Love146Tufts

For the abolition of child sex slavery. Nothing less.

It’s Just the Start

 

As of September 28, 2012, Love146 Tufts Chapter was recognized as an official student group by TCU, the Tufts student government. It’s been a long journey since three friends, inspired by the mission of Love146, decided to put together a concert in the spring of 2011. I was a sophomore then, and I’m a senior now. Back then, I was considering a career in international development or humanitarian aid, and hadn’t realized my passion for multimedia storytelling and non-profit branding. One and half years on, it’s amazing to see how much I’ve grown, and how far I have to go.

This is but the beginning. With official student group status, there are organizational challenges to push through. How do we encourage growth in membership, yet retain the intimate, passionate and committed environment that pushed Love146 forward from the start? How do we ensure that the graduation of the senior class will not leave the rest of Love146 lost but with another group of equally, if not more, capable leaders? How do we make sure that every decision we make is intentional, that every event we put on is done with 100% heart, and that the children undergoing sex trafficking will always remain the very foundation of every meeting and activity?

I’ve come to learn that fighting a problem as big as sex trafficking often goes hand in hand with a lot of waiting. The more I learn about sex trafficking, the more I hear the phrase, “it’s so complex.” It’s true; there are no easy solutions, and definitions and contexts are complicated by little circumstantial details. A woman who may say she’s in the business because she wants to be may have had childhood abuse that has affected the way she sees life. A certain policy that works in one country may not work in another. Sometimes traffickers kidnap children, and sometimes families give them away. And despite the immense hard work of organizations around the world, the results aren’t always tangible.

It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, especially when you’re just a tiny student group on a college campus. An activity can turn into yet another scheduled commitment, and a leadership position can be coveted for its impressiveness on a resume. We can put on event after event, and get so caught up in the idea of “fighting injustice on the behalf of these poor children in a developing country” that we forget how these “poor children” are made up of individual children who face a harsh everyday reality that is worth it all – all our planning, all our in-depth discussions, our reading up, and our heart.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I owe it to the many sons, daughters, sisters and brothers who are currently enslaved to give Love146 my 100%, to celebrate the freedom of each child, even while I wait for the day that child sex trafficking finally ends.

For number 146.

Charmaine Poh co-founded Love146 Tufts Chapter at Tufts in Spring 2011. She is a senior studying International Relations and Mass Communications.

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Until that day, the world will call you Love.

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Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending Love146’s 10th Anniversary Gala in NYC. Surrounded by celebrities, flashing cameras, and equally flashy evening gowns in a dimly lit ballroom sparkling with candles and strung lights, I found myself caught in the center of an incredible celebration of love and restoration.

Love has momentum. As I looked around the ballroom full of fellow abolitionists and proud supporters of Love146, I thought about the power of a broken heart. Every single one of these people (many of whom paid thousands for a table that evening), holds the story of when their heart first broke over the millions of children being sexually trafficked around the world today. Although we will carry this brokenness with us until the day child sex trafficking is abolished forever, we also possess unique stories of how our broken hearts have spurred us into compassionate and world-changing action. As I listened to the story of how Love146 got its name for what must have been the fiftieth time, I was yet again struck by the forever impact of one nameless girl, and the strength found in her young but determined eyes. Ten years later, Love146 celebrates the child survivors whose lives have been restored, whose perpetrators have been brought to justice, and whose seemingly impossible dreams have become beautiful realities. I thought back to the little girl labeled with the number 146, and the chain reaction inspired by her courageous gaze through a brothel glass window. Once again, I was amazed by the truly momentous impact love can make when one humble and brokenhearted person chooses to stop being a bystander, and start taking a stand for justice. When people respond collectively in love, it has the power to change the world. In just one night, Love146 raised another $165,000 to go towards preventative education and the building of a rehabilitation home for child survivors in the United States! Love changes reality.

Love listens. I’ve had the honor of hearing Rob Morris, Founder of Love146, speak several times now – but his stories never fail to floor me and remind me of just how much work still needs to be done. Listening to Rob’s all too familiar story of a girl once so broken, she would spend her days grabbing dirt and pouring it over her head, trying to disappear into the ground, I realized that each child’s story will always be just as heartbreaking as the next, no matter how many times you hear them. But it is not enough to be moved to tears. Even the greatest amount of heartache is useless unless we are moved into action. It’s easy to watch a documentary and allow the depression to debilitate you. It’s harder to stop yourself from walking away – to look the monster of child sex trafficking straight in the eye and declare that love is stronger. Love doesn’t look away.

