At Free Word, we know that words matter. Speaking out for what people believe makes us feel human. Having the freedom to read and write what we like gives our lives meaning. We need words not just to live but to flourish.
Last week I began my 6-week internship with Free Word, a London based non-profit organization and literary centre that is home to nine other organizations. These organizations all have literary focuses, but range from legal publications to free speech activist groups to literacy agencies. I’ve learned a lot about Free Word and its residents in my first three days, and its clear that there’s still plenty more to learn. When I first arrived at the centre, I was initially quite intimidated by this literary community, and I still am. I have undertaken two previous non-profit internships back in the states, but nothing of this magnitude. But the longer I’m here the more I realize how perfect this place is for me. The Free Word Centre is a hub for literature, literacy, free speech and expression – all things I value deeply. And I’ve found that the people here value what they do so deeply as well.
But that is really only the tip of the iceberg. The Free Word Centre is a unique arena for non-profit organizations. Since my first day, I’ve met key players at resident organizations and I’ve heard time and time again that though the nine organizations function independently, they act as one united machine – helping one another, using each other’s resources and collaborating in a way that I haven’t witnessed back in the states. It’s this type of community that the non-profit world so desperately needs – particularly in the literary arts. I understand the challenges non-profit organizations face, and this place allows resident organizations to overcome obstacles in a way that other organizations can’t, or won’t. There’s so much potential for growth here. Each of the nine Free Word residents has its own values, and each functions in its own way. But each has specific insights that can benefit an organization that resides right down the hall.
I’m certain non-profits around the world can learn from what Free Word is doing here in London. I know I am. I am so grateful to have been placed with an organization like this at such a pivotal point in my life. There’s so much I’d like to do in my six weeks here. But for now, I think I’m just going to soak it all in.