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On the island, Lisa finds children working before the sun even rises. In the pitch-dark, she sees four boys with no shoes or life preservers make their way onto the cold lake—their job is to collect the fish captured by their master's nets. Most adults would find the job physically demanding, yet the children must do this grueling work even when they are sick. "It is no good at all," Never says. "It is dangerous."

Lisa and Never see children working hard to paddle a boat alone. "The master is sleeping at home," Never says. Away from their "owner," the children are able to speak openly about what their lives are like. They tell Lisa that they eat only once a day, at 7 a.m., and they are routinely beaten.

"They've lived lives of adults for so many years, you know? They totally lose their childhood," Lisa says. "It was interesting to watch the brotherhood and the relationships that they establish with each other. Because the four boys that we had been following, none of them were biological siblings. But when you ask them 'Who is this?' they say, 'My brother.' It's the only family they have."

Lisa says it is very important not to demonize the fishermen, despite how they allegedly treat the children. "Many of the fishermen were fishing children themselves. This has been going on in Ghana for decades. It's really part of the culture," Lisa says. When Eric, IOM members or the Ghanaian government tell the fishermen they should stop buying children, they meet with resistance. "[The fishermen] say, 'Well, we used to work as fishing children ourselves.' And Eric says, 'That doesn't make it right.' So the challenge really is changing the culture," Lisa says.
FROM: A Special Report: The Little Boy Oprah Couldn't Forget
Published on February 09, 2007