By Alyssa Davanzo
Abby Marchinkoski, President of UConn Love146, was home studying for her LSATs last year when she got frustrated by a difficult problem and looked around her bedroom.
“I sat back in my chair and looked in my closet and I saw all of these dresses that I would never wear again and I was like ‘What if we sold these?’”
What started as an idea transformed into a major dress collection by UConn Love146 in support of their efforts to end child sex slavery and exploitation.
In collaboration with service sorority Gamma Sigma Sigma, members of the non-profit organization hosted their second annual dress sale after collecting and sanitizing a wide variety of over 150 dresses from friends and family members.
“Some of them have never even been worn and some have the tags on them,” Marchinkoski said. “A lot of the prom dresses have only been worn once and the styles are still trending.”
At last year’s dress sale, UConn Love146 made over $700 by reselling dresses to UConn students and members of the surrounding community.
In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million people enslaved. The purpose of UConn Love146 is to educate students about underground sex slavery by holding creative fundraising events to help support the international organization.
Marchinkoski says that United States citizens don’t realize what’s happening in their own neighborhoods.
“A lot of people don’t even know it’s happening around the globe, let alone here,” Marchinkoski said. “I’m from Cromwell Connecticut and in my own backyard, just 10 minutes away on the Berlin turnpike in the late 90’s early 2000s was really big with underage prostitution and sex trafficking. I wouldn’t have ever known if I didn’t come here and start working on the cause.
Action Coordinator of Love146 headquarters in New Haven, Elaine Kim, first heard about Love146 while studying at Tufts University and now works with the organization’s student and church group task forces.
“Love 146 was my introduction to the issue in general. I had vaguely heard of human trafficking but it was never something I looked into but I really feel confident that this is the context I learned about it because learning about it through the lens of Love 146 really presents the issue,” Kim said. “We put a lot of focus on hope and we are looking to end it instead of focusing on the tragedy that exists in the first place.”
Visiting a Love146 safe home in the Philippines this past October, Kim says that she didn’t know what to expect, especially having heard stories about the home’s children, the youngest child being only two years old.
“It was really beautiful to be there and see them playing and running around,” Kim said. “It’s incredible how resilient children are and how much they can heal so quickly and just to be able to see our programs in action.”
Kim says that instead of staying in a sterile room, the children get to recover in a therapy tree house.
“We offer creative ways to do therapy,” Kim said. “There’s a garden. There’s a farm where they take care of quail and goats. By bringing life to other things they’re also bringing life to themselves.”
This year UConn Love146 raised over $800 from its dress sale and Marchinkoski says that she is happy to have witnessed the group’s growth on campus from her freshman to senior year.
“It’s been a long journey but I’ve loved it. We’ve done a lot of great work here,” Marchinkoski said. “I’m sad to be leaving but I know that I’ll be leaving it in capable hands.”