By Kaitlin Roberts - Davidson College Intern

HUNTERSVILLE - Two area-nonprofits, Leadership Link and The Father’s House, will host the fourth annual Freedom Fest, an international outreach event to raise funds for enslaved youth in Ghana, next week at Journey Church.

The April 12 event will be led by student members of Leadership Link, a program that encourages students from third to 12th grade to lead by serving others. Students have helped create educational materials about The Father’s House and organized a silent auction and an authentic Ghanaian market.

The story behind The Father’s House goes back to 1999 when longtime friends Jeff Miller and Matt Garrett met a pastor from Ghana named David Banini at a religious conference. After becoming friends with Banini, Miller and Garrett traveled to visit him in Ghana.

“My husband didn’t even know why he was going.” Tammy Garrett says. “He actually swore he would never go on a foreign mission trip.”

But something called the men back to Ghana, and after several years and trips to visit the country; Miller suggested that the group build a house. Tammy remembers that Miller imagined it as a house for school aged kids.

The Garretts and Millers received a bigger surprise when they began thinking about purchasing land. Pastor Bernini called and said that without knowing about their project, someone had donated seven and a half acres of land on the beach near his church.

The group started construction on the land, hiring workers from the area to support the local economy, but they still had no idea who the house was being built for. Then one day, Tammy did an Internet search and learned about child slavery in the fishing industry on Lake Volta, located a few hours north of the newly built house.

Across Lake Volta, over 7,000 boys ages 4 through 14 are enslaved in the fishing trade, according to the Garretts’ website.

“Traffickers go to needy mothers saying. ‘I have a wonderful opportunity for your son.’ They say they’ll help him learn a trade and get education, and then buy the boy for roughly $20 U.S.  dollars” Tammy says.

In January 2011, the families worked with a Ghanaian schoolteacher to rescue eight of the enslaved boys, who now live in the house, named The Father’s House, and are given shelter, clothing, food, and a private school education.

The mission of Freedom Fest is to raise money for these children and others that the organization hopes to free once the eight boys have time to adjust and heal.

Fourteen-year-old Leadership Link student Rachel Pertgen says she’s excited about the educational component of Freedom Fest.

“There will be different videos about what The Father’s House is, and a long hallway showing the children’s stories from slavery to where they are now.”

Leadership Links Executive Director Laurie Marshall is extremely proud of Rachel and other students for putting this event together.

“It’s important for students to experience leadership rather than read or hear about it. And if you’re not given opportunities to be in charge of a project or event, you don’t truly get the experience of motivating others around you,” she said.

Tammy Garrett believes the children at The Father’s House are going to motivate others too. “One of the boys who was rescued was nine years old and was just learning to write his name. He said I want to be the president. These kids have big dreams, and we believe they will be the ones who will end child slavery.” 

Want to go?

Friday, 5:30-8:30 p.m., April 12

Journey Church (I-77, exit 25, near Birkdale)

15711 Brookway Drive Huntersville