The 10th Anniversary Gala included a line of impressive guests, including Grammy-Award Winning Musician Vince Gill, True Blood Actress Carrie Preston, and none other than President Bill Clinton. But I have to admit the most awe-inspiring guests of the night arrived in quiet humility, dressed in dark pants and matching track jackets, beaming with joy in hushed excitement. Their names were R* and N*, and they had flown in from Love146’s survivor care home in Southeast Asia to share their stories and join in on the celebration. I remember peering down at their smiling faces from the second floor. They look so young, I thought. They look so strong. I will never forget N’s words when she stood courageously in a room full of strangers and spoke, “…I wanted to die. I thought my life had no more meaning…When Love146 came into my life, I experienced hope, love, and worth. Now I stand before you like a flower that is fragrant and brilliant, because of your support. Now little by little I am achieving my dreams in life.”

Love makes dreams come true. As a Co-founder of Love146 Tufts Task Force, I can look back and name moments when I lost sight of what exactly we were fighting for. Why was I pulling all-nighters – applying for grants so we could fundraise, applying for university recognition that kept getting denied, baking hundreds of cupcakes that disappear within half an hour – all this “sacrifice” for what? The statistics of enslaved children started to seem more like depressing numbers; the personal stories of children started to sound more like horror fiction. But the moment I saw R and N appear upon the stage, truly healed and empowered to speak, I knew exactly why it’s so important to keep fighting. It’s so important not to give up on these living, breathing, precious children – children that deserve names and not numbers. As I held R’s hand and looked into her smiling eyes, this “burden” of fighting child sex trafficking suddenly became an incredible blessing instead. The immensity, the complexity, the impossibility of fighting child sex trafficking suddenly became so simple and small. Every reason to persevere was written into R’s innocent eyes, imprinted into the firm grasp of her hands. How can I ever again question if this fight is “worth it”?

I think Thirishi, spoken word artist of the night, expressed it best. “I want you to know you are more precious than diamonds and gold. I will move heaven and earth to show you that you are more than the words in this poem. Until the day you can tell me your name and hear the words ‘You are beautiful,’ I will call you Love. Yes, the world will call you Love. And Yes, you are beautiful. And No, you are not forgotten.”

Jane Jihae Yoon (’12) cofounded Love146 at Tufts in Spring 2011.

*The names of the girls have been changed to protect their privacy.

Concert Update

Hello friends!

Love Sticks Around: A Love146 Benefit Concert was last Saturday. Our team worked really hard to make your time worthwhile, and we hope you enjoyed yourselves! Image

We painted the cannon a couple of days before, and got our friends to camp out with us! Our fingers felt like they were falling off after, but we think it’s worth it.

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A huge thank you to all the amazing performers – Anchord, Emmanuel and his band, Stephanie Vasquez and BEATs! You guys truly outdid yourselves.

Apart from performances, we also had food, merchandise, a Childhood Memory Project corner, and of course, Mr Rob Morris from Love146 speak.

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Dewick was filled! We hope you all enjoyed the performances, felt inspired by Rob, and feel empowered to join in the fight to end child sex trafficking.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to all our sponsors – LGBT Center, International Center, Women’s Center, Women’s Studies Department, Child Development Department, Peace and Justice Studies Department, Tufts Association of South Asians, Leonard Carmichael Society, Association of Latin American Students, Fletcher Christian Fellowship, Protestant Students Fellowship, Tufts and Fletcher Amnesty International, Global Women, Public Health at Tufts, Tufts Christian Fellowship – for making this happen! We are truly grateful for the support of this campus and hope to continue to work to make Tufts a place where people care about ending child sex slavery.

Love Sticks Around

Our biggest event of the year, Love Sticks Around, is here. We can’t wait. See you there!

Click here to find out why we named this year’s theme Love Sticks Around.

A Dorm Special

Love Sticks Around, our second annual benefit concert and biggest event of the academic year, is in two days! The team has been working hard to produce a wonderful show for all of you. On Monday, we got the chance to publicize the concert in Haskell, where the RAs generously organized a hall snacks event where Love146 could talk about our work!

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

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We prepared chocolate fondue,

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displayed an interactive survey,

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and continued our Childhood Memory Project! 

We had such a blast. Special thanks to the RAs for helping us organize this!

