Walking past a storefront, you'd expect to see clothes, cars, or food for sale. Not children.
Men stood on the other side of a glass wall, looking at young girls, picking out who they wanted based on the numbers they wore on their chests.
The men were predators; the children, their prey. All of the girls wore red dresses and blank expressions. They didn't look up.
Except for one...
According to the co-founders of Love146, an organization that traveled to Southeast Asia in 2002 to explore ways to fight against child sex trafficking, there was one girl, sitting behind the glass, who was different:
"Her number was 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring out at us with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. There was still life left in this girl."
Her gaze and the memory of it was so powerful that the co-founders, including President Rob Morris, felt empowered to take up her fight.
"We have taken her number so that we remember why this all started. So that we must tell her story. It is a number that was pinned to one girl, but it represents the millions enslaved. We wear her number with honor, with sorrow, and with a growing hope. Her story can be a different one for so many more."
According to Love146's site, the co-founders couldn't act immediately to save the girls, due to an ongoing investigation, but they have made it a point to pursue an even bigger mission.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are approximately 21 million people that are victims of forced labor. 11.4 million are women and girls and 9.5 million are men and boys.
This is modern slavery — and mostly exists underground.
Note, as the ILO distinguishes, "forced labor" is a term used to describe an instance when a person is forced into work by means of violence, intimidation, accumulated debt, or more. Though all terminology is not the same, "most situations of slavery or human trafficking are however covered" by such definition.
To further explain their story, Love146 created a powerful short, "We Are Love146," that both visually and verbally highlights the pain, sorrow, and hope for an enlightened future.