How it all started
Breaking the Chain Through Education (BTCTE) is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to providing long term support to victims of child trafficking in Ghana, Africa. We are a grassroots organization with a mission to help children and young adults who have suffered the devastating effects of forced labor. Our support is comprehensive and includes access to education, housing, food security, and health care. BTCTE strives to lift young people out of poverty (tremendous adversity/horrific circumstances) and provides them with the necessary skills and tools to have a better future.
Trafficked child on Lake Volta, Ghana, pictured with his slave masters, 2016 (photo by Evan Robbins)
To ensure our children’s long-term success and independence, we extend our care over a longer period of time than other anti-trafficking organizations. The transition to independence is challenging and can require many years of support. We help our beneficiaries to follow the career path of their choosing and offer guidance and funding in their field or vocation. While some of our beneficiaries pursue a traditional education at secondary schools or universities, many of our young adults attend vocational training programs, apprenticeships, and technical colleges. By empowering our students with the education and tools they need to be successful, they can mature into self-sufficient adults.
When BTCTE was first established, our main mission was to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked children. It 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. 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.
Mark Kwadwo, age 6, as pictured in the New York Times, 2006
Trafficked child on Lake Volta, 2010 (photo by Evan Robbins)
That year, Evan and his students established the high school’s BTCTE club and partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Within two years, the club raised $25,000 to rescue five trafficked children in Ghana. In 2010, Evan traveled to Ghana for the first time to accompany IOM on a rescue mission. The IOM team went from fishing village to fishing village to persuade the slave owners to give up their trafficked children on moral grounds; sometimes the fishermen would be given tools to replace the need for child labor. It should be noted that money was never exchanged for the children’s release. Soon after that trip, Evan and his IOM colleagues conceived a more efficient strategy (to rescue children without money being exchanged): to build a school for 240 children in exchange for the freedom of the village's 19 trafficked children. That was completed in 2012 and those children were rescued, rehabilitated and educated.
Rescued children pictured with Evan Robbins
and an IOM volunteer, 2010
Children rescued from Awate Tornu in exchange for the school, 2012
School built by BTCTE in Village of Awate Tornu, 2012
School built by BTCTE in Village of Awate Tornu, 2012
As BTCTE grew, we realized that we had to commit our efforts not only to rescuing as many children as possible, but to restoring them to a life of dignity and a quality education. During our annual trips to Ghana, we observed the hardships our beneficiaries experienced in attending school and discovered that some didn’t attend regularly. To improve our children’s successful transition to school and family life, we established a system of ongoing monitoring for each child rescued. In 2013, in conjunction with IOM, BTCTE employed a social worker who periodically checked on our children’s welfare and delivered provisions to the family.
Although this monitoring system was beneficial, BTCTE strived to further improve the quality of this oversight. Our observations revealed the need for more intensive support over a more extended period of time. In 2018, BTCTE opened its own office in Ghana to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our care. Currently, we have four employees in Ghana who work closely with our beneficiaries. Each beneficiary is visited twice a month by one of our field agents.
Ghana staff with a beneficiary (grey sweatshirt)
We are very proud of our dedicated staff in Ghana. Dickson Korleh is our account manager and right hand man in Ghana. We also have our dedicated group of field officers led by Emmanuel Entsie, our lead field agent who cares for the beneficiaries in the Central Region. In the Volta regions we have two Field Agents, Confidence Glover and Never Awudkudzie.
To date, we fund the care of approximately 100 beneficiaries. Every year, Evan, along with members of the Board and others dedicated to BTCTE’s mission, visit each and every one of them. During these visits, Evan and his team assess our beneficiaries’ needs, help problem solve, clarify future goals, offer practical guidance as well as bring hope and encouragement.
A visit by BTCTE to a recued child and his family, 2017
School visit by BTCTE, 2017
Over the years, BTCTE has witnessed our children’s accomplishments as well as challenges. We have seen continued success and are getting to the point where our graduates will soon be the master craftsmen that our new beneficiaries will be placed with.
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 a bright future. We have shown that with the proper support victims of child trafficking can become teachers, electricians, tailors etc. More importantly, they have become young men and women that we are proud to call our children.