A Southington High School substitute teacher wants the community to help her provide “Backpacks for Freedom,” to the FBI and local law enforcement working to rescue victims of human trafficking.
After receiving her masters in forensics from the University of New Haven, Haley Marquardt was looking for a way to secure her dream job—working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation—when she learned about the FBI New Haven Citizens Academy, a nonprofit organization working to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. She graduated from the eight week program in 2018, and now is a member of the academy’s alumni association (FBINHCAAA).
On Sunday, Oct. 20, Marquardt will be hosting the backpacks for freedom fundraiser, a donations drive to provide comfort kits for the victims of human trafficking. Throughout Connecticut, she explained, there are a certain number of cases per year of human trafficking (not specified between labor or sex trafficking). After being rescued, “there’s a little bit of a waiting period before they are placed into a short or long term living situation, and this waiting period is a couple of days.”
“Essentially [when] we’re finding them they have nothing except the clothes they’re wearing because whoever was providing for them was providing a house, food, clothes, money, in whatever illegal terms, so when we pulled them out of those situations and they have literally nothing, why would they not want to go back to someone who was providing for them every day?” said Marquardt. “What we can do is fundraise and gather these items that go into these backpacks, we give them to the victims, and this is to help them from recidivating and going back to where they were found.”
These essential items include toiletries, clothing for women (and men) under the age of 18, slippers, socks, hair brushes, towels, pens and paper, small stuffed animals, gift cards, and even the backpacks themselves.
Donations can be brought to the Southington Drive-In, 995 Meriden-Waterbury Tnpk., between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monetary donations can be made through the fundraiser GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/f/backpacks-for-freedom).
“I think it’s really important that people know that it’s happening everywhere around us, it’s not just in another country or in dangerous cities, it’s everywhere,” said Marquardt. “That’s also the goal of this event, to not only donate and support, but to educate the public and raise awareness as well.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.