This is part of a series of blog posts about individuals, families and corporations who use their time and talents to benefit of ECPAT-USA and to raise awareness about the issue of child sex trafficking. These people have taken it upon themselves to educate others in their own ways and have allowed us to grow our network more than we could on our own. We do not take credit for their actions, but we are endlessly thankful for their support.
Name: Annie Ugurlayan
Annie Ugurlayan is a runner. After her first marathon, she was hooked, and when she and her friends wanted to run 26.2 miles abroad, they signed up for the Edinburgh marathon. Annie chose to also use the event to raise $1000 for ECPAT-USA.
To educate others about the issue, this September, Annie is hosting a screening in New York of the film SOLD, which tells the story of Lakshmi, a girl who journeys from a pastoral, rural village in Nepal to a gritty brothel in Kolkata, India. Read on to learn how you can attend the screening, what the issue of sex trafficking means to Annie and why running a marathon is mostly a mental game.
Why did you first start running marathons?
I’ve been a runner for a long time. Not a long distance runner, but short distances. I would watch the New York City marathons on TV and thought it would be really cool to run a marathon one day. When I finally ran one, I got hooked. I just loved it: the feeling of being pushed to your limits, being able to do something that you never thought that you would, being able to push through it mentally was just amazing.
What was the most challenging part of the Edinburgh marathon?
It’s very windy in Edinburgh. You make a loop and once you go around the corner and go back, the wind that was behind you is now in front of you. The weather was very challenging: you were running against 40-mile an hour wind, there was horizontal rain for one mile. I was thinking, if I finish this, it will be a miracle.
How did you find out about the issue of sex trafficking?
I found out about it a couple of years ago. I’m on the board of the New York Women's Bar Association Foundation. We usually have two fundraisers a year. For one of the fundraising breakfasts, we invited Rachel Lloyd [founder of GEMS, a New York organization for girls and women who have experienced sex trafficking] and Pamela Chen, a judge now, who used to prosecute human trafficking cases. We found out how hard it is to prosecute these cases. A lot of the girls seem to have a connection with their trafficker.
It really spoke to me because it’s sexual slavery. It’s happening on our front door step. These are just kids.
Why is sex trafficking an important issue for you?
The notion of modern slavery, it just shocks the conscious. To think that there are kids who are literally taken off the street and sold into slavery, it’s just a horrifying thing. It destroys a generation of kids. It’s psychologically damaging and physically damaging, obviously. These kids should be learning. They should be in a loving environment. The notion that they would be exploited this way is just terrible.
Have you seen SOLD already?
I have. It’s excellent. When I found out that interested individuals can organize screenings, I wanted to do one. It’s set in southeast Asia, but the story of Lakshmi is the story of any girl who is the victim of sex trafficking.
Why should someone attend a screening of SOLD?
They should attend because I think it’s important to raise awareness about this epidemic that’s happening locally. I think a lot of people, like I did, have this idea that this is an international epidemic confined to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Not to say that it’s ok when it happens there, but this is a worldwide problem. This can happen in any community. I think the more you know, the more everybody can do something to help us. It’s really about the importance of education and awareness.
For tickets to Annie’s SOLD screening in Astoria, NY, click here.
To learn more about how you can host your own SOLD screening, click here.
To join our ECPAT Athletes team, click here.