A Girl and her Prince

It’s funny how some things in life are universal. Each culture, gender, religion, race…some things just work everywhere.

Smiles. Weddings. Love. Laughter. Babies. Nature. Chocolate.

Everyone loves those things.

I think fairy tales are pretty universal, too. One dashing young hero + one maiden in distress + one incredible rescue = true love. Who doesn’t love a story like that?

I realized the power of fairy tales about 5 years ago during my summer at an orphanage in Ghana, West Africa. Part of my time there was spent tutoring children who had fallen behind in school or were new to the orphanage and had never been in school before, like my friend Sarah. (Great name, right?)

Sarah could knock you over with her smile. At the time, she was pretty shy but her smiles were given freely. She is stunningly beautiful.

As I was helping her with her schoolwork one day, I came across a short story she’d written for her English class. It was a Cinderella-esque story about a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, who lived as a servant at an evil man’s house. All day long she cooked and cleaned and served her master’s every whim. The girl never ran and played like other children her age; she had too many chores to finish. If she didn’t finish all of her work, the man would punish her severely. BUT…one bright, sunshiny day, a prince showed up at this very mean man’s house. The girl had never met anyone so nice or handsome – and she certainly couldn’t believe it when he said he had come for her. He wanted to take her away from the evil man. He came all the way to rescue her. Then, as all good fairy tales go, she went with the prince to his beautiful castle and lived happily ever after. The end.

Even in the African bush, kids dream up the best fairy tales.

But there’s more to Sarah and her story.

A few months before I went to the orphanage that summer, Sarah was one of 7 slave children rescued by Touch A Life Foundation from Lake Volta in Northern Ghana. Sarah and her sister Hagar were sold into a life of physical labor from sun up to sun down with little or no food and hardly any sleep. I’ll tell you more about the life of a child slave on Lake Volta in a little bit, but in the meantime – go back and read Sarah’s short story. It’s not as much a simple English assignment as it is an autobiography of her life. A girl, a mean man, a rescue…it was her life. It makes you read the story a little differently now, doesn’t it?

Although her prince probably didn’t have Fabio feathered hair and wasn’t riding up on a white stallion to whisk her away, and although she doesn’t live in a castle with a moat, her fairy tale came true. Someone came to her rescue and she lives happily ever after.

Sarah and the 6 other children I met that summer were 7 of an estimated 7,000 children working in the Ghana fishing industry. Nearly all of these children are sold by their parents or guardians – sometimes out of desperation, if they are unable to feed and provide for their children and believe that their child will be taken care of and even educated by these fisherman, and sometimes just to make a quick buck. Whatever circumstances brought them to Lake Volta, their life there is very different than originally promised. While girls like Sarah and her sister Hagar are used for household chores, the boys are put to work on the fishing boats. All of these children are slaves.

Of the 7 rescued children I met, Mark was the youngest. At the age of 6, he spent his life working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, scooping water out of a boat. Oftentimes the children are purposefully not taught how to swim, because the fishermen want them to work faster and harder. If they are scared of drowning, their lives depend on their concentration and hard work.

So, why bring this up?

Because it’s real and it’s happening right now. As you tuck your little one in bed at night, there is a little one across the globe who’s looking for a few inches of space to sleep between the dozens of other slave children packed on a dirt floor. As you browse the pantry for a snack to tide you over between lunch and dinner, there is a 6 year old boy across the globe who was lucky to get one meal today.

As we take today off in celebration of Labor Day, it’s important to remember those around the world who do not have the luxury of labor laws that protect workers, especially children, from being exploited.

Well, hmm.

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness after hearing about injustices like this. So, instead of just being depressed or just trying to wish bad things away, let’s partner with organizations who are already working to free kids like Sarah…yea?

I mentioned above that Touch A Life Foundation has been working for several years on this very issue. They worked to free my friend Sarah.

Let me also introduce you to my friends at Mercy Project:

Mercy Project is a non-profit organization working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves

Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta.

How awesome is that?!

So, here’s where we come in:

Step 1: Watch Mercy Project’s documentary. It’s 10 minutes, and it will rock your world.

Step 2: Follow their journey on their Facebook page or connect with them on Twitter. Guys, think about the cyber-celebration after the children are rescued. It’s going to be awesome.

Step 3: Tell everyone you come in contact with…specifically the wealthier folks who want to help fund Mercy Project’s efforts. HA – JUST KIDDING. (But seriously.)

It’s easy to feel suffocated and overwhelmed by the injustices of the world. It’s even tempting to look the other way and pretend nothing is happening. But, you know what? We’re called to do something about it.

So let’s do it. Start by scrolling up and watching (or rewatching) that documentary.

I want to make more fairy tales come true, don’t you?

“When the lives and the rights of children are at stake, 
there must be no silent witnesses.” 
Carol Bellamy

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