By Amy Johnson
“I’m never actually going to leave CJFE.”
This is what I say to coworkers to deflect the stinging reality that in fact, after a year and a half, I will be leaving the organization to go back to school. The statement isn’t entirely flippant, though; after what was meant to be a three-month research internship in the winter of 2012, I was so motivated by the generous responsibility and inspiring work I’d been assigned and was so eager to explore the many other components of CJFE’s international and Canadian-focused work that I literally didn’t leave. I returned to the office on a semi-regular volunteer basis and continued working on a few projects until I was offered my current position as CJFE Program Coordinator. So it’s with personal experience and resolve that I can say that CJFE is a really difficult organization to say goodbye to.
Working here is paradise for the curious mind; there is never a shortage of Canadian and international news from which a compelling and complex free expression angle can be discussed and debated. It’s an exciting environment where I found that my understanding of global issues became reinforced by my ever-growing knowledge of the situation in Canada, and where I encountered the tangible, direct impact of a carefully-managed advocacy organization. From fact-checking articles for the annual Review of Free Expression in Canada to organizing film screenings for the International Day to End Impunity, working with the annual CJFE Gala committee, and building friendships with exiled journalists helped to safety by CJFE’s Journalists in Distress Fund, I have been both challenged and rewarded in all aspects of my role at CJFE.
As much as the content of the work has been fascinating and engaging, an even bigger part of why this position has been so meaningful is the network of sharp and talented individuals I’ve been so outrageously lucky to collaborate with. Between working with my colleagues at CJFE and IFEX to our many committed volunteers and committee members, I’ve witnessed brilliant programs come to life and have made a lot of good friends.
As hard as it is to summarize what working at CJFE has been like a short blog post, I’m happy to reflect on the experience. It reminds me of the unique individuals I’ve met, the compelling stories I’ve been told, and the different ways in which this small, independent organization can make a difference by holding the appropriate authorities accountable for the protection of a right that is essential to any healthy democracy. I’m proud to have been involved, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with CJFE as a volunteer and committee member. Because after all, I’m never actually going to leave CJFE.