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A Mission Born from Belief
Over half a century ago, as a prisoner of war camp prison, one man’s love of languages and his passion for education established his life-long commitment to international understanding.
Confronting daily hardships, boredom and despair in a prisoner of war camp, Lieutenant Frank Bell raised his spirits and those of his fellow captives by teaching them Spanish and French, languages he had studied at university in Cambridge. He also organized language learning classes in Dutch, German, Italian, and Russian, and soon established a secret university in conditions that would have crushed a lesser man.
Lessons, timetables, vocabulary, grammar exercises and multi-lingual dictionaries were neatly and tightly written on every scrap of paper that could be found - backs of envelopes, soap wrappers, government forms, and tobacco wrapping paper.
After the war, Frank Bell returned to England and worked for the University of Cambridge. He was convinced that international understanding and harmony could exist if people throughout the world understood each other through language.
Sitting at a large, polished table in the reading room at Cambridge University Library, with sunshine pouring through the windows, Frank Bell commented:
"I look around me now. I watch men and women working - all reading quietly side by side, and I am convinced more than ever that herein lies the greatest hope for the future of mankind in the friendly co-operation that is found in study and in learning, as in no other sphere of life. Enmity and jealousy and rivalry cannot flourish when the welfare of common humanity is in view."