From the 4th until the 7th August, Sabine and I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering for the ‘Gift Box’ Campaign. As you will hopefully have read in my last 2 posts, we had received training for this and I had been to the launch day, and the excitement had been building up and up. I whole heartedly believe that if you are passionate about seeing change in an area then it is good to get involved in any way that you can. I knew that this would be an amazing opportunity to share my passionate with others, and to have a direct effect on the public’s perception and understanding, whilst gaining important research.
“Justice is truth in action.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
This amazing initiative had already been going since the beginning of the Olympics, and even before that we had felt the buzz of anticipation for what was a clever, well planned, and innovative campaign with ‘Stop the Traffik’ and the UN.GIFT – (Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking).
Here are their stories…
31.07.12 GIFT box vital statistics so far:
GIFT box locations: 5
Members of the public who have entered a GIFT box: 2,500
People engaging with GIFT box on Facebook: 16,000
Members of the public who have signed up to support UN GIFT and STOP THE TRAFFIK: 1,750
You can read the lovely Sabine’s account of events here.
On the 1st day, a bright Saturday morning I got up early, ready and excited for a slightly unknown but amazing day ahead. With my facts researched, the role play’s we had done at the training whirring round my head, my phone full of the info we had been sent, and hashtags for twitter at the ready, I felt prepared but anxious. As much as our training had been incredible, we didn’t really know what would happen, and a lot would be dependent on locations and the people we met. However our purpose was clear- Raise awareness about Human Trafficking and help empower people to take action by giving them ways to get involved either through Stop the Traffik or by signing the petition to show their support. We would also be collecting research information on the types of people we met and positive responses to the campaign.
You can still sign the pledge here.
We headed into London on the train, and ventured towards the location of our box. As we got closer you could feel the Olympic excitement in the air!
- When we approached Southwark Cathedral, right next to Borough Market, our home for the next 4 days, we could see the Gift Box and it all became very real. We met our team leader for the day (Sabine was also one of the leaders for that day). We put on our t-shirts that read ‘Things are not always what they seem’ – the message of the box, and the deception of human trafficking. Our venue, Southwark Cathedral is absolutely beautiful, and from the moment we arrived it was clear that the staff there were so helpful, and that it would be a fantastic location with lots of people passing through. Our box, was the ‘Forced begging and street crime’ box. One of the many facets on human trafficking.
There were of course other boxes at other locations such as St Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey, which reflected other forms of trafficking like Sexual Exploitation, and Domestic Servitude.
Human Trafficking is to be deceived or taken against your will, bought or sold and transported into exploitation.
Our 1st day was long but amazing. It took a while to get into a rhythm, as there were a few things that you could do throughout the day. We took it in turns to direct the many passing people to the Gift Box from the top of the stairs, to chat with people outside the box about what the whole campaign is about, to assist them in signing the pledges, and in recording visitors throughout the day. We had a really wonderful and enthusiastic team who all discovered where they were best places. My favorite thing to do was talk to people about the campaign as I was so passionate about it, and to tell people about the realities of trafficking. As I was feeling confident though, I also did a lot of directing people, and encouraged them to go into the box where they could read the real case studies about people brought to England and forced to beg. Sabine had a brilliant conversation with a staff member from ‘Starwood Hotel’ where the whole staff had just been engaged in training on human trafficking, which is so vital in the hospitality industries.
To be honest, we really did have a varied mix of responses. Some people were just in a rush to get to an event, or to the market. Others heard what we were talking about, and weren’t too keen to stop. Some were very happy to sign the pledge as they care about the issue, but did not want to take any further action. Some people were clearly just intrigued, whilst others who maybe already had an understanding were outraged at the issue and wanted to get more involved. It was actually really great to see such a range of responses, as I think it is really reflective of society as a whole. There are the apathetic, the ignorant, the naive and the action takers. Each reaction made me even more passionate about fighting this injustice, as no matter where people were on the scale, there is always more that can be done, more we can be educated about, and more ways we can be empowered. It got me even more fired up to change this horrific injustice.
