Colorado has received a wonderful holiday present by way of Kyiv, Moscow, and New York.
Thanks to the hard work of Marianna Kosharovsky and her hard-working band of attorneys and volunteers, an overlooked area of human trafficking*, is being addressed and hundreds of people are being helped. Thousands more will be as her plans come to fruition.
Many people know about the evils of human trafficking, and often think that once a trafficker is jailed or their victim is “rescued” from that situation, that everything is OK. The truth is: It’s not. The traffickers abuse the legal system and create problems that continue to harm and intimidate their victims long after they escape. These victims are women and girls, and also men and boys, who might need a name change, help with domestic relations issue, criminal justice advocacy, resolving financial problems caused by the trafficker, etc. To the best of my knowledge, no one has figured out a way to systemically address these issues until now.
Marianna was practicing law at Milbank Tweed, a large international law firm based in New York, when she received a fellowship to work on human trafficking. This exposure was so intense that she soon returned to corporate law.
She stayed in corporate law for a couple of years but couldn’t forget the stories that she had encountered while working with the victims of trafficking. “Leaving those folks in an impossible situation was eating away at me,” she said.
In 2011, she took a job in Russia working with PILnet (Global Network for Public Interest Law Network). There she observed first-hand the real opportunity that was available to help fight for the rights of the victims of trafficking. Even after there is a police raid, and the victims are “freed”, the victims who have been through hell need to have a powerful, professional help on their side to clear their past and start a new life.
Marianna moved to Colorado and met with over 40 local organizations to determine, Who is doing what? How do I design a solution that strengthens what they are already doing, not to reinvent the wheel? She also met with technologists on how to design a better solution. Marianna said, “Lawyers, like all of us, want to do good and want to help. People need to be given an easy way to help. The technology that we’ve developed makes it easy for lawyers to help.”
Between 2014 and 2017, Marianna completely self-funded her efforts on research and development, design and testing a solution, also bringing in other volunteers to help. ALIGHT first piloted technology (an app that works like Lyft) to match survivors to attorneys based on their specialties (family law, criminal law, and civil law areas such as bankruptcy, intellectual property, etc.) in 2017.
As Marianna explains, “We launched in Denver to carefully study, test and refine this solution to make sure it works to help survivors. And it worked!”
Marianna was ecstatic to celebrate the recent success of helping solve more than 100 cases. “Our workload is exploding. More and more survivors are finding us. Others that we have helped with one issue are returning to us for additional issues because they trust us, and that is all good news,” Marianna explained.
All of this work has culminated in the ALIGHT 501(c)(3) organization: Alliance to Lead Impact In Global Human Trafficking. Marianna’s biggest needs now are to grow the organization to meet the needs of more survivors. Increased need for ALIGHT services also means an increased need for support - to ensure ALIGHT can continue serving current and future clients. They need to grow partnerships, and to enlist and train more lawyers for their legal network.
ALIGHT is still basically a one woman show and helping as many survivors as multi-million dollar nonprofits. ALIGHT’s goal is to continue to expand it’s work in Colorado and scale to serve nationwide.
No one is doing anything like this by combining law, technology, and human trafficking. If you can help please visit www.alightnet.org
*Colorado is a hub for human trafficking in the U.S. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the majority of human trafficking is domestic trafficking (US citizens or legal permanent residents are the victims). Not surprisingly, the majority of victims are woman and girls. The 2019 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report revealed that the US, Mexico and The Philippines were the top 3 countries of origin of federally-identified victims.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A world where people have the opportunity to understand and express their deepest talents and contributions to each other.
What is your greatest fear?
What is your proudest moment?
ALIGHT reached a major milestone in service this year, which seemed nearly impossible as we were starting out a few years ago, having no technology, resources or even attorneys. We helped human trafficking survivors on over 100 legal matters. That milestone means a lot to me because so many survivors are on a long journey to freedom - and it is a long journey that starts, rather than ends, when the survivor escapes their trafficker. It means ALIGHT has tangibly helped these brave individuals along their journey when no one else was able or willing to help, whether it was assistance with child custody, resolving identity theft or dealing with revenge porn. My second proudest moment with ALIGHT would be receiving the invitation to join the Pathways to Peace delegation to the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and to present ALIGHT’s vision on a panel of human trafficking experts at the event in 2017.
What is your dream?
For ALIGHT to scale to a national level so that human trafficking survivors anywhere can have the power of attorneys on their side as they fight for their rights.
What do you admire in others?
I admire a person who is able to balance 3 features - big heart, smarts and doing the quotidian work it takes to make change happen.
Who is your hero?
This is a hard question because I have so many heroes, from family members who constantly put others before themselves to colleagues who hang in there to keep working even when it’s hard and mentors who take the time to share their knowledge and transfer status to support the next generation. I also very much admire people who demonstrate (rather than simply talk about) their commitment to what they care about. And so perhaps at this moment the biggest hero on my mind is Sarah Parady, who has been a friend since law school and has a legal practice in Colorado. Not only is she a brilliant attorney, but she jumps in to support and promote others’ work towards equality, whether it is as the current President of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association or through her many involvements with ALIGHT, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy and other organizations. On a national and historic level, who can resist Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? She has done the hard, daily work of fighting for progress and equality for over 60 years.
What is your strongest trait?
If you could meet anyone, alive or deceased, who would it be?
What is your most precious possession?
This may change, but all these years later and I am still very attached to the dining room table I bought with my first law firm paycheck.
What do you admire in your friends?
Showing up and being there.
What is your greatest regret?
Never seeing Tom Petty at Red Rocks - and there were so many opportunities. Alas.
What is your motto?
Focus on the good people.
What kind of books do you enjoy?
What do you do on your day off?
Play with my dogs.
What is luxurious to you?
A meditation and yoga retreat in a far off country (or state) would be very luxurious.
What is it about you that you think would surprise people?
People seem to be surprised that English is not my first language.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
What talent would you like to have that you don’t?
Cooking magnificent feasts.