A trip to India in 2010 forever changed Morgan Hansen.
Now she hopes to do the same thing for victims of sex trafficking in that country.
She has organized a school supply drive through the Relief Society at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Harlem, where she is a member, to send items to a school in Bihar, India, that shelters and educates victims, who are 10- to 16-year-old girls.
During the Relief Society’s November meeting, more than 25 members decorated 50 canvas bags and filled them with crayons, paper, yarn, cloth and other items.
Hansen, 26, offered a presentation during the meeting, explaining how in Indian culture girls are not valued as highly as boys, often because a girl’s family is required to pay a dowry of the equivalent of $1,700 to the groom’s family when she marries.
Desperate families will sometimes kill baby girls or sell them into prostitution to avoid having to pay the dowry. The practice has become so ingrained into the culture that women are generally devalued in nearly all aspects.
Part of Hansen’s connection to India comes through her two sisters, who were adopted from there. Her older sister, Erin, 28, was adopted as a baby and came to the family with clothing and legal paperwork. Her younger sister, Asha, 20, did not.
“There was a family that could not take care of her, but they took care of her to the best of their ability,” Hansen explained. “She was part of a program. It’s sort of loosely called the cradle baby program.
“The Indian government literally set up cradles on the street corners so parents could just anonymously put their babies there rather than commit infanticide.”
While in college, Hansen studied women’s issues and knew she wanted to work with a non-governmental organization. In the fall of 2010, she got an opportunity to see first-hand victims of sex trafficking.
She joined Apne Aap, a grassroots organization fighting sex trafficking in India. She was placed at the school in Bihar, on the border between India and Nepal, where she taught girls.
Some of the them had escaped from brothels, while others were rescued from traffickers. Some had been sold into trafficking by their families.
Hansen said these girls adore America. She said it will mean the world to them to know that a group of American women is rooting for them and cheering them on and sending their love through the bags of school supplies.
Hansen encouraged members of the Relief Society, a philanthropic women’s organization within the Mormon Church, to include a personal note if they chose.
“The girls grew up with really nothing, so they really value anything that’s personal to them. They hold it so near and dear – things we take for granted,” Hansen said.