As my focus for the trip, I would like to hone in on the interactions with the kids. Due to the sensitivity of the Hovde House and Challenging Heights, I am unable to include pictures of the children that we interacted with but I can include a few that do not expose the children’s faces. All of these children were bought from their families in elaborate schemes to attain children for labor on Lake Volta. The children we interacted with varied in ages from 4-17; while there were more boys, there were also girls.

We had a total of three days to interact with the kids during various parts of the day. We were able to play with the kids a bit before our lunch break, sit down and eat lunch with them, as well as spend a few minutes afterwards. From teaching them childhood dances and games to arm wrestling and thumb wars, the interactions were intimate and extremely heartfelt. Thumb wars took off as the biggest hit the first day. The kids were confused about how to play, but after watching us battle it out amongst each other, they were relentless about trying to beat us. It was a few minutes of pure joy seeing one of the children beat you and run around laughing with the largest smiles. Even if they lost, they would laugh and try to play again. On the second day with the kids, we decided to teach the kids Duck Duck Goose, which was a bit rocky to start. Soon the kids picked it up, and all of Challenging Heights was in an uproar of laughter and joy.

One of the biggest hurdles was hearing stories of the children being beaten while working on the lake. One girl in particular was very hesitant to interact but would watch from afar or behind a friend. On the second day, the House Manager stated that the girl had been at the house for four months and didn’t play or interact with very many others. On this day, she was the person that was “it” and chose someone to be the ”goose.” She ran as fast as she could around the large circle almost about to be tagged. Then she leaped around me and wrapped her arms around my neck and hid for protection.  I didn’t know in the moment that her time on the lake was rougher than others.  After I had heard the story, I couldn’t help but be brought to tears; she was one of the little girls that I would wave and say hi to every day I saw her, and she had finally opened up to someone.

On the last day, we all played soccer with the kids. Some were extremely competitive and some just liked to cheer the others on and chant songs. I played for a bit but then started to interact with the younger kids who were playing with each other on the sidelines. Some spelled out their names, which led to all of us drawing and spelling words in the sand. It became such a hit with the smaller children that they all flocked over and got closer and closer. Eventually, they were tracing the letters on the tattoo of my forearm, feeling the hair on my face, head and legs. Getting this close and intimate with the children was very profound and has left a lasting effect on my heart.

These children have taught me a few lessons from their stories and how resilient some of them are. Being sold by your family, put to work for years of their life, and trying to reach a normal life must take a certain kind of spirit to overcome all that they have experienced. I could not have asked for a more rewarding and amazing experience and I will forever be humbled that I was able to go. The group was so amazing, and the friendships and bonds created with each person  will last forever.

“We are agents of change.” – No matter how hard life beats us down, no matter how hard we believe we have hit rock bottom, life has a way of changing things around for us.


Kevin Brady