enslaved children in GhanaTouch A Life is a nonprofit organization located in Dallas, Texas that rescues enslaved children in Ghana. Randy and Pam Cope co-founded the Touch A Life Foundation in November 1999. After reading about child labor trafficking on Lake Volta in 2006, the couple decided to focus their organization’s contributions to Ghana. Touch A Life seeks to further expand its accomplishments, by liberating as many slaves as possible and providing rehabilitation services.

Enslaved Children in Ghana

The International Labour Organization reports that an estimated 20,000 children are currently enslaved on Lake Volta, working for fishermen who are considered their “masters.” Typically, the traffickers trick families into selling their children for roughly $250, promising the families that the children will receive an education. Most children, some as young as 5 years old, come to the lake from Ghanian villages hundreds of miles away.

Working in partnership with a devoted team of Ghanaians and the Ghanian Department of Social Welfare, the Touch A Life Foundation has rescued hundreds of trafficked children. The organization does not reunite the children with their families due to fears that the cycle of trafficking will persist. Instead, Touch A Life provides housing for rescued children.

A Holistic Approach

Through the housing programs Touch A Life offers, the organization administers holistic and customized child care. Their procedures include regular medical and mental assessments, rehabilitation arrangements and educational and vocational empowerment. By offering these services through their housing accommodations, Touch A Life provides hope to the children in order to help in restoring their lives.

In 2012, Touch A Life manufactured its first long-term rehabilitative care center for trafficked children. Located in Kumasi, Ghana, the Touch A Life Care Center is home to more than 100 rescued children. At the Care Center, the children receive the education that was promised by traffickers but resulted in enslavement. In 2015, the organization constructed an all-girls children’s dorm called Zachary’s House in Kumasi, Ghana. The home now fosters 14 young girls who were rescued in the fall of the same year.

Later in 2016, Life Academy Center launched in Accra, Ghana, helping transition the children from the Care Center to independent adulthood. The Academy currently serves eight students in their mid-20s. The students are offered professional skills education related to banking, health awareness, public speaking and goal development. They are also a part of the Ghana Sewing Collective, which is led by the Life Academy Mentor, Eunice. The Ghana Sewing Collective teaches the students the basics of sewing to make products, introducing the students to working for a small business owner and working with a team towards a shared goal.

Furthermore, all of the housing campuses include rehabilitative art centers. In 2016, Kim Lewis Designs and the team from Art Feeds aided Touch A Life in crafting a therapeutic space where the children can express their emotions creatively. Kwame Ayensu is the current Art Director for the center and engages the children in art healing practices.

Beyond Ghana

Touch A Life also offers rehabilitation centers in Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam, the organization operates a house in Saigon in order to protect vulnerable children from trafficking in Southeast Asia. The home currently supports 30 abandoned children. The identities of the children are withheld due to safety concerns. Rapha House in Cambodia works to rescue and heal AIDs orphans and sexually exploited children. Rapha House is home to 220 children, 25 adult women and has two art centers on its campus, including the Selah Art Center and Lilly’s Art Center.

Touch A Life in Ghana has educated hundreds of rescued children who have moved on to Ghanian boarding schools and even university. The organization enables and equips rescued children with opportunities to pursue a new life filled with freedom and hope. Touch A Life continues to rescue children in the Lake Volta region and plans to advance their ambitions to end child exploitation. Touch A Life’s website provides multiple options for those interested in getting involved with the cause.

Kacie Frederick
Photo: @touchalife