I think for me, it has always been the apathy that hurts me the most! I could completely understand those who were in a rush, or those who find it an uncomfortable subject when they are trying to have a fun day out at the Olympics. But there was one response from a lady that shocked me and the team to the core…
“OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND”
I fekt like screaming at the woman- ‘it is not out of sight!!’ We are stood right here showing you, and telling you. We have case studies from within your city, your nation, you home. How can you be so oblivious. It breaks my heart, because of the nature of human trafficking, it can and does affect anyone. It could well be that ladies daughter, sister, or friend who is trafficked, and then it would not be out of sight for her. As I’ve said before, I think there is a notion in our country that trafficking only affects the poor, the stupid, or people who are ‘asking for it’ rather than anyone, anywhere. And yet the reality is that we endure the consequences, the products and effects everyday.
Trafficking affects every continent and every country; whether it’s an origin country where people are trafficked from; a transit country where people are trafficked through; or a destination country where people are trafficked to.
I love this quote from William Wilberforce…
‘You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know’
I guess this is the main reason I love campaigns like this. Because it means that people will no longer be able to say that they did not know or understand if we tell them the truth and explain it.
As I quoted in my last post, I think this is the key…
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” –Benjamin Franklin
Thankfully of the people we met, even on the 1st day, there are many who are outraged. We met games-makers, police, staff, games-pastors, and many every day members of public who were happy to engage in conversation with us, and make a stand.
Day 2 the 5th August was equally inspiring for us. Sabine and I were team leaders for the day, so opened up the box and did the briefings. Again the team were really excited to have more conversations and engage with people. We had a tiny bit of rain that day (it is England) but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as we set out again to share the truth about trafficking with people. It was so encouraging to see people from all nations reading the case studies, signing the pledge and getting involved. The team were so passionate about the campaign, and it was so inspiring. We even had conversations throughout the day with a homeless man who had actually been trafficked himself. We had seen him sleeping on the steps the day before, and were able to offer him contact numbers for people who could help him such as the Salvation Army. I think again it just re-enforced for us all why we were doing what we were doing- standing outside all day long come rain or shine, because we want to help stop stories like that, and help see change for innocent people.
Day 3 was unfortunately very rainy, but we got a whole new team, and Sabine and I were buzzing from the days before so our spirits were still really high and we were so excited to see further change.
We used the rain on day 3 as an opportunity to talk to the lovely people and staff inside Borough Market, who were lovely. Sabine had been getting our Coffee for the past couple of days from ‘Flat Cap Coffee’ @FlatCapBorough in the market (a recommendation on day 1 from Laura). They were really supportive of what we were doing. They recognised our t-shirts each day, came and had a look at the box, signed the pledge, put some of our leaflets on their stand, and even blessed us with coffee!! Again it was so encouraging to see people supporting a movement for change in a practical way. It was brilliant!!
Another thing we really loved seeing, which we saw a lot on the last couple of days, was the reaction from parents with kids. Understandably some of them were cautious about the content of what we were talking about. But the great thing about the ‘Gift Box was that it caught everyone’s attention, especially kids who loved it!! Many kids walking past would ask their parents, ‘what is that’ and it was fantastic to see parents explain the issue of human trafficking to their children in a sensitive way. As someone who is passionate about kids ministry, it was really exciting to see even the youngest generation being taught about those who suffer injustice, and to know there are people who are helping.
Overall, the whole experience of volunteering with the Gift Box was amazing. The majority of people we spoke to were supportive and hopefully inspired themselves. We heard so many stories during our time there and on social media of the other locations having the same experiences, and it was so so exciting to think of the amount of people we must have interacted with and shared the truth with, and hopefully empowered to make a change. I was so grateful for the staff at Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, the Games makers, Game Pastors, Police, volunteers and so many amazing members of the public who signed the petition!!
As Stop the Traffik tweeted-
For stories and more experiences about the Gift Boxes visit the Gift Box website – http://ungiftbox.org/
I can’t wait to hear more of the stories and stats that come back from this campaign across the Olympics and Paralympics. I hope my experience has encouraged you to make a stand against trafficking!
And just to show taking a stand can be fun…