On Saturday Grace Sunoo, a Greenwich High School junior, set up shop on Greenwich Avenue outside Hoagland’s to raise awareness of human trafficking and raise funds to help victims find a safe haven and get back on their feet.
Grace said her close family friend is Elizabeth Boolbol, who in 2015 founded Global “PEHT,” which stands for The Partnership to End Human Trafficking.
“She has been such an inspiration,” Grace said of Boolbol, adding that April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. “She’s super passionate on the subject of human trafficking and saw a connection to families here in Fairfield County, where people love their pets. In fact, caring for pets is a multi billion dollar industry. She connected that with our slogan, which is that the two weapons to combat human trafficking are unconditional love and economic empowerment.”
Grace said there is an additional branch of the organization, “IYAYU,” whose letters are those one might use to text ‘I Love You’ – which sells pet products.
“All the collars are hand woven by women who are victims of the sex trade, human slavery or any form of human slavery,” Grace said. “Eight-five percent of trafficking is the sex trade and it is growing. Sadly there are still people who find it okay to sell women.”
“Interstate 95 is a hot bed for human trafficking,” Grace continued, adding, “The average age for women to be trafficked is 14. That is my age group.”
Grace pointed out that recently in Greenwich, there were two cases of trafficking. “It’s very much in our back yard, as much as people want to deny it,” she said.
Grace said IYAYU is unique because it provides a long-term sustainable solution for victims.
“Our goal is to build a residential home in New England to provide medical care, housing, education and job training for these women. They are poor and often have no options but to return to the sex trade,” Grace said.
In addition to the beautiful hand made dog collars and leashes, the IYAYU line includes an organic tick spray for dogs. All are made by victims of human trafficking in Guatemala, where Grace is planning to travel this summer.
On Saturday, as Grace and her friend Rena Landberg manned their table outside Hoagland’s, selling collars, leashes and tick spray, they shared maps and stickers and guided passers-by to a pop-up shop at McArdle’s at 48 Arch Street where more IYAYU products were on sale – all with the goal of helping end human trafficking and helping victims establish productive, safe lives.
Click here for more information on IYAYU.
Click here for more information on the Project to End Human Trafficking.