Yesterday, day one of the Abolition Academy (the week’s theme: the supply chain), was pretty fact-filled and unemotional, overall. Even the movie we watched about the trafficking and forced labor of children in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa plantations, The Dark Side of Chocolate, went very light on the heart-wrenching details; from what I know of the abuses against these children, they could have shown us much worse, but they were very restrained. One exchange in the movie, however, brought tears from me that wouldn’t stop.

Children are lured or simply kidnapped from the surrounding countries–Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria–and taken to the plantations, from which most never return, much less send home the money they were promised they’d earn. The filmmakers follow a bus that takes Malian children to the village closest to the country’s border with the Ivory Coast. Once there, they’re taken by motorcycle taxi over the border to an Ivory Coast village, from where they’re distributed to whoever buys them around the country.

Once on the Ivory Coast side, the director went up to a little boy who was sitting alone and crying, and asked him why he was crying. “I’m looking for Ali,” the boy said.

“Who’s Ali?”

“Ali. The man driving the bus. The bus over there,” the boy said, crying and gesturing toward the village square as if the bus had disappeared from there. My heart broke to see this child who wanted only to go back to the bus, who didn’t even realize that he was now in another village, in another country.

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