Gift unwraps the facts of human trafficking

A UN Gift Box has been placed on Bank Hey Street with help from the Blackpool and District Soroptimist Association.  L-R are Marcia Roper, Su Gordon, Jo Darbyshire, Mary Leavy and Ruth Bruce.

A UN Gift Box has been placed on Bank Hey Street with help from the Blackpool and District Soroptimist Association. L-R are Marcia Roper, Su Gordon, Jo Darbyshire, Mary Leavy and Ruth Bruce.

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Shoppers in Blackpool were intrigued by what was inside the box, when a giant gift appeared in the town centre.

The huge UN Gift Box was in town for two days, near the entrance to the Houndshill Shopping Centre, organised by Soroptimist International Blackpool and District.

The Gift Box is a legacy from the London Olympics, and was launched in 2012 by the UN and Stop The Traffic UK. Its aim is to raise awareness about all kinds of human trafficking and the abuse of vulnerable people, particularly women and children.

Each Gift Box is a walk-in piece of art, symbolising the way traffickers entice their victims with false promises.

The outside of the box offers the ‘gift’ of a brighter new life, while inside is a thought-provoking, interactive experience, which introduces the grim reality victims of trafficking are forced into.

It was the first visit to Lancashire for the box, which has been as far as the USA and Brazil.

The Soroptimists – a worldwide network of business and professional women, who work and campaign to improve the lives of women and girls – were on-hand to give out pamphlets and chat to shoppers to raise awareness.

The event was supported by local youth groups and members of the young parliament.

Jo Darbyshire, from Soroptimist International Blackpool, said: “The box was, we think, a great success. Many people came into the box and were shocked at some of the numbers which accompanied the exhibition – the millions who are enslaved, the numbers of people who are trafficked at the hands of criminals.

“Their main concern was trafficking at home.

“Younger people with children were particularly keen to know more.

“One mother said, ‘I need to keep my children safe and to know where they are and who they are talking to.’

“An older person said to me, ‘Growing up is a lot harder these days than when I was a child’.

“We visited several stores around the box and they were happy to have our leaflets on their counters.

“Altogether we handed out nearly 1,000 of our own leaflets, which contained contact numbers and organisations to contact if people suspected trafficking was going on in their area, and many leaflets from other campaign groups.

“Soroptimist International has a strong presence at the UN Commission on the status of women and the awareness work done in Blackpool will be included in reports.

“Altogether, it was a great success.”