This series of posts documents two ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. Over the next few months, we’ll follow them through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible. (To catch up. start here.)

Happy Thursday. Welcome back. Best news tidbit I got from the States this week: Bristol Palin is on “Dancing with the Stars.” I don’t know about you, but my 2012 decision is made. Now, down to business.

We left you last week with a description of galamsey operations and how they can lead to a cycle of slavery and debt entrapment. This week, we’ll outline the Social Support Foundation’s efforts to end this cycle.

In a perfect world, there would be infinite resources dedicated to and capable of enforcing the law, and would-be operators, peacefully abstaining from entering into galamsey, would be given effective and comprehensive training in alternative livelihoods. However, attempts to curtail galamsey with limited law enforcement and nonexistent prospects of alternative livelihood would likely lead to violence and would trigger galamsey operators to push their operations further underground.

What, then, is the solution? How can an organization help curtail abuses within an underground industry that is unlikely to go away? One solution, the solution SSF pursues, is to draw galamsey into the mainstream, eliminating the need for high-interest funding (thus reducing the prevalence of debt bondage) and bringing the operations under the governance to which all large mining interests are subject.

In this vein, SSF seeks to engage all involved parties. One of their efforts has been to approach the international mining concern that owns mining concessions to the majority of productive land in the Ashanti region. The company, AngloGold Ashanti, mines only a small portion of the land it has concessions to mine. To date, SSF has convinced AngloGold executives to discuss releasing land for small-scale mining and has facilitated dialogue between these executives and galamsey operators. SSF has also organized the galamsey bosses into an informal trade organization. At meetings, members can, with assurances of confidentiality, discuss problems within galamsey and receive counseling regarding the use of child labor and debt bondage.

Again, this solution is far from perfect, but obtaining concessions, legalizing galamsey, and educating relevant parties about child labor and debt bondage is the solution that seems most likely to be effective in light of available resources. Jenny and I constantly debate the merits of this solution, and there are valid arguments both for and against legalization.

Though I would love to personally deliver a closed-fist punch to the groin to every single person who makes use of slavery, that approach is more likely to work against my cause and get me macheted to death in the meantime. This brings us to a conundrum common to many types of humanitarian work: while it may seem just to vilify and persecute those who violate basic human rights, it is often more effective to work with the perpetrators in order to incorporate them into the solution. Which begs the question: Is it necessary to sully your hands in the process of furthering your cause? My answer: If doing so creates a lasting solution, absolutely.

Well, that was a serious post. To prove that we are not humorless automatons, next week’s post will feature the story of Jenny’s fun-filled three-hour customs extravaganza.