Running to end human trafficking

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Naugatuck resident and Woodland fine arts teacher Kristen Lengyel will soon be running 13.1 miles looking not only toward the finish line of the Hamptons Half Marathon, but also toward putting a stop to human trafficking.

Lengyel will be running the Hamptons Half Marathon in September to support of the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit charity dedicated to halting sexual slavery and helping victims.

“I thought this was a good thing that I could do to help,” Lengyel said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do and it’s been amazing.”

Lengyel is a part of Woodland for Women Worldwide, a coalition of students, teachers, staff and community members committed to furthering women’s rights. The group volunteers at events, gives scholarships and annually hosts a Run for Revolution race, which has been attended by Somaly Mam herself.

Mam, a woman who escaped a Cambodian brothel as a child, has devoted her life to helping victims of human trafficking and established the Somaly Mam Foundation in 2007. She has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009, was featured as a CNN Hero and has been recognized by many organizations as a leader in the stop to human trafficking.

Mam’s foundation gives rescued girls a place to stay and receive an education, Lengyel said, but many more victims are not as fortunate.

“We are speaking about modern-day slavery,” she said. “People need to be made aware that this terrible thing exists.”

Lengyel had the opportunity to meet with Mam twice — once when she came to Woodland to accept an award and another time at Mam’s birthday party in New York City.

Lengyel was inspired to volunteer to raise $2,000 to run in the half marathon to benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation after meeting her. So far, she has raised $900.

“She was pretty awesome and she had an amazing attitude,” Lengyel said. “She’s always got a smile on her face.”

To help raise funds to run in the Hamptons race, Lengyel will host a benefit on July 15 at Jesse Camille’s in Naugatuck from 4 to 7 p.m.

The event, called NIGHT OUT!, will be attended by documentary filmmaker and activist Ryan Phillips who will debut a preview of his soon-to-be released documentary, “Return to Happiness,” and the band Jimmy Hat will offer entertainment for the rest of the evening.

Appetizers will be provided by Jesse Camille’s, a wine-tasting will be offered by Wallingford’s Winebow and Mountview Plaza Wines & Liquors and a beer-tasting will be supplied by Samuel Adams. Before the event ends, prizes will be raffled to attendees. Tickets are $30.

“It’s going to be fun,” Lengyel said. “I got talking with friends and we decided that a night out would be a good fundraiser.”

To support Kristen Lengyel in her Hampton’s Half Marathon Race benefiting the Somaly Mam Foundation and Project Futures campaign and to buy tickets to NIGHT OUT!, e-mail her at kb_lengyel@yahoo.com or visit her webpage on www.crowdrise.com.