Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

How Singer Ben Is Leading the Fight against Trafficking; HUMAN Trafficking Is One of the Largest Global Organised Crimes Seeing 27 Million People Enslaved Worldwide. Reporter LINDSAY BRUCE Met Teessider Ben Cooley - Who Is Leading the Fight to Stamp It Out

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

How Singer Ben Is Leading the Fight against Trafficking; HUMAN Trafficking Is One of the Largest Global Organised Crimes Seeing 27 Million People Enslaved Worldwide. Reporter LINDSAY BRUCE Met Teessider Ben Cooley - Who Is Leading the Fight to Stamp It Out

Article excerpt

Byline: LINDSAY BRUCE

A JOB working backstage in a theatre changed Teesside opera singer Ben Cooley's life forever.

The Royal Northern College of Music graduate launched a charity after hearing horrific statistics associated with human trafficking.

Ben, 29, said: "I was a stage hand at a conference when I first heard about lives devastated by trafficking. "I had just become a dad and thought, if that was my daughter I'd do something."

Human trafficking - the trade of buying and selling people - is defined by the UN as an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.

This includes forced labour and extreme prostitution.

Ben, now in Manchester, discovered 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, or two every minute, the average age of a victim is just 14 and $9.5bn is being made through human trafficking each year.

The UN believes 80% of people trafficked are taken for sex and that 99% of victims will never be rescued. In 2004, in his fight against this "modern day slavery", Ben booked the Birmingham NEC to raise awareness.

He said: "Hope for Justice was born. We are now in a position to run initiatives where victims are rescued."

Ben is deliberately vague with the details of his life and what exactly goes on.

Defined as "serious organised crime" those fighting the injustice can find themselves targets of the perpetrators.

But Ben is keen the statistics don't put people off. He said: "If 99% of people never get rescued, what would happen if 99% of British people did something about it - we could stop it. Everyone can do something - so what is your something?" And this is not just a crime affecting people coming in from outside of the UK.

Ben, who attended church in Eaglescliffe's Oakwood Centre, shares Sarah's story.

He said: "Sarah is not just a statistic, she is real and I first met her just after she was rescued by my team.

"I'll never forget it - her eyes were dead - she was broken by the abuse she suffered."

And it was horrific abuse. …

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