The Abolitionist Curriculum

Two weeks ago, the Love146 Tufts Chapter began its Abolitionist Curriculum. For one hour on Sunday nights, we go through  facts, read articles, watch videos and have discussions- all in an effort to fight ignorance and raise awareness on child sex trafficking. Our goal is for our Tufts Chapter to be educated, equipped and empowered for action!

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Our first session! Glad to see lots of new faces 🙂

Last Sunday, we delved deeper into the topic of domestic trafficking and exploitation in the US. It was a topic that hit close to home, since most people usually only associate child sex trafficking with developing countries. It was shocking to find out that almost 300 000 US Children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry (US State Department) and that the average age of a US trafficked child is 12-14 years old (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

To better understand the causes and nature of the problem in the US, we watched the following videos, The Making of a Girl and Teen Prostitutes in the US:

Some points from our discussion:

The Girls: Many of them were tricked into exploitation because they thought the pimps were showing them the “love” that they lacked in their life. The pimps would first shower the girls with praise and attention, and then later simply make use of them to earn money. We realized how powerful psychological control can be- it is not so easy for the girls to just walk away from the exploitative situations when they have no where to turn to,  and when the only “real” relationship they have in their life is with the pimp.

The Pimps: Apart from psychological control, they also use violence to threaten the girls, as well as drugs to keep them addicted and unable to run away. We also noticed how technology is making it so easy for the pimps to advertise the services they have to offer, and how easy it is for customers to just do a search on the Internet to find a prostitute.

The Law: It may seem like trafficking should not be happening in a city where there there is law enforcement and a strong legal system, but that is usually not the case. Police officers don’t always see the girls as victims of exploitation but as criminals, prostitutes who are offering services out of their own free will. Sometimes, the girls, instead of the pimps, are arrested! We read an article on Massachusetts’s  new bill against human trafficking and were encouraged by how the law will now crack down on the pimps and johns instead of the exploited children, but were still surprised that the bill was only signed last year- and that there are still many states that don’t have such laws yet!

Although most of the things we learnt were depressing,  those who attended the session were encouraged to find out more about trafficking in their own hometowns and think about next steps to take. We ended the night more determined than ever to fight child sex trafficking.

If you are interested in learning together with us, join us at Eaton 204 on Sundays, 8pm, for the Abolitionist Curriculum!

Broken Hearts: Something Worth Celebrating

Thank you all who came out to our Valentines’ Day event last Thursday! We had tons of fun, raised over $500 for Love146 and were inspired to continue the fight to end child sex slavery.

Titled Broken Hearts: Something Worth Celebrating, last Thursday night was a chance for the Love146 Tufts Chapter to put up our first big event on campus this spring. We screened Love146 video clips, served desserts, told some stories and had educational discussions about the issue.

The week was spent baking, baking and baking!

We had an interactive survey for folks to fill out!

Vanessa sharing about how she got involved in the issue.

Jane sharing her story.

SoGo was a little crowded! Not that we’re complaining, of course.

If you haven’t yet, check out our feature in the Tufts Daily the next morning as well as Jane’s article! Hooray for journalism!

Thank you all once again. You guys made the event and we are blessed to be on this campus and have such support. Next up: Abolitionist Curriculum and our biggest event of the year, Love146 Benefit Concert: Love Sticks Around. Stay tuned for updates!

Questions? Comments? Want to get involved? Email us at love146tufts@gmail.com.

BITAHR Hosts Weekend of Sex Trafficking Awareness

Recently, some of us at Love146 Tufts Chapter attended the 2nd annual BITAHR film forum on human trafficking. Our awesome team member Ruth Tam volunteered at the event and has some important things to share.

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BITAHR Hosts Weekend of Sex Trafficking Awareness
Ruth Tam

At a benefit auction for the Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights (BITAHR) on
Thursday, February 2, former US Ambassador Swanee Hunt recounted an interview with a
former john, a man who had admitted to abducting young women for sexual exploitation.

“I go to the mall,” he said. “I look for girls walking alone and when I spot one, I go up and
tell her she has beautiful eyes. If she looks me back in the eye and says ‘Thank you,’ I move
along. But if she look down and says quietly, ‘No, I don’t,’ then I know I’ve got her.”

Stories like Ambassador Hunt’s don’t have happy endings. As an underreported crime,
human trafficking is often seen as a problem abroad when it has an alarmingly strong
presence domestically. According to the U.S. State Department, modern slavery in the
U.S. is a $16 billion business that has manifested itself through sex trafficking, forced
labor, bonded labor, and domestic servitude creating 14,500 to 18,000 victims of women,
children, and men.

