Upon release of his new book Impossible is a Dare we interview Ben Cooley, CEO of Hope for Justice
1. Why did you decide to write the book?
Interesting question - we’ve got to a point now, where we as an organisation (Hope for Justice) have got enough success and what i mean is we’ve helped so many people so I wanted to tell the stories of the individuals to communicate that it is possible to free the world of slavery, Because we’ve done that for so many. I wanted to inspire people. No matter how dark a situation, how impossible the outlook, that we as humanity we have the ability to change situations.
When we look at terror, war, oppression, often people get overwhelmed and paralysed by statistics. That impossible, that situation that seems undefeatable, maybe we can be the people who slay the giants. Maybe make the impossible made possible.
We’ve seen that countless times. we’ve gone from one office to an international organisation. We’re an unstoppable force. I wanted to inspire people that you can do it.
2. You start the book by telling people that they’re dreams aren’t impossible. But the book focuses primarily on the work of Hope for Justice and freeing the world from slavery. Did you anticipate that people might be inspired by your work in other areas of life?
Absolutely. When I was writing this, my dad was struggling with cancer, I don’t talk about that in the book - we were facing daily challenges. I’ve got friends going through businesses with financial issues and friends with marital issues. We all face trials. Whether you’re in a FTSE 100 or self employed, a big family or a small family. We all face trials and tribulations.
This book is about how do you face that? This book was about the mindset that you need to take. It’s highlighting the human aspects I was going through in the bike challenge when I rode from Latvia to Southampton. We will all come across these problems. But they can be the passport to your future.
From my experience, with mixing with people greater than me, the people who inspire me don’t give up. They don’t get defeated. They’re the ones who are remembered. They keep on, they keep on with the obedience. They see the greatness happen. Keep on going! You can change the world and the situation. Big or small.
3. Would you ever do the cycle again?
Absolutely not! Categorically, no!
I am preparing to do the 3-peaks challenge, 3 mountains in 24 hours. This morning I was reading an article “your 16-week plan” to the 3-peaks and I realised I haven’t done any preparation! That’s just not who I am.
That said, I wouldn’t have not done it. I’m sure readers will agree, there are many things in our lives that we’ve done that weren’t enjoyable, but we learnt something from it and we learnt something about ourselves. Many of you can think of times you failed at work and lost everything or made mistakes in your marriages. But, beauty from ashes, use those experiences. Be victorious.
4. Who should read your book?
Ben: Well who do you think should read the book?
Eden: For me, it’s easy to pick up. I love reading But it would be a great book for someone who doesn't, to dip in and out of. I’ve just given it to my friend who has an amazing heart, for justice both on a small scale and a big scale and I really believe it will inspire her.
Ben: Ok, let me tell you my answer. This book has been written by someone who hates books. If you’ve given me a book it’ll stay on my bookshelf. I might skim it, if I like the content or the title and I want to learn something from it. But naturally, I’m not a reader. I’m dyslexic.
But I think I’ve tried to write like me, I’m not a waffler. If you have a meeting with me, good luck getting it to last more than 25 minutes. I’m action oriented. Hopefully, that’s reflected in the book.
If you’re interested in how to start working on dream, this is for you. But I think anyone can take away from it because it’s storybased and how human beings can bring a systematic approach to this fight for justice.
We’re being told fear, fear, fear. The media tells us that there is nothing we can do and as a result we almost feel paralysed. But I want this book to say hey friends, this is going to be ok! We’re going to change it.
Muhammad Ali’s quote:
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men
whof ind it easier to live in the world they've been given than
to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing.
That’s what the whole theme is. What’s your impossible? I dare you to change it! It's for everyone who has that dream.
5. You share a lot of quotes in your book, which one inspires you most?
There’s one that we made to stand out. It’s “He will rescue them from oppression and violence.” It’s from Psalm 72 v14. The reason this inspires me is two-fold
1) Because there’s an intent of rescue
2) Because it goes on to say, “precious is their blood”, this reveals an intrinsic worth that all humanity has. One thing I love about the abolition of slave trade is it’s not about religion and belief, it’s about a common thread, an abolition thread that wants to see rescue for the oppressed. Because we believe they are precious. I’m sure some people will criticise me but we’ve been supported by people like Stephen Fry and Steve McClaren. People of faith and not of faith. Even Theresa May. It’s a common thread that we want to rescue the oppressed. This common thread that they are precious
6. Apart from the Bible, what is your favourite book?
The Tom’s book: Start Something that Matters
And anything by Richard Branson.
