James Kofi Annan's Challenging Heights School Photos

ESSENCE.COM Sep, 17, 2008

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“If you educate children, then they will know their rights," says James Kofi Annan, founder and executive director of Challenging Heights. "And the chances of them being forced into labor will decrease.”

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“Their future will be brighter because they have a way to avoid poverty,” says Annan, whose Challenging Heights School currently enrolls 251 students between the ages of 4 and 15. He estimates nearly 50 of those children would have been sold into child labor had they not attended school.

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“I’ve been there and I know how it feels,” says Annan about his years in slavery. “I don’t want any child to go through that experience.”

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“I decided that whatever the consequences,” explains Annan, “ would resign and devote all my time to my organization.” He’s given this young man, who was enslaved for years, a chance to be educated with the hope of having a better future.

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After-school programs help students stay away from local traffickers. “I also use the youth to encourage other children so that they are mentors among themselves,” explains Annan.

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“If we are getting more and more children from those homes, then it means that the trafficking has been reduced,” says Annan. Here is just one of the many lives he has affected.

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“If I should be the sacrificial lamb to protect and rescue another generation of children, then I’m prepared to do that,” says Annan. Children who attend the Challenging Heights School also receive help with homework, sports and art programs.

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“I realized that working at the bank was occupying most of my time,” says Annan. “Challenging Heights was my true passion.”

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