On Friday, November 11, 2022, Oldfields welcomed two special guests to campus. Madeline “Maddy” Darrell Pahr ‘06 and James Kofi Annan. Maddy is the Creative Director for a non-profit based in New York called Many Hopes. Many Hopes rescues children from oppression and raises them to be adults of influence equipped to do justice for others, causing exponential impact. Many Hopes advocates that children born into poverty can be changemakers in their communities. In her position as Creative Director, Maddy travels the globe, visiting those impacted by Many Hopes, and documents their stories to share with the world. We are so grateful to Maddy for connecting us with James, one of the incredible people that they partner with at Many Hopes.
"Activism to end trafficking must be an innate calling, which then translates into long term commitment. In this nothing, absolutely nothing (threats, lack of funds, etc), is capable of quenching the flame." – James Kofi Annan
James Kofi Annan is a survivor of child trafficking himself and now runs an organization called Challenging Heights, which works to rescue children from slavery in his own community. He was sold into slavery at the age of six and was subjected to forced labor and treated inhumanely until he escaped at the age of 13. While enslaved, he was forced to work from 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on fishing boats, mending nets, bailing water, processing fish, paddling canoes, being beaten, and more, with little in the way of food and no medical care.
After escaping slavery at the age of 13, he put himself through elementary school, high school, and college. He went on to become a banker. However, he remained passionate about rescuing children from slavery. Today, it is estimated there are 21,000 children currently enslaved in Ghana. In 2005, he founded Challenging Heights with the focus of addressing trafficking of children to Lake Volter where they are forced to work in hazardous conditions in the fishing industry–the very same place he was enslaved.
James opened with his gratitude for where he was today and how fortunate our students are to be where they are. James spoke of his challenging journey and how he never lost hope. His selflessness was clear as he spoke of how his ultimate goal was always to be safe enough and influential enough to return to the area and save children who were suffering in the same position he did until his escape. Since inception, his organization has been involved in rescuing 1,800 children. He proudly shared that some of the children that he has rescued are now adults working and volunteering in his organization. Survivors can make a huge impact on those who are suffering in the same way they were.
His work is not easy, not always safe, and he shared that it can be traumatizing for the rescuers as well. He has faced violence, threats of kidnapping, and lost lives due to his work, but James continues on with hope and gratitude. The students listened closely and when it came time to ask questions, one student asked “How can we help?” James only asked one thing of our students, spread the word. Share our story and share what you learned today so that more light can be shed on these stories of tragedy and hope. At the end of the presentation, James stressed to the audience that his story is proof that with determination, there is nothing that a person can not overcome.
Maddy is able to use her skills in marketing and creative work to make an impact. Maddy shared that it was what she learned at Oldfields that helped shape who she is today and her desire to be a part of the solution. We are so grateful to our alumni who leave Oldfields and go out into the world to make it a better place. Here at Oldfields, we have a Global Justice Concentration that students can participate in. These students will learn how they themselves can be an impactful global citizen after and during their time at Oldfields.
Thank you to Maddy and James for spending time with us and for bringing your stories to Oldfields students today.