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New Trails

Let’s start in the outdoors. Something I love to do is go mountain biking.

In January I had the opportunity to ride with friends through ancient rainforests in Derby, Tasmania and explore some new trails.

It was breathtaking and some of the most scenic mountain biking in the world. On our third and final day we rode from Derby to the Bay of Fires though blackwood and myrtle forests, giant granite boulders, wildflowers  and towering eucalypts. Covered in dirt, sweat and blood, we dived into pristine turquoise waters to end our riding – and at 14 degrees we knew we were alive!

That ride (pictured above) comes to mind when I think about my first two weeks as CEO of International Justice Mission Australia.

This is a place of beauty and hope.

I have had the opportunity to hear from team members on the important work happening in the field. The bravery of survivors, their pride in helping others be rescued and light coming into the darkest of places.

One such story is when the team in India celebrated a record 820 people graduating from our aftercare program for former bonded labour workers in August 2016. It was the largest group to ever celebrate this major milestone at once and a beautiful demonstration of lives restored and families thriving in freedom.

This colourful picture captures the IJM team at one of the graduation ceremonies in Odisha State.

When I hear team members talk about their time in the field, as much as the words they share, I notice a glow in their eyes. Like Claire talking about her time with Pachayamma in Chennai or Natalie reflecting on a precious time in the Philippines.

That consistent glow in the eyes is something new for me in professional life. It stopped me in my tracks – much like the myrtle forests.

I have also had the opportunity to speak to our brand-new Freedom Partners. The “skin in the game” kind of people, who are saying this is so important I am going to contribute every month.

The first Freedom Partner I spoke to was a young female, and I was struck by her age. At a similar stage of life I was scrapping every spare dollar together for my next trip or longboard, but she was making a stand, and saying enough is enough.

You see this work is really important. I was shocked to learn before I joined that there are more people trapped in slavery than ever before in human history. 

And our vision at International Justice Mission is to rescue millions, protect half a billion, and make justice for people who are poor unstoppable.

I’m looking forward to what the next two weeks – and months, and years – bring, and to the beauty of these new trails.

Steve Baird is the CEO of IJM Australia.

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