My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011


It's been awhile since I've been to the Volta region--since last October when I went up with the NYU group. This trip was far different, as every trip there seems to be, and I really felt like the work that we did there is something that we can continue to work on in the future.

We headed out on Monday morning (and by morning, I mean 1 am) to make it to Dumbai and the ferry at the 8 am crossing. We made it in perfect timing and got on the ferry rather quickly. When we finally made it to Benjamase (across the river and a couple of hours in), we spent the afternoon chatting, eating lunch, and resting.

After some napping, we all got in a boat and headed across the lake to Ada Cope. You've heard me talk about this place before. It is a pretty remote village and it is where we rescued Abigail and DK from last June. We have been working with other fishermen there to rescue their trafficked children. We've been working with one man in particular, Dalali, to rescue his two slave children. Dalali has three wives and many children of his own. He has been working on the lake since he, himself, was just a boy. He has never been to school and rarely leaves his village. But, several years ago, at the death of his grandmother, he was left with a huge debt (he paid for the cost of the funeral, though the cost usually is left to the oldest living male relative). To see that his debt was repaid, Dalali took 2 girls from their family to come and work off the debt of the parents.

John and Stacy have been meeting with Dalali and building a relationship with him for about a year. They have been working with him on understanding the issue of child trafficking. And this visit was the first time that Dalali ever showed the children to us. He brought the two girls forward, one 9 and one 5, and told us that they had to repay the debt. The only way that he would release them was for us to pay their debt.

One thing that City of Refuge is very clear about is the payment of slaves. We DO NOT buy anyone's freedom. In this culture, if a slave's freedom is purchased, it gives permission to the slavemaster to get more children to be bought out of slavery again. It perpetuates the cycle instead of solving the problem. There are NGO's that work on this lake that are given funds to purchase children out of slavery and because of their actions, we are finding it harder and harder to show fisherman to make fishermen understand that releasing the children (with no payment) is the right thing to do. Our goal is to reveal to the fishermen the innocence of the children, the heart of each child, to give voice to the voiceless and empower the powerless. In any case, even though Dalali refused this time, we will keep pressing, keep pushing, keep challenging. There will come a day (hopefully soon) when those children will be set free.

After returning from Ada Cope, we all were tired. We ate dinner and then relaxed for the night.

The next day, our group split in two. Most of the people went into Chinderi to meet with the women from the water project. Two of the YGAP girls did a workshop with the women talking about different things from care for your babies to interviews regarding their employment with our water company. The other half of us stayed behind at the guest house in Bejamase to help with food preparation for our big feed later in the day. We helped box up 300 meals for kids. It was fun to get to put those meals together, chat with some of the volunteers, and get some time to read and relax (that hasn't happened very often lately in my life!).

When the team returned, we quickly ate lunch and then headed out to Lonkortor for our feeding program. Our goal with these feeding programs in the Volta region is to register children, give them deworming medication, and feed them. We want to keep track of the children in these villages so we can figure out who are fishing children, when children are moved from place to place, and who is caring for the child.

Usually our feeds are hectic messes and in the past, I have wondered if they create a bigger problem rather than helping to solve a problem. But, this time, though it was hectic, was much more organized. All of the children 12 and under were able to be registered, dewormed, and fed. We were able to identify a few slave children along the way too. . .including Stella and Godfreid who we have been working to rescue since we did community entry a year ago. All in all, it was a pretty successful day. We closed the feeding program quickly as the rains began to fall and they are pretty crazy when you're on the road! It was quite a trip back in the rain as I sat in the back of the bus. Every pothole seemed multiplied by the rainwater and the speed the driver was taking to get us home. Quite an adventurous trip back!

This morning, we were up bright and early to head back home. The trip always seems so long on the way back, but it's always good for a bit of reflection. This afternoon, I put on a little Tyrone Wells on my ipod and just sat in reflective mood--not just on my time at the Volta, but on times past as well. It was funny how Tyrone's songs can bring me back to times and places so clearly and so quickly. One song brought me back to singing in McClains. One brought me back to my roadtrip with the Whelpley's last summer. One brought me back to T and Evan's wedding planning days and their big wedding bash in AZ. And so many brought me back to room 2.5. One brought me back to convos with Bristol and concerts in the City. I know this is off on a random tangent, but bear with me, I'm coming to a point. Finally, I just settled on this thought that if people were able to experience this life of mine for even a short period of time. . .I wonder if their music would change, their eyes more open to the world around them. Tyrone sings this great song about metal and wood. Sara Groves has a number of songs. Brooke Fraser's Albertine album. Some are seeing the need for change in this world...and their music has shown it. But, what if more understood what was going on in this world? If people were able to experience this life of mine, I wonder what else would change? If enough people saw slavery first hand, in the faces of children, the strong arms of boys too young to have strong arms...how would it change them? And would it be enough to change the world?

Oh, God, I'm praying for eyes to be opened. I'm praying for hearts to be changed. I'm praying...

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