30 Jan Beauty for Freedom: Anti-Trafficking Organization Presents Art Exhibition to Empower Young Survivors
Beauty for Freedom has teamed up with Challenging Heights to launch the “Project Ghana” Exhibition
By Katy Donoghue
Child survivors of human trafficking were given photography lessons by a charity – and the results are inspiring.
The youngsters from Ghana are working to overcome their trauma with the help of a New York-based charity called Beauty for Freedom, which is providing them with photography and art lessons.
The anti-trafficking organisation works to fight against and increase exposure of human trafficking.
One of the places where Beauty for Freedom has made a difference is Ghana, where many young children are forced into hard labour.
It has collaborated with Challenging Heights, a Ghanaian anti-trafficking organisation that’s on a mission to improve children’s rights in the region.
Challenging Heights gives children the tools they need to explore their creativity in order to help them overcome the hardships that they’ve endured.
“Deploying arts and art therapy is a big part of our work at Challenging Heights,” says James Kofi Annan, president of Challenging Heights and survivor of child slavery.
“Remember there is an issue of self-esteem with survivors, so this work with Beauty for Freedom helps these children to have improved self-esteem… to hope and to dream that anything is possible and that they can do it!”
Last summer, Beauty for Freedom and Challenging Heights organised photography, watercolour painting and mural workshops for hundreds of young people in Ghana, with the final artworks then being displayed in a community art exhibition.
“Our team witnessed some incredible effects of our workshops series with the youth of Challenging Heights,” says Monica Watkins, executive director of Beauty for Freedom.
One of the most daunting workshops to teach was the photography workshop, as the team had to teach the young participants how to use DSLR Canon Cameras, many of whom were very shy.
“We all were a bit skeptical that they would find their journalistic and creative voices in this way, but they amazed us all!” says Watkins.
“Our students gained self-confidence, communication skills and an expanded sense of self-expression as a result of our Beauty for Freedom programming!”
One of the artists being featured in the “Project Ghana” Exhibition VIP Preview is Erica Simone.
In June last year, Simone travelled to Winneba in Ghana with Beauty for Freedom and was astounded by what she witnessed when working with Challenging Heights.
“Welcome to Ghana, and welcome to Lake Volta – the largest manmade reservoir in the world where almost 50,000 children – some as young as four years old – are working under unthinkable duress in the fishing industry,” she wrote in an essay.
“The kids are usually so traumatised that they have no ability to conceptualise living a better life beyond the one they endure.”
While in Ghana, Simone spent two weeks teaching photography lessons to teens at the Challenging Heights’ Friends International Academy School.
“One of our interactive photo projects was in collaboration with French artist, JR and his Inside Out Project where the kids shot portraits of their peers and teachers, which were then printed in large format and pasted onto the walls of their school,” she wrote.
“Watching kids take photographs for their first time ever is a very gratifying experience.”
The “Project Ghana” Exhibition VIP Preview is taking place at The Flat NYC from 8-10pm on Friday.
It’s a mixed-media exhibition, featuring 15 pieces of artwork by influential artists.
The artists have re-imagined photographs that were taken by some of the young people being looked after by Challenging Heights, which were taken by the budding photographers as part of the Inside Out Project.
All proceeds from artworks sold from the exhibition will go towards the rescue and recovery programme of Challenging Heights and Beauty for Freedom’s travel-abroad arts therapy programming.