During a trip to the Nepalese city of Thamel in 2015, then 17-year-old Ashlee Nawrocki’s eyes were opened to the horrors of human trafficking when she met an 8-year-old victim on the streets of the …
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To learn more about human trafficking, visit the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking at ungift.org
To get in touch with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or go to humantraffickinghotline.org
To find the Wear Love Wagon, visit wearloveclothing.com
During a trip to the Nepalese city of Thamel in 2015, then 17-year-old Ashlee Nawrocki’s eyes were opened to the horrors of human trafficking when she met an 8-year-old victim on the streets of the red-light district.
She decided to do something about it.
In October 2017, Nawrocki founded Wear Love Wagon, a mobile boutique that sells women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories made by victims of human trafficking.
“Once I learned about (trafficking), I kept seeing it in places,” Nawrocki, now 20, said. “As soon as I saw a face to it, it doesn’t just look like the movie “Taken;” it looks like an 8-year-old girl being raped every day.”
Sexual exploitation is the leading cause of human trafficking, followed by forced labor, according to the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking of Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Fifty-one percent of victims of human trafficking are women, but trafficking against men has been on the rise in the last 10 years. The crisis has been exacerbated by the recent rise in global migration.
Adults are typically trafficked more than children, with the exception of a few regions where child victims exceed adult victims in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean, the report says.
No country or state is immune from trafficking, says the United Nations report. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 110 human trafficking cases in Colorado were reported to the organization in 2017.
Passion to help started early
After graduating early from Evergreen High School in December 2015, Nawrocki studied missions-based business in Costa Mesa, California, for two years. She then went to Nepal for three months, where she first became aware of the human-trafficking crisis.
“I had only heard about trafficking in school,” Nawrocki said. “And so I worked with this organization that was doing stuff with anti-trafficking, and it really just opened my eyes. We were going to the bars in the red light district, and I was like `This is not going to be a thing that I don’t tell people about.’ ”
In an alley near one of those bars, she met an 8-year-old girl, who was begging on the streets along with other children. Nawrocki’s group would take these young kids to dinner to ensure they were fed. Nawrocki said that because of the area they were in and the girls’ ripped clothing, she had many reasons to believe the girl and others were being sold for sex.
“What broke my heart the most is how she clung to me,” said Nawrocki.
According to an estimate by UNICEF, about 21 million people are trafficked around the globe annually. Some 5.5 million of those people are children.
“I want women to walk into our store and feel not only peace...(knowing) that something you purchased is going beyond just wearing it and is going to help real women,” Nawrocki said. “Just (know) that one person really can make a difference with something as simple as jewelry.”
Business not about the money
Nawrocki’s love of travel inspired the mobile aspect of her business. She lives in Arvada and takes her trailer to community events primarily in Wheat Ridge and Arvada, as well as some in Denver and other parts of Jefferson County. She hopes to go more global in the future.
“My dream with it is to move it to Nicaragua and start our own restorative program with helping out women directly,” she said, while touching a turquoise pendant, a necklace that an artist in the Philippines made.
She has met a number of victims through the organizations that she partners with, such as TAYO, which helps victims in the Philippines. Nawrocki believes that connection gives a more human aspect to the items she sells.
When customers purchase something, she can tell them that their purchase is helping her friend in the Philippines or Thailand. But for her, it is not about the money.
“If you’re learning about trafficking from my store,” she said, “that’s all that matters to me.”
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