Trafficked child on Lake Volta, Ghana, pictured with his slave masters, 2016 (photo by Evan Robbins)
Breaking the Chain Through Education Foundation (BTCTE) is a registered 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to eradicating child slavery in Ghana, Africa. We are a grassroots organization with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have been trafficked; support and improve their access to education; ensure their continued safety, health and security; and provide seed money and micro-grants to their families to lessen the grip of poverty and help stop the cycle of trafficking.
Over time, BTCTE has become increasingly committed to our children’s long-term success. We support our children during their transition to independence and adulthood by extending our care over a longer period of time and by broadening their educational opportunities. In addition to funding our students’ secondary and university educations, we provide financial support with vocational training programs, apprenticeships, technical colleges and boarding schools. By empowering our students with the education and tools they need to be successful, we hope they will mature into self-sufficient adults who will help combat child trafficking.
BTCTE first began in 2006, when Evan Robbins, a NJ public school social studies teacher, first read an article about a six-year old boy enslaved in the fishing industry of Lake Volta in Ghana. This adorable child was malnourished, barely clothed, slept on a mud floor and spent 14 hours a day on a rickety fishing boat bailing water.
Mark Kwadwo, age 6, as pictured in the New York Times, 2006
As a father with a six-year-old at the time, Evan felt compelled to take action to help save the lives of these defenseless children. Evan brought this issue to his high school students, and they embarked on a quest to learn more about modern day slavery and raised funds to fight child trafficking.
Trafficked child on Lake Volta, 2010 (photo by Evan Robbins)
Ultimately, Evan and his students established the high school’s BTCTE club and formed a partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). By 2009, Evan and his students raised $24,000–enough money for IOM to rescue and rehabilitate five children trafficked in Ghana’s fishing industry. In 2010, Evan decided to travel to Ghana to participate in this rescue mission, meet these children and learn about child trafficking firsthand.
Rescued children pictured with Evan Robbins and an IOM volunteer, 2010
During his initial experience in Ghana, Evan was struck by how time-consuming and difficult it was to rescue the five children. He and his IOM colleagues conceived of a more efficient strategy: to build a school for a village that lacked one in exchange for the release of all the village’s trafficked children. By 2012, BTCTE built a school for 240 children in the village of Awate Tornu in exchange for the release of 19 trafficked children. These children underwent rehabilitation and eventually returned to life with their families and to school.
School built by BTCTE in Village of Awate Tornu, 2012
Children rescued from Awate Tornu in exchange for the school, 2012
As BTCTE is committed not only to rescuing as many children as possible, but to restoring them to a life of dignity and a quality education, we established a system of ongoing monitoring for each child rescued. Working with IOM, we employ a social worker that periodically checks on our children’s welfare and delivers provisions to the family. To further our efforts, we formed a partnership with a Ghanaian organization, Challenging Heights (CH) in 2015. As with IOM, CH secures the release of trafficked children, provides rehabilitation services, and ensures ongoing monitoring and follow-up for each child.
A visit by BTCTE to a recued child and his family, 2017
To date, we fund the care of 76 children, 51 of whom we helped rescue. Every year, Evan, along with members of the Board and others dedicated to BTCTE’s mission, visit each and every one of these 76 individuals. During these visits, Evan and his team assess our students’ needs, help problem solve, clarify future goals, offer practical guidance as well as bring hope and encouragement. Many of these children, now young adults, call Evan “Dad” and greet him by running into his arms. For some of our children, he is the most consistent and enduring support system in their lives.
School visit by BTCTE, 2017
Over the years, BTCTE has witnessed our children’s accomplishments as well as challenges. We can boast about our three graduates: two teachers and a bus driver. One young woman is about to enter university while four are attending secondary (high) school. Eighteen young men and women are in vocational training programs to study plumbing, masonry, catering, tailoring, window installation and electrical work. The vast majority of our students are on a path toward success and productive livelihoods.
Evan with our young men thriving at their vocational school, 2017
All of our work is centered on the belief that every child, regardless of the social and economic conditions into which he or she is born, has the right to freedom and an education. However, today there are thousands of children caught in the grip of enslavement, with little or no recourse for escaping their bondage without the intervention of organizations like ours. BTCTE is actively reaching out to the anti-trafficking community to create new partnerships and to identify new sources of funding to sustain and grow our important work.