Photos by Jeremy Snell
Foli’s life did not begin on the lake. From a young age he had lived happily with his grandparents on their farmland. But when he was nine years old, everything changed.
His grandfather was injured in a sudden accident. Foli’s uncle acted fast, offering to send Foli to school to relieve Foli’s grandmother of the burden of raising a child alone. It wasn’t long until Foli was taken to Lake Volta.
Early each morning, while it was still dark, Foli’s uncle led him to the lake. Each day Foli was forced to work alongside several other young boys on a fishing boat; bailing water and setting nets. The promise of school had been a lie.
For over two years Foli did as he was told. He was forced to dive deep into the murky waters to untangle fishing nets caught in the debris and decaying wild-life. This work is dangerous, and even deadly – tragically, one of Foli’s young friends was caught beneath the water and drowned.
There are thousands of children enslaved on the lake, just like Foli: their childhood stolen by pain and fear. They stay silent and do what they’re told because anything else is too dangerous. But there is hope…
International Justice Mission is working globally, in some of the darkest corners of our world, to rescue those in slavery and restore them, to restrain criminals, and to repair broken justice systems. Our goal is clear: to end slavery in our lifetime.
In Ghana we are working with local authorities to find trapped children and free them, to bring them into loving and trauma-informed care, and to prosecute the criminals who abused them.
Slavery is illegal everywhere, but when the laws against it aren’t enforced, slave owners and traffickers can commit their crimes with impunity. When the local justice system is equipped to find out where slavery and violence is happening and bring justice to the perpetrators, criminals know they won’t get away with their crimes – and slavery goes out of business. In fact, we’ve seen slavery plummet by up to 86% in some of the cities we’ve worked.
Foli remembers the day when local police officers and IJM staff came speeding towards him on a white boat. His boat master panicked, yelling at the boys to jump in the water and to swim to shore. Foli did not jump. Instead, he waited, and he was rescued.
He was given immediate medical attention, and in the weeks following his rescue, IJM aftercare teams supported him on his journey toward healing. We were able to reunite him with his grandparents. Now, at last, he’s home.
Boys of Volta series…
Jeremy Snell prints are available exclusively through Open Doors. You can see the full series now on his artist page.
20% of all sales from this series are donated to IJM, International Justice Mission.