Community bra collection drive underway
Currently 27 million men, women and children are being held as slaves around the world and 80 percent of those slaves are women and girls. Floral Park resident Gabriella DeSimone has organized a community outreach effort in order to support the organization Free the Girls, a nonprofit organization that works to provide jobs to women rescued from sex trafficking in developing countries by helping them set up micro enterprises selling bras.
“The bra drive is off to a good start; we’ve received support from a lot of groups in the community and our neighbors,” DeSimone said.
Floral Park’s Associated Supermarket has teamed up with DeSimone to become a designated drop off location for her bra collection drive, through Wednesday, April 16.
“Frank Nargentino and the Nargentino family [of Associated Supermarket in Floral Park] are part of the outstanding pillars that make Floral Park the fabulous town it is,” said DeSimone. “The Nargentinos are one of the most philanthropic families and businesses in our area; Frank and his [staff] are always there with a smile and willingness to help.”
Bring clean and gently-used donations to the deposit box at the cashier checkout stations. Donations in any amount are also welcome inside the bra collection box to help DeSimone cover the cost of shipping the collected bras to Free the Girls.
“I feel very blessed to live in a wonderful town like Floral Park where everyone’s investment in each other shows in so many different ways,” said DeSimone.
Eighth-grader DeSimone has been exploring the history of slavery and its repercussions in modern times as a student of Mr. Seymour’s American studies class and Mr. Austin’s English at Friends Academy.
“This effort is important because we can help someone that has been abused and taken advantage of,” said DeSimone. “By sharing something that most of us have plenty of we can support the recipients from Free the Girls to rebuild their lives and be self-sufficient.”
The organization Free the Girls finds that most ladies have pieces of clothing they no longer use and that could be donated. Second-hand clothing is a profitable market in many developing countries around the world. Bras are considered, in many places, luxury items and are very sought after. Some of the girls participating in the program are making five times the minimum wage in their community by selling bras. This allows them to support themselves with dignity, and attend school.
DeSimone credits her family’s volunteerism for helping her and her two sisters, Isabella and Sofia. Her mother, Kay, told the Floral Park Dispatch that her daughter’s interest in this cause “is modeled after our own commitment as parents to volunteer our time and efforts and make the institutions and communities we belong to a little bit better.” Kay said, “Since a very young age they have been finding causes that they love and want to help with.”
Kay said that a lot of parents and children want to give back to the community, but are sometimes overwhelmed with where to begin, But even a large-scale problem can be solved with the help of a single person.
“Community involvement is a very strong part of the curriculum [at Friends Academy],” said Kay. “It is a natural thing to learn something in history or English class about slavery and find a material outlet in which to help fix the problem and create generalized awareness.”
DeSimone said, “We are very lucky to live in this wonderful country where we have rights and a society that can offer support in moments of need; most of the world population doesn’t have that.”
Through the collection of bras in Western countries, Free the Girls also strives to educate people and organizations about the scourge of human trafficking worldwide. Visit freethegirls.org for more information.