Being asked to be part of the Sligo Christmas Tree Festival seemed like a great idea.
It would be an opportunity to reach the vast crowds of people that would be attending the three-day event.
Two words came to mind as we thought about decorating and displaying a tree; challenge and opportunity
Challenge…how would we decorate the Christmas tree in such a way that the message of Human Trafficking, and the work Invisible Traffick does within the community, would come across visually?
Opportunity… this would be a chance to reach a wider audience. Hundreds of people, from every background would be at the festival. This was an opportunity we could not miss!
So we did it. On Wednesday afternoon we assembled the tree, ready to be viewed by the public when the Festival began on Friday 1st December.
Engaging the assistance of one of the youngest and most enthusiastic helpers Invisible Traffick IRL has ever seen, it was decorated and placed on display, with much excitement from said helper.
Beside the tree we placed a book-style story about Invisible Traffick’s work and why we chose to decorate the tree the way we did, as well as information leaflets. During the three day event many hundreds of people came to view the fifty-five trees on display. Here is the story below:
“The Story of Our Tree
Invisible Traffick is a Charity that works to create awareness about the existence and dangers of Human Trafficking. We emphasise the fact that Human Trafficking is not just a Global Crisis, but it is happening in Ireland and within our community.
Our Christmas tree uses our Name – Invisible Traffick and our Goal – Making the Invisible…Visible, to illustrate the fact that Human Trafficking is happening on our doorstep and is hidden in plain sight.
In the middle of the tree we have used six Human Trafficking images to show the grim reality of what could be happening behind a very ‘normal’ looking door, in a very ‘normal’ looking street. This is Modern Day Slavery and yes, it still exists. We placed these images in the middle of the tree to show that this injustice is happening right in the middle of our community.
We also wanted to focus on the true Christmas story.
To do this we have put three song lyrics at the top of the tree. We put these on the top as a reminder that this is where we should begin our story.
Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see.
This is the story we want our tree to tell.
Jesus, the Light of the World, came down to earth to bring light and hope into a dark world that had no hope. And for us involved in Invisible Traffick, one of the greatest dark and hopeless situations is the atrocity of Modern Day Slavery.
We have covered the bottom of the tree with seven bible verses, each of them speaking about Light; because we believe that God’s word has the power to pierce the darkness and bring light and hope to those who are trapped in Modern Day Slavery…. but God asks us to be His hands and His feet to bring that hope and healing. Putting these bible verses at the bottom reminds us that darkness will not have the final say…God and His word will.”
The atmosphere in the Cathedral was magical. The children’s faces were almost as bright as the trees they were looking at, as they excitedly walked in and out, and literally, around every single tree, making sure they missed nothing. This also meant the parents and grandparents missed nothing either!
Over the three days we had so many opportunities to talk with people we would probably not get the chance to speak to in a normal Invisible Traffick event or presentation.
It was amazing. People chatted and took the information leaflets, as well as giving us lots of praise for the way we had decorated the tree. We were delighted that our message, “Human Trafficking is happening within our community!” was clearly displayed.
The Tree really did tell the story; and we were on hand, as much as possible, to get the verbal message out there as well.
Today, as we dismantle the tree, there is a sense of sadness. Not because we are taking down the tree, but sadness at what that tree represents. It represents the truth that, within our community, there are many people being held by invisible chains, victims of Modern Day Slavery.
We are grateful for the opportunity this Festival gave us to create awareness and speak about the issue of Human Trafficking. And who knows what ripple effect this small group of people may have made, when they decided to decorate a Christmas Tree.