donation will be matched at 30% up to USD 1,000 per donor. The matching begins at 9am EST 13 March 2013 and runs through 11:59pm EST. Together we are making a difference in the lives of children in Ghana.

Focus group discussion with children
Focus group discussion with children
The Children Thank You
The Children Thank You

As we begin a new year, the counter-trafficking team at IOM Ghana would like to take the time to thank you for your support and to review some key accomplishments in 2012 and goals for 2013. It is only through continued support from donors such as yourself, that we can rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana. Please also stay tuned for future reports, which will update you on our progress and alert you to 2013 fundraisers.


  • The 20 children rescued by IOM Ghana in 2011 were regularly monitored and provided with material and financial support for their upkeep and education.
  • A six classroom unit block, with a teacher’s common room and a headteacher’s office store was constructed and donated to the Awate-Tornu community in the Volta Region; funding was provided by “Breaking the Chain through Education (BTCTE)” - a non-profit organization in the US. With financial support from the Hilton Foundation, four of the children rescued and re-integrated almost a decade ago will attend Senior High School. Despite their tough early years, these children will now reach the same academic levels of
    their peers.
  • Participation in regional, national and inter-agency consultative dialogues on counter-trafficking.
  • Research was conducted on cross-border trafficking, including an examination of traffickers and interlocutors. The report is in progress.
  • Launch of a fundraising strategy to engage private donors.
  • IOM Ghana was one of five organizations recognized by the “Freedom to Walk” campaign.


  • In 2013, IOM Ghana with funding support from UNICEF will engage and train key community leaders and members in six identified communities in the Volta region, to understand the dangers associated with child trafficking and other child protection issues.
  • A tailor made child protection and counter-trafficking toolkit will be created.
  • Continued support to rescued children and monitoring their reintegration process.
  • Adding to the 2012 classroom project in Awate-Tornu, a teacher’s residence (quarters) is planned for construction, with support from BTCTE.
  • Enhanced visibility of the project and strengthened private donor support.

Thank you for your continued support!

Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts
A monitoring visit with Lizzy
A monitoring visit with Lizzy

“Whenever I recollect my rescue in 2008 by IOM, my heart gladdens because it is what has always given me the hope of achieving my dream of becoming a nurse’’ says Elizabeth.

Prior to her rescue by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2008, Elizabeth or Lizzy woke up early at 4:30am every day to sweep the house, fetch water, cook, clean and smoked fish amidst other domestic chores when she was back in Kete Krachi in the Northern part of the Volta Region of Ghana (where she was rescued by IOM). She was exploited for three and a half years before her rescue.

Lizzy is currently 17 years old and in her second year at the Junior High School level. She now resides in Ayetepah (a community within the Ga West District of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana). Even though Lizzy used to live with her mother, she recently relocated to her aunt’s home within the same neighborhood to prepare for her Junior High School final examination (Basic Education Certificate Examination). Unfortunately, her mother’s house is not connected to electricity and so she only studied in the afternoons. Relocating to her aunt’s home allows Lizzy to study at night in the year leading up to her exam. She acknowledges that her evening studies have already made an improvement in her academic work, which gives her more hope that the future will be bright.

‘’As much as I love my mum’s, I really want to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse, and this I have been told can only be achieved when I study hard and more so I know I can do it when I move to my aunt’s’’

In a year’s time Lizzy will be sitting forher BECE which will give her the opportunity to attend Senior High School for three years, should she be successful with her examination results. This will further lead to her entering a nursing training school to fulfill her nursing dreams.

Donors like you made it possible for Elizabeth’s life to change. Your continuous support has brought her this far and will spur her on to greater heights. We hope you will continue to support IOM Ghana's counter-trafficking project and help us to continue changing the lives of Ghana's child trafficking victims. We ask you to consider participating in Global Giving’s Holiday Campaign. For the entire month of December, 100% or up to USD 100 of each new recurring donation (those who sign up to donate for at least three months) will be matched by Global Giving.

On behalf of USAIM and IOM Ghana, and all the children and communities you have supported, we wish you a joyous and prosperous holiday season, and look forward to hearing from you in the New Year.

Lizzy, middle, at the children
Lizzy, middle, at the children's park
Happy Holidays from the children
Happy Holidays from the children

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Organization Information

US Association for International Migration (USAIM)

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Maria Moreno
Washington, DC United States
$106,131 raised of $225,000 goal
712 donations
$118,869 to go
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