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  • Reclaiming the life of a slave child

    When James Kofi Annan was 6, the youngest child of an illiterate family, he was sold into child slavery. He worked as a child fisherman in Lake Volta in Ghana. His working day started at 3am and ended at 8pm, and was full of physically demanding work. He was malnutritioned, abused, didn’t have access to medical care, education. He didn’t have any rights.

    When he was 13, James finally escaped and managed to return home. He decided the most important thing for him was getting an education. But it was extremely difficult - his parents couldn’t support his studies, so James had to work in order to afford school taxes. He was also hugely disadvantaged compared to his peers, as he still didn’t know how to write. Nevertheless, he managed to graduate school, and pursued a university education. He became a bank manager, and also run a small private business.


    But his real dream was to prevent other children from having to face what he did.


    He quit his job, and used his savings to establish Challenging Heights. Challenging Heights fights child trafficking and protects children’s rights in Ghana through a chain of support programs:

    • They conduct rescue missions and bring the children to their Recovery Centre where they get counseling, medical care, and tutoring to ensure they are ready to reunite with their families and go to school.
    • Poor families are provided with job skills training and loans, so that they gain the financial means to care for their children. 
    • Challenging Heights conducts community mobilization, creates advocates and influences national policy to fight the root causes of modern slavery.

    James Kofi Annan was part of the Incubator of Reach for Change from 2013 until 2016.

    We helped him figure out how to track, measure, and communicate the impact of his organization. Our business development support helped Challenging Heights boost their organizational capacity, scale their operations and reach more children. 

    I owe a debt of gratitude to Reach for Change. Its Incubator program brought direct benefits to me and to Challenging Heights. Today, Challenging Heights is a well-respected global leader in the fight against child trafficking.

    From the letter of James to our team

    Today Challenging Heights has rescued over 1,000 trafficked children, and have supported more than 15,000 children who have been slaves, or who are at risk of being enslaved.

    For his work, James Kofi Annan was commended with the 2013 World’s Children’s Prize, sometimes nicknamed the Nobel prize of Children, and on May 23rd 2022 he received the Child Rights Hero Honorary Award of the decade.

    Photo: Jann Lipka/World Children’s Prize Foundation

    Photo: Jann Lipka/World Children’s Prize Foundation

    For us at Reach for Change it’s an honor to have been able to work with James and to contribute to preserving children from slavery and abuse!