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National Volunteer Week at United for Literacy

Apr. 17 2023

Volunteers are at the centre of United for Literacy. People give their time to support literacy and learning in so many ways, including: 

  • Reading books to children at a Reading Tent 

  • Tutoring kids at a Homework Club 

  • Leading a conversation group for newcomers 

  • Working with people who have been incarcerated to improve their reading and writing skills 

  • Supporting people with intellectual disabilities as they grow their skills 

  • Being part of committees that plan and host fundraising events 

  • And so much more. 

We celebrate our volunteers every day, but we cheer a little louder during National Volunteer Week. This year’s theme—Volunteering Weaves Us Together—says it beautifully. Many of us spend a lot of time on our own: working from home, wearing ear buds, looking out our phones. But when we volunteer, we share our time and ourselves with other people. We get to know our neighbours. Our communities grow and flourish when we look up and reach out.   

We’d like to share some stories of what it’s like to be a United for Literacy volunteer—written by some of the very volunteers we wish to thank! 

Elaine Elrod, tutor and Organizational Team Leader for Edmonton Online Reading Circle, for two years.  

This work as a tutor and OT for United for Literacy has turned out to be a wonderful match for my passions. I am a Community Builder at heart, with some experience in teaching; and I very much enjoy connecting one-on-one with the children and being a co-facilitator of the group. I believe in educational models in which learners are treated as equals, an approach we use for the Online Reading Circle. In our training we are taught the importance of learning about each child and using that knowledge to encourage their love of books and writing. Everyone in the circle raises each other up and learns from each other.  

Read Elaine’s whole testimonial and learn about the moments she has found inspiring as a tutor. 
Duncan McLean, a tutor with Independent Studies, Toronto, for 16 years, was nominated by Angela, Literacy Program Coordinator for Independent Studies. He is reliable, empathic, adaptable, patient, and sees the person first. He helps learners discover their strengths and abilities, and he makes a difference in the program each week. 

I am retired now, but for many years I was the owner of a small business. My work was rewarding, challenging, and demanding. But there came a time when I began to realize that it somehow wasn't enough. I needed a different type of challenge, a deeper kind of reward...   

Volunteering with the Independent Studies Program at United for Literacy (formerly Frontier College) has provided me the opportunity to slow down, open my heart, and give of myself in a way that I hadn't known before.  

Read Duncan’s whole testimonial here. A retired small business owner, he describes how he found a deeper kind of reward and challenge through volunteering. He also describes the heart-felt camaraderie and the joy of working with like-minded individuals.   
Sophie Rock is a consistent and enthusiastic volunteer with United for Literacy's programs. She has volunteered with the Comic Book Club, Reading Tents, and as a 1-to-1 tutor in Saskatoon. 

It has been such a great organization for connecting me with my community through programs where I have built relationships with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. 

It is an empowering experience to know you are a part of something that is working towards building positive connections and promoting fun, educational experiences. 

To anyone considering becoming involved with United for Literacy, you will not regret it.

Read Sophie’s whole testimonial here. She describes how volunteering with United for Literacy has improved her life and provided her with meaningful experiences.  
Phyllis Miller was nominated by Rosita, former Program Coordinator, for her dedication to the students