06 February 2007


Last October, The New York Times published an article about child slavery in Ghana. It featured a six-year-old boy named Mark Kwado, who had been indentured to a fisherman, and who worked off his parents' debt by paddling a fishing boat on Lake Volta. Other boys interviewed described 100-hour work weeks, and liberal beatings.

A six year old, who in the United States would be in kindergarten, and getting in a boat maybe a couple of times a year while on vacation with his family, is performing hard manual labor for 100 hours a week.

Or he was until last month, when an American couple flew to Ghana, and, working with a local charity, negotiated Mark's release (i.e., paid off the fisherman), and the release of six other young boys as well, for $3600. The boys are now living in an orphanage -- with the consent of their parents, who, if they'd been able to take care of them in the first place wouldn't have sold them to the fisherman -- and going to school.

There's a couple of things about this story that get me. The first is just the sheer admiration I have for this couple, Pam and Randy Cope, who are from a smalltown in Missouri, and who have been making these kind of direct interventions since their own son died suddenly seven years ago. Of course that's a devastating event in any parent's life -- they were able to turn their grief outward and that's amazing.

The second thing that gets me, though, is that it only cost them $3600, plus the cost of going to Ghana (about $2000 roundtrip these days, which is not cheap, but in the realm of possibility for a lot of people). Whereas you and I just read the article, had whatever horrified reaction to it that we had, then turned the page to something else, likely equally horrifying, they said: "let's do something."

I helped start a company in Ghana several years ago, and have spent a lot of time there. The story had perhaps more resonance for me than it did for you on that account. But did I say to myself, hmmm, maybe I could get in contact with my friend Lynda, who runs a foundation in Accra, and she and I could come up with a way to rescue little Mark Kwado and his co-workers, and I could hit up my friends for the money to get it done?

No, I did not.

Thank God for the Copes, who did.



Blogger Stuntmother said...

I think that this is one of those times when the heroism of the ordinary person can lift us just a little bit further along our ladder. So you didn't fly to Ghana -- that's okay -- and someone did and showed you and me that it's possible and thus, our sense of our own power and potential increases.

It's the most amazing story.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posterboy saved.
Guilt gone.
Problem solved!

9:33 AM  
Blogger Stuntmother said...

Anonymous comments
Solve everything!
WOW! Well done.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that more often than not, anonymous people miss the point.

The point to me was, do something. It doesn't have to be a big something, like the Copes did. But what if it was a big something - even if I only did it once - how much might it mean to the person on the other end?

12:20 PM  

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