Last year, as vice president of the Model UN club at Greenport High School, senior Ella Watts-Gorman became interested in global humanitarian efforts and helping those less fortunate.
Ella, 17, first became interested in the End It Movement, which is dedicated to “shining a light on slavery,” and tried to organize a school fundraiser but it was too late in the year to schedule it.
But that didn’t dissuade Ella, who kept searching for causes she could support. She had paid $1,000 to purchase a car from her mother, Hannah Gray. But seeing her daughter’s passion, Ms. Gray returned the money so Ella could donate it to a global cause.
“I found Sudara, which is a clothing company made specifically by Indian women who were human trafficked,” Ella said. “They’re brought into these centers and they make Punjammies, which I wear.”
Punjammies are patterned pants that sell for around $50 each. All proceeds are reinvested into the centers, which are designed to keep the women safe, employed and off the streets.
Ella used her initial $1,000 to purchase 18 pairs of Punjammies and has since bought more.
In an effort to raise awareness about the plight of women and children involved in human sex trafficking, Ella is wearing a pair of Punjammies every day for a year. Beginning on the first day of school in September, Ella has been taking a picture of herself wearing Punjammies and posting it to her Instagram account, @ellaclairewatts.
“I’m someone who loves outfits,” she said. “I went to [Bishop McGann Mercy High School], where I had to wear a uniform, and transferred to Greenport last year. I love getting to wear normal clothes, so to do this every day can be hard. But it’s not about what I want or what makes me comfortable. It’s about helping these women and keeping as many people aware as possible.”
Ella also recently started a campaign at the school. She hung posters around the halls asking her classmates to purchase Punjammies from Sudara.
For each pair of Punjammies they purchase, Usher Plant Care in Port Jefferson will donate a pair to each woman residing at Siena House in Port Jefferson. An affiliation of Hope House Ministries, Siena House is a home for women in crisis or transition, who may have been abused or addicted to drugs.
“They’re going to get a free pair of pants for Christmas because they don’t really have family or anything that will get them gifts,” Ella said. “It’s a way of sharing this website and making more people realize human trafficking is a large issue.”
Ella’s efforts don’t stop there. Although currently focused on Sudara, she is also planning a large fundraiser for the End It Movement, which she hopes will take place in Greenport at the end of the school year.
“The more people are aware, the more they want to help and support,” she said. “It’s the best feeling in the world to represent these women.”