The warm waters of Lake Volta in eastern Ghana support local fishermen from the small town of Kete-Krachi, which is perched on the edge of the lake. If you were to stand upon the shore, you would see numerous wooden boats bobbing on the waters with two or three fishermen in each, trolling for the day’s catch.
The lake is where local fishermen earn a living for their families, but it is also a destination for thousands of trafficked children. Sold by their parents in exchange for food, these children work 20 hours a day casting nets. Many are forced to dive into the lake’s dangerous waters to wrestle nets free from trees; far too often, they dive in but never resurface.
Dismayed by the plight of these children, a schoolteacher in Kete-Krachi named George Achibra took action. He began to keep track of the children he saw working on the lake, befriending them and learning about their lives. One such child, 9-year old John Arthur, first learned of “Teacher George” from other local children and ran to Achibra’s house in the night to escape his master. It was in the care of Achibra and his wife that John felt as if he had “real loving parents.”
With dedication and bravery, Achibra negotiated the release of hundreds of child laborers, including John. He also founded the Partnership for Community Development, providing the children with shelter, schooling and health care after rescue. And he has raised awareness among area employers about the trafficking of children to work in the fishing industry.
That is why we honored George Achibra with the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2012 Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor. Through his ongoing work and leadership, Achibra has given hope for a better future to many children trafficked to work in Ghana’s fishing industry. He is an example of the incredible difference one person can make.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor