James Annan

James Kofi Annan

JAMES KOFI ANNAN had not begun primary school when he was sent away to work in a fishing village nine hours away from his home in Winneba Ghana.

There, he was forced to work excruciating hours catching fish on Lake Volta.  When he returned from twelve or thirteen hours fishing, he was refused food.  If he asked for even the smallest concession from his boss, he was beaten.  Despite all of his hard work, he often not allowed to sleep because he had to take care of all the other tasks, such as mending nets or cleaning fish.

After suffering over ten years of this treatment, he decided to take his life in his own hands.  He heroically ran away from his master and sneaked onto a bus and headed home.  Though his mother and father had been divided over sending him away, he returned to his family home.  He dedicated himself to his schooling, eventually completing high school at the top of his class.  When he graduated from college, he took a very lucrative job as a banker at Barclay’s.

But he was not interested in being a banker.  James committed almost every penny he made in that job to creating an organization called Challenging Heights, which helps children like him in coastal Ghana.  Today, his program rescues children who have been enslaved, protects children who are vulnerable, educated children who are rescued and at-risk, supports community child protection groups, connects mothers to microcredit and job skills…  Basically he does everything necessary to slavery-proof Southern Ghana.

He’s a modern day hero.  And he’s a vibrant and affective story-teller.  His story has moved many young people to spend their summers in Ghana, working to support him and the young people he serves.


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James visits the US several times a year, so it’s best to get on his calendar early!