This month's magazine features Anja Lovén. Anja is the founder of the Danish humanitarian aid organisation Land of Hope. Anja and Land of Hope fight to save children in Nigeria who are accused of being witches. 

In 2008, Anja watched a documentary about the so-called witch children in Nigeria. These children are tortured and killed because of superstition and accusations of witchcraft. The documentary made such an impression on Anja that she decided to live out her dream about travelling to Africa and becoming a relief worker, first in Malawi and later in Tanzania. 

Once Anja returned to Denmark, the experiences she had while doing relief work in Africa stuck in her mind. 

In 2012, Anja therefore quit her job in Aarhus, sold everything she owned and founded Land of Hope from a desire to save witch children in Nigeria. 


Anja became world famous in 2016 when a photo of her with a small, emaciated boy went viral. In the photo, Anja is seen squatting down in front of the little boy giving him water and biscuits. Anja brought the boy to hospital but did not think he would survive. She recalls of the drive to the hospital: 

“When we got him into the car, I looked at my husband, David, and told him that we should name him Hope. I didn’t want him to die without a name. He deserved to die with dignity. Hope stands for Help One Person Everyday.” 

The little boy, Hope, survived, and he now lives at the organisation’s children’s centre. 


Today, Anja and David run a children's centre, which is also called Land of Hope, in Akwa Ibom in Nigeria. Anja travels back and forth between Denmark and the Land of Hope children's centre.

At the centre, the witch children thrive and develop: 

“Our children go through the most amazing transformations”, she says. “They go from being tortured, abandoned and alone to being healthy, strong and at the top of their class in school. It’s like witnessing a miracle.”

The witch children have their home at the children's centre. It is located on a property spanning about 7.5 acres and is the largest private children's centre in West Africa. It includes homes for the children, a school and a hospital. The children receive lots of love and care, food and education, which makes them feel safe and at home. Today, the centre is home to more than 92 children who look on Anja and David as their parents.


In addition to running the children's centre Anja also works to educate and impart knowledge to the local population. She hopes that providing such education and information can put a stop to superstition: 

 “We need to help the superstitious villagers change their way of thinking through informational campaigns about superstition and the importance of education. It’s expensive to pay for the children's education, food, medicine, etc. At the moment I have 92 children in my children's home. They all go to school. In order to combat superstition, it is important to promote education. Education paves the way for development.” 

Anja hopes that education will free southeastern Nigeria from the superstition which causes parents to cast out their own children. Thousands of children live on the streets in Nigeria because they have been accused of being witches by their families, priests, witch doctors or others in the local community.

Lack of education and extreme poverty creates a widespread cultural belief that the children are witches and can put a curse on their families and the local community. 

Anja and David have built a network in the areas prone to superstition which helps them find the witch children and bring them to safety at Land of Hope. The close collaboration with villages and families creates a basis for informational campaigns and visits. 

Anja and the work she does enjoys wide recognition, both at the national and international level. Anja has been the subject of several documentaries about her work with Land of Hope. She has won a number of awards and grants, among those The Red Cross Human Rights Award and the ALF-grant from HM King Frederik X of Denmark.  

Anja works hard every day to raise funds for the running of Land of Hope. She does this by giving talks, though securing private donations and more. 

The monthly cost of running Land of Hope is high, especially due to the rising rate of inflation. It takes a lot of money to pay for education, food and medicine for the children and to cover the running costs of Land of Hope. 

Currently, 20 of the children attend university and more of the children are expected to start university once they have finished their basic schooling. Anja worries a great deal about whether there are sufficient funds to pay for the children’s education.

You can read more about Anja and how to support Land of Hope here.  

Images used with permission by: Anja Lovén & Land of Hope