Attempting to combat these figures, BITAHR held Thursday’s benefit to raise funds and
celebrate local policy makers for creating the nation’s harshest punishments for convicted
sex traffickers. As of last fall, Massachusetts imposed the life sentence for those guilty
of trafficking children for sex or labor and became one of three states with anti-human
trafficking laws.

In addition, the funds raised from Thursday’s benefit sponsored BITAHR’s second film
forum, which opened the next day at Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre in downtown
Boston. Over the course of the weekend, BITAHR screened eight films on the human sex
trafficking and provided panel discussions featuring the leading experts on the subject.

Friday night focused on the film, Whistleblower (2011), the true story of UN International
Police Force monitor Kathryn Bolkovac and her discovery of the American force’s
involvement with sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia. Bolkavac herself was present in the
following discussion, which also featured writer Siddarth Kara, filmmaker Kat Rohrer, and
philanthropist Roger-Claude Liwanga.

The films shown on Saturday culminated in a keynote address by Congresswoman
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus and
cosponsor of the “Trafficking Victims Protection Act.” Recounting MA’s recent legislation
penalizing sex traffickers, Maloney praised MA lawmakers and urged audience members to
fight for similar legislation on a national level.

After her address, Very Young Girls (2007), a documentary on domestic sex trafficking was
screened. The film largely focused on several adolescent girls in New York City dropping
in and out of “the life” of the American sex industry. These girls, who were fortunate to
be found alive by the law, were court ordered to visit Girls Educational and Mentoring

Services (GEMS), a nonprofit service organization for sexually exploited and trafficked
women. GEMS founder and director, Rachel Llyod, was in the audience Saturday night and
sat on the discussion panel following the film.

“People’s perception and culture needs to change,” Lloyd said about her ideal solution to
the problem. In addition, she stressed the need for survivor led and survivor informed
organizations for girls.

Sunday’s screening featured two short films and two documentaries, bringing an end to the
BITAHR’s weekend film forum. At the event’s closing remarks, its coordinators expressed
hope that the sentiment generated over three days would burgeon into action.

For audience member Anisha Reza, 20, the event was the springboard she needed.

“After the films, I struggled to sleep for a few nights,” she said. “It’s going to be a long fight,
but I’m holding onto hope as tightly as I can or else remain paralyzed. Our job is not to
make the public feel worse, but to inform, act, and fight to end this one person at a time.”

THE ALLIGATOR RIVER STORY: AN ADAPTATION

Instructions: Please read the following story. After reading the story, rank the 5 characters in the story beginning with the one whom you consider as the “most guilty” and end with the one whom you consider the “least guilty.”

There lived a beautiful girl named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the same river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with dangerous alligators. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went, dressed in an alluring manner, to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him prior to the voyage. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory. 

When Abigail told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain and told her he never wanted to see her again. Later that night, he invited another girl into his cottage. Heartsick and rejected, Abigail turned to Ralph with her tale of woe. Ralph, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. He later goes to Abigail and comforts her. The two are seen embracing.

What are your thoughts? Post them on our Facebook page!

Childhood Memories Project

Hi folks!

In light of the Christmas season, we’ve come up with a little project related to Love146. The project is entitled Childhood Memories. We’ve been going around to different events this week to table and hope to continue this project next week at the Campus Center during open block! Be sure to join us.

It’s really easy to participate:

1. Make a Christmas ornament! We’ll provide all the materials. And don’t worry if you’re not artistic; your ornament is meant to look childlike.

2. Write your favorite (or most embarrassing, if you want to gain a chuckle) childhood memory on it.

3. We’ll hang these ornaments around campus (or on a Christmas tree if we can find one in Dewick)

Our hope is that by thinking about your favorite childhood memory, you’ll be reminded that every child deserves to have these awesome memories as well. But not every child has had that right. The hard truth is that there are 27 million people currently enslaved and that two children are sold every minute. Even in our backyard – over 100,000 children in the United States alone are engaged in pornography or prostitution each year. And closer to home, in Boston, sex trafficking is still prevalent.

We’re looking forward to hanging your ornaments around campus and raise awareness about child sex trafficking. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, here are some pictures from our tabling event at Vietnamese Students Club’s Winter Wonderland on Friday night:

Hope to see you at the Campus Center next week and be sure to look out for a special surprise in the dining halls too!

For Abolition,

Love146 Tufts Chapter