Editor’s note: This post is written by musician and activist Jason Mraz. In 2010, Jason traveled to Ghana with Free the Slaves to visit our frontline partner organizations. He also performed at the most recent Freedom Awards. Watch the awards in their entirety here. Stay up to date with the latest Jason Mraz news here.
This last year of my life has been incredible; the kind of life that envelops you all of a sudden and echoes “be careful what you wish for.” Having come off of a two year world tour I wanted to remain in the flow of public service so at the dawn of 2010 I decided to flex my activist muscles and see what else was possible in the world. One of the first places I went was Free The Slaves.
The Freedom Awards of 2009 was the initial invitation. The heroes acknowledged that evening made saving lives and improving the quality of life on earth look fun and possible. I was enrolled. A half a year later I’d find myself on a rescue boat in central Ghana patrolling Lake Volta and its surrounding villages, in search of children who were being held captive and forced to work without the opportunity to be what they were: children.
Outside of a day-care center in my hometown of Virginia, I had never worked with kids. I had also never been on a waterway that was operated largely by children. Only a short flight away from coastal USA, I couldn’t believe the harsh, dangerous conditions. I was given a first hand look at a very real problem that exists all over the world; one that is largely caused by poverty, a difference between the haves and the have-nots. I was also given the opportunity to play with children who had just been rescued and were back in school and on the playground. The difference in the eyes and spirit to those kids compared to those who were working on the lake was one of total transformation. I became a walking jungle gym to their rambunctious energies. We sang songs. We kicked and passed the ball. We ate together. We laughed and danced together. And that’s all anyone deserves to have. No matter what age, we all deserve the right to be a child, free to laugh at our victories and mistakes.
A year later I’m still active and learning to use my voice in a way that demonstrates fighting for freedom as a fun and exciting way to spend your time. The tireless workers and the kids at the Challenging Heights shelter in Ghana are my fuel and for them I’ve written a few songs that people around the world are already singing. One being, Rescue, a song that reminds us everybody deserves to be heard, and for those who don’t think they are, we’re on our way to help. It’s by acknowledging heroes that others will be inspired to be heroes as well. That’s what got me going and it’s what I look forward to doing more of.