Zambian: ‘I was a captive choirboy’

Former slave from Zambia struggles to draw attention to the modern day trade.

Modern slaves
Kachepa was taken to the US to sing for the Zambian Boys Choir [Al Jazeera]
His message to people who don’t believe slavery still exists is “look at me”, he says.
Lured by false promises
Modern slavery

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Growing up an orphan living in crushing poverty in Zambia, Kachepa was taken to the United States at the age of 11 after his family were told that he would be given an American education while raising money for good causes.

He was part of a Zambian Boys Choir that performed for churches and Christian organizations all over the US.

Kachepa said: “We sung four to seven concerts a day, going to churches and schools, parks, any avenue we could find to sing.


“And the advertisement was we are building schools in Africa. So people were willing to give a lot of money.”


Global enterprise


The group’s organiser, an American preacher named Keith Grimes, promised the choirboys the money they raised would go to build schools and help their families in Zambia, and their educations would be paid for.


“The modern contemporary slave trade dwarfs the historic Atlantic slave trade”

Ethan Kapstein, Centre for Global Development

But it was all a lie – the money, estimated at over a million dollars, was never used for those purposes.


Kachepa said: “My family was supposed to be getting money for food, I was supposed to be getting an education in the United States and when all of those are not happening, at the age of 11, what are you supposed to do?”


Kachepa had become caught up in the modern day trans-national slave trade – a global criminal enterprise that touches virtually every country on earth.


The UN and US State Department estimate 800,000 slaves are trafficked every year.


Ethan Kapstein, of the Centre for Global Development, said: “The modern contemporary slave trade dwarfs the historic Atlantic slave trade. The Atlantic slave trade brought to north America in total 500,000 Africans over its entire history. Compared to that, we are talking almost a million people a year.”


Modern slaves


Most modern day slaves are women and children – the most vulnerable members of society.


They perform backbreaking labour on farms or in sweatshops, toil as domestic servants or sex workers.


Kapstein said: “what we estimate is that the slave trade brings in something like $10bn a year.”


The UN estitames 800, 000 slaves are
trafficked every year [Al Jazeera]

Kachepa now lives in Texas with his American guardians, Sandy and Deetz Shepherd, who took him in after the fraudulent choir scheme was broken up by US immigration authorities. He and most of the other boys received special visas reserved for trafficking victims.


He’s finally getting that college education and he speaks out against human trafficking, in the media and in any public forum he can find.


Kachepa said: “I believe God used that whole thing to get me to this point and what I have to do now is carry on telling people about human trafficking [and] telling them there is a problem, and the problem needs to be fixed.”


Kachepa said: “I was used, and it’s not just me. There is a ton of people out there who are being used. And if you don’t believe it, look at me.”

Source: Al Jazeera