On Lake Volta in Ghana, child slaves are forced to work day and night on dangerous and deadly fishing boats. Mabel was one of them, trafficked into slavery by her own impoverished family. Mabel was forced into labor off the boat, too. She was forced to work around the clock. Early in the morning, she was forced to collect wood and cook maize porridge. She was forced to make lunch and dinner for workers on the boats. She was beaten and abused. Late at night Mabel was forced to go out fishing on the dangerous lake. Today she is free and getting an education.
My grandfather said he can’t send us to school because he spent his money to bury our mother, so we have to work to pay the money. I feel scared because the lake is very big. When the wind is blowing, you can just go down, and you will die. They would tell me I must hold the net. They are going to throw the net, so if they throw the net and then they are coming [back], I should be folding it. If they came and I am not folding it, they will cane me. They will use the paddle to cane me.
If we come back from the lake, they would say I should cook. If I told them, today I am tired, I can’t cook, then they would start beating me and insulting me. I hardly slept at all. Every evening I hoped that there would be a storm, so I wouldn’t have to go out on the lake.
I like math and social studies. I had never been to school before, so some words are difficult for me. When I came [to the school set up by charity Challenging Heights], they started teaching me how to write my name, how to pronounce words, and how to read. My favorite thing is the teachers. They like the children, and I like how they teach. I want to become a nurse, so I can prove to my family that I can make it in life.
As told to Free the Slaves