7. What would you say to people who want to get involved in the fight for justice?
Do it! Get involved. My favourite quote, which I thought was from Edmund Burke, but have since read that it might not be is: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’d say good men and good women! Find your something and do it.
But what I’d add to that is, find out what YOU are good at. And you do that.
When I was an opera singer, I used to dance in tights etc. Sometimes I did it on stage… *pause for laughter*. As a bass-baritone you play the grandad, the one who won’t win the fight or win the lady. During one performance, I stood at the back of the stage, looking from the guy I was about to fight, who would beat me and win the lady and I looked at the audience and I thought: “There is no way he is winning, the audience will never believe that”
So I went home to my apartment, which I shared with a number of opera singers and I decided i'm going to be a tenor. so I started singing Nessun Dorma because you know if you can sing that then you're a tenor. So I tried and I was great until the last bit. But I kept trying. (at this point in the interview Ben Cooley is singing Nessun Dorma down the phone to me!)
So my flatmate knocked on the door and asked if I was ok and I didn’t reply then he said: "Ben, I'm sorry to tell you this. But you're not a tenor! You're a bass-baritone". It’s a small analogy, but how many of us are trying to be tenors when we're bass -baritones?
Be who you're designed to be! So from then on I was going to die like a champ! No one was going to have a death scene like me! I was going to be the best at not getting a woman, I was going to be the best unattractive (but attractive at the same time, of course) bass-baritone on the planet
Be you. You're the greatest gift when you're secure.
8. What role can the church play?
The church has a pivotal role to play, in all of the world. Bill Hybels said “the hope of the world lies in the local church”
It’s got people, resource and authority to speak into these situations and it’s in every single area of the world. If we can mobilise them to shout it from the rooftops, I believe we can do extraordinary things.
One of the sad things I see is churches setting up their own organisations or working independently. Now is the time to gather under one banner. Maybe with different parts to play but let’s work together.
I’m reminded of the important piece of scripture: “They shall know you because you are one”. Now is the time for unity. This is a great vehicle for change.
9. What should people be looking for if they’re concerned about exploitation in their area?
Often, within the UK exploitation happens in areas where there’s cash-in-hand industries. Car washes, factories, things like that. We have on our website, a spot the signs section and we have training available.
But I can give you a few things now, if there’s a factory with a transit van dropping people off at 5am and 20 disheveled looking men get out the van and are then picked up again at 11pm. That's not a normal workflow.
If there’s a residential property with men going in and out every 20 mins, that's not a normal residential situation.
If there’s a car wash where none of them speak English and they feel like they’re under duress. Or you meet someone who is disoriented, who has no idea where they are. Those are signs that there might be human trafficking.
Hope for Justice is here to help. Or if you believe there’s a threat to life, then contact the authorities. We work with 47% of the British police force. There is help available.
10. What’s next for you? And what’s next for Hope for Justice?
Well, those are intrinsically linked.
I want to take this to an organisation who sees 1000s and 1000s of people set free. We’re expanding more internationally and throughout the UK. We’re going to do some fabulous work, continue to build on success. We’ve already changed 100s of lives.
At our project in Cambodia - Lighthouse, which works with girls in first 8 weeks of rescue, we’ve seen 150 girls graduate from the programme since it started 18 months ago.
We've seen 1000s of rescues in the UK. In the first year of one of our offices, we saw 110 rescues and we have 5 office locations in the UK. We’re committed to expanding across the world.
We’re Hope for Justice. So we want to see Hope and Justice.
We want to be in contact with governments across the word, that they’ll create hostile environment to traffickers and empower victims to seek help.
Me personally? I will serve as long as the board require me too. I have vision but I never want to get in the way.
So readers, if you feel like you can join us, please do. With us, for us and empowering the process.
I never want to get in the way, this is not about Ben Cooley or any of the staff, it’s about a common belief. Hopefully you share that.
You don’t want slavery. You don’t want children servicing men, women being exploited in the sex trade, men being exploited in factories. Because you share the same belief that all life matters, all of humanity counts.
My plea: why don’t you join us in this glorious fight?
Thank you to Ben Cooley for taking time to speak with us. Impossible is a Dare is available now.
July 6th, 2017 - Posted & Written by Laura White