Jul. 27 2023
In Southern Québec, United for Literacy offers a variety of literacy and lifelong learning programs. There are one-to-one sessions, after-school programs, group tutoring, book clubs, workshops for parents, and family homework clubs. The team also collaborates with under-resourced housing organizations to reach a broad audience. Our programs are offered in Montréal, Sainte-Croix, Sherbrooke, and Quebec City.
From Joëlle, Manager of Programs, Southern Québec:
"We train people to become instructors in their community (through the program "Lecture pour tous” (Reading for All), and opens the door to people who may not have used our services." She adds that their biggest challenge is to make their expertise known and gain more recognition. "Our organization brings significant value, but it's often our partners who bring in young people to fill our programs," she says. The team continues to work closely with their partners, but they hope to become better known locally.
Joëlle joined United for Literacy as a volunteer in 2001 and became the Community Coordinator for Québec in 2006. She was drawn to the organization's mission and believes literacy is essential for a sense of understanding and inner peace. "Getting involved was important to me so that everyone can experience the peace and tranquility that reading provides," she says. She appreciates teamwork and the evolution of United for Literacy's programs. "We constantly work on improving what we do, always seeking ways to better accomplish our work," she explains. As a manager, she works both directly with the coordinators in the field and meets with other organizations to promote literacy and share her enthusiasm. "We move around and meet people where they are, and that helps a lot."
Joëlle works closely with her team, which includes several coordinators who work directly with their programs’ various target audiences. Mylène, based in Québec, has been a Community Coordinator since 2021. Her previous experience with the organization includes many years of volunteering. "Learning and literacy have always been part of my life, and it's a pleasure for me to share the joy of learning, perseverance, and community engagement," she says.
Mylène's responsibilities include managing Homework Clubs for children and youth in Québec city, book clubs, Reading Tents, and tutoring programs for adults. She adds, "The challenge of the past two years has been to build the programs and keep them fresh, as well as recruit new volunteers to help with the programs. In Québec City, we currently have a team of volunteers of around 40 people!"
Sahar and Jailton are both located in Sherbrooke. Jailton joined United for Literacy in October 2022 as an Instructor-Coordinator. In this role, he manages the following literacy programs in Sherbrooke: one-to-one tutoring, classroom support where trained volunteers boost children’s literacy and numeracy skills for children in school, and workplace programs to support people learning French. He says, " The main challenge we face is finding enough volunteers to meet the daily demands. To do this, I try to get people's attention by showing them our successful programs and all the ways we can do more for people in need.”
Sahar serves as the Community Coordinator in Sherbrooke and has been with the organization for two and a half years. "I'm involved in all activities with children, families, and youth, as well as community development in literacy. I feel fortunate to work with such excellent people. We work together like a big literacy family. It's a dream job with an extraordinary team, motivated learners, and dedicated volunteers," she says.
Sahar is particularly involved in the Reading for All project, which targets bilingual youth living in under-resourced housing. "Teenagers learn to run reading workshops in community settings for children aged 5 to 11. As they work with the children and their families, they also improve their own literacy. By taking on this challenge, the youth are working toward a bright future. In this role, they develop animation and group management skills. They also become more self-confident and social by speaking in public. As their leadership skills grow, so do their job opportunities.”
Nydia and Laurence, two Community Coordinators in Montreal, coordinate a wide range of programs. Laurence, who joined the organization nearly five years ago, coordinates French-language programs in Montreal.
Laurence says, "Our volunteers engage in various activities, such as reading sessions for young children, homework help for children and teenagers, and literacy support workshops for adults. We offer some of these programs both in-person and online. During the summer, I am particularly involved in the Lit de Camp project, in partnership with Réseau Réussite Montréal. This project aims to combat summer learning loss by training day camp staff on integrating literacy into their summer activities. Our trainings are fun and dynamic!"
She also highlights one of the greatest challenges they face, saying, "There are so many needs to fulfill that it is sometimes difficult to reach all neighborhoods in Montréal. Our volunteers are exceptional, but we do not have an unlimited number of them. Some neighborhoods are less accessible by public transportation, and many of our volunteers are students. They cannot always travel long distances. Fortunately, I am surrounded by a talented team, and we all work together to find solutions to these issues. For example, we offer virtual or hybrid workshops to keep everyone motivated! In these circumstances, being flexible is essential."
Nydia, who recently joined the organization, coordinates English programs in Montréal. She says, "I run programs for children, teens, and adults to help them with their homework and tutoring sessions. This is possible thanks to community centers and volunteers. What makes me the happiest about this project is the passion and integrity of my team. I also enjoy the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people willing to volunteer their time and knowledge to others. It joyfully reinforces my belief that supporting each other as a community is an invincible social virtue."
When addressing the evolution of the organization, especially the transition of certain programs online, Joëlle explains that while each change brings its own set of challenges, the move online is a positive advancement. But while technology opens some doors, it also highlights the inequalities for participants in their programs, as individuals with low literacy skills encounter more barriers to online learning. Joëlle concludes, "We adapt, and tutoring, homework help, and the Reading Circle (which all run in person) remain our core programs and are still at the heart of what we do."
In preparation for the upcoming school year, the South Quebec team has arranged volunteer opportunities in Montréal, Quebec City, and Sherbrooke.
f you’d like to learn more about the literacy programs that we offer in one of the cities listed above or anywhere in Canada, please visit our programs page. If you have any questions about our programs in Southern Québec, reach out to Joëlle at [email protected].