United Nations GIFT Box Lures in Students to Human Trafficking Awareness

Things will not be as they seem this weekend when the United Nations GIFT box, a walk-in public art piece with a benign appearance and unexpectedly provocative interior, pays a visit to Stokes Lawn.

The outside of this human-sized box will look like a wrapped present: “Bright and beguiling, people can’t help but be intrigued,” describes the project’s webpage. But once inside, visitors will quickly recognize the box’s deception; the gift they receive will be one of a much more solemn nature.

Visitors will be presented with a startling, sensory-stimulating exhibition, which will introduce “the grim reality that victims of human trafficking are forced into.”

Yes, the trickery of the box’s appealing façade and the disconcerting reality found inside it are all a symbol for the way in which human traffickers entice and manipulate their prey. In human trafficking, false advertising is the name of the game, the exhibit would suggest.

This one-of-a-kind piece of art has been touring around the Boston area–recent locales include University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of New Hampshire and soon, Faneuil Hall–and it’s thanks to a combination effort of R.E.A.C.T. (Rallying Efforts Against Contemporary Trafficking), the Boston College Women’s Center and the Arts Council that the GIFT box will spread its message on BC's campus.

Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media

Mary Yuengert / Gavel Media

The perfect alignment of the box’s visit with Arts Fest and the remarkable increase in foot traffic on campus will prove to be the perfect opportunity “to expand the reach of the display,” says Women’s Center undergraduate staff member, Andrea Giancarlo, CSOM ’15.

Beyond its goals of education and awareness, R.E.A.C.T. President Alyssa Giammarella, A&S ’15, hopes the box will “leave people feeling empowered to take action to join the fight against human trafficking.”

“It’s important to know that human trafficking is not a ‘far away issue,’ but something that happens here in the United States and even Boston as well,” she said.

To drive this point home and attest to the relevance of this issue for BC students, the box will feature local, human trafficking survivor stories.

Furthermore, Giancarlo anticipates that the box will address a major misconception held by the general public that human trafficking is mostly sex trafficking. “Labor trafficking is even more prevalent,” she said.

The GIFT box organizing team hopes that the installation will spread more accurate knowledge of what human trafficking really looks like, as well as how students can be more involved in rooting it out of society and understanding where it “can present itself in [our] lives.”

The box will be in place on Stokes Lawn on April 24-25, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and April 27-29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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