Wings for Crossover

Sometimes, you see, hear or read something that inspires you. That thing can make you forget the negative headlines you see and hear in the media every day. It can make you realize that the world is actually full of good people, people who have good hearts that like to give their time & energy to try and make the world a better place for others.

I was somewhere in Idaho, on a road trip with my wife and 2 kids over this past Christmas break, when my wife read me the article from my son's school magazine. The Pegasus School is a private Pre-K through 8th grade school, which my 13-year-old son attends. I was so inspired by the 8th grade teacher, Mr. Conti that I decided I wanted to get involved as well. As my wife read on, I learned that more than 200,000 children work as slaves in West and Central Africa.

In Ghana, Lake Volta was created in 1965 with the construction of the Akosombo Dam, which provides electricity for much of the nation. When the lake was formed, the terrain under it was flooded. Fishermen on the lake set nets from primitive, wooden canoes, and the nets frequently get caught on the trees that still exist underwater. To survive economically, the fishermen need cheap labor. They find it in children, some as young as six years old, who spend their days bailing water out of the boat and diving into the lake to free nets. All have been abducted from their families or sold by poverty-stricken parents. Many of these children have no memory or connection to their village.

It is with this backdrop that David Yayravi Lee founded the Crossover International Academy. Lee, a Togolese refugee living in Ghana, founded Crossover in Akosombo to house and educate former slave children who have been rescued yet remain orphaned by their circumstances. Today, there are over 250 children who call The Crossover Academy home. With tireless dedication of Lee, Crossover provides more than a home or primary education. It is the lost family, the forgotten village, and the singular identity of all who reside there.

Here is their story as told by their founder:

"Crossover is a small, rural school for marginalized kids (rescued trafficked children, former child labourers, former child prostitutes, refugee children from Liberia, Sierra Leone and la Cote d'Ivoire, etc) located on the left bank of Lake Volta. It is a free education school which of course has no parent teachers union since the children are without known parents.

Our school is made of thatched sheds.
We have no website, we cannot afford the cost.

We live by fishing on the Volta lake and farming. We study under trees and under grass roofed sheds. We have from K-8 grades.

In spite of these hurdles I am able to eke out the best out of these children and you find some of the most intelligent kids here.

We lack everything here: no school supplies, only one laptop for the 245 students, few old National Geographic magazines which we use as readers, slates; in fact we have nothing to compare us to what you call a school in the USA except the zeal and intelligence to learn and break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Abject poverty and scarcity have far too long been our faithful companions."

While Lee has done an unbelievable job in providing a school & home for these children, Crossover is still lacking in some basic human requirements that most of us take for granted every day. For example, the children do not have a proper structure to sleep in every night. In Ghana, there are strong winds, rain and other elements that make it unhealthy, unsafe and extremely uncomfortable to sleep outside.

So, Jim Conti and I have decided to embark on this specific project. We are embarking on the project to change these kids lives for the better. We want to help them build a proper school, with 4 walls and a roof that doesn't leak. We want to help them build a boys dorm and a girls dorm. We want to help them build a kitchen and a mess hall. That is why we are raising money and that is why we need your help!! If you have any detailed questions about Crossover, please email me!

This is an excerpt from the blog I kept while I was there (May of 2013):

Then, it started raining...hard. And the temperature dropped about 30 degrees, from 95'ish to somewhere in the 60's. To you and me, rain just means outdoor activities are curtailed. You grab an umbrella or stay indoors. It means something very different to Crossover.

It didn't really hit me until we left Crossover but I started thinking about all those young kids. And I thought about how tonight, they would be forced to sleep outdoors, under a thatched roof that leaks. on the muddy ground with no blankets. on top of all that they have no parents to comfort them. I couldnt stop thinking, what if it was Jacob or Savannah? It just tore me up to think of those poor kids who just dont have that parent there to help comfort them when its wet and cold. It's that combination of no real shelter AND no parents that makes their situation so devastating to think about. it starts to make a lot more sense why the little ones follow Jim & I around so much, grabbing our hands at every chance they get. They just want to be loved and touched and cared for. they want attention because with 250 kids, and only 8 teachers and no parents, they just dont get that attention that all kids crave. When you think about it being your own kids in that situation, it really hits home. This is why I am here and this is why I will do what I can to help them.

The truth is Crossover is just one school/orphanage, in one village, in one region in one country on one continent. It starts to get really overwhelming when you think about how much poverty there is in the world. But like Jenny said to me, you can't let yourself get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. Focus on a detail, something you can make a difference with. So that is what we will do.

This is a video of my kids and my friends kids on a stage in front of 3,500 real estate agents talking about this project we are embarking on. They raised $15k at this event by selling tshirts and accepting donations!

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Chad Cooper 
Newport Beach, CA
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