Ben Cooley, chief executive of Hope for Justice, explains how the global anti-slavery charity began

As a teenager growing up in Yarm, working in Boyes and fishing in the Tees, I never dreamt of a future as a charity CEO. Music was my passion, and I actually trained as a bass-baritone opera singer at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Then I learned about modern slavery, at an event in Manchester put on by a friend of mine who was really passionate about the issue. It galvanised me and you could say it changed my life. I was determined to do something about it, and I decided to put on an awareness-raising event.

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The event came to be known as The Stand, and though I lacked any experience in event management, I certainly didn’t lack ambition. After months of hard work with friends and family, late nights, favours called in and many, many mistakes, we managed to put on an amazing event that informed 5,884 people about the evils and misery of human trafficking. How we got there is quite the story, one I tell in full in my new book, ‘Impossible is a Dare’.

But it turned out that this awareness event was nowhere near the end. We had created something bigger, and out of that grew what is today Hope for Justice. We now have offices all over the world, we have rescued hundreds of people from modern slavery, trained thousands and worked with governments and businesses to address the issue.

I sit here and write this in absolute humility in the knowledge that people have aligned themselves with us as an organisation, that they believe the same thing as we believe; that we want to live in a world free from slavery.

I was with a seven-year-old girl recently who now has her freedom because of people’s support for Hope for Justice, and so I'm incredibly grateful to anyone who wants to get involved – to change lives and end slavery. We've also got incredible supporters who have got their own platforms, whether that's in the celebrity world, the political world or the business world. If we get all those worlds aligned, then we'll go a long way to raising awareness and making things happen.

Back at the beginning, I probably (naively) thought I could change the world… but now I think WE can change the world. This is not just about ‘my beliefs’ but about ‘our belief’. It's about gathering people. If I was to put the success of Hope for Justice down to one thing, it's not about me and my passion, but it's actually about gathering the right people to sit in the right chairs to do the right jobs.

I’m thrilled that the growth of Hope for Justice means we’re increasingly working with Cleveland Police and Northumbria Police, and have rescued victims in this area. We recently opened a new office in Northumberland to cover the North-East, and we’re hoping to expand it further. That means so much to me.

Ultimately, I hope that in my life I can look back and say: “We equipped society to fight it, we got justice back in a fractured, broken justice system, we empowered the police to protect the poor. That's part of the reason I wanted to write Impossible is a Dare. I only took up my 'dare' to begin Hope for Justice because someone believed in me.

When I shared my vision of putting on a major event to talk about trafficking, I was fully anticipating someone to say, “Hey don’t do that, you can't do that, it's impossible”. But what the leaders in my life actually did was say: “Go and believe in the dream, you can do this and I will help you”. I have written a book to try to speak to a generation of people who might have a vision, might have dreams and aspirations, but who might not have someone saying “Go and do it, it's possible”.

The title comes from a great Muhammad Ali quote: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small-minded men who find 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.”

Great things happen because normal people step out of the line of normality and speak for something that really matters.

Impossible is a Dare, which is being released on Thursday, is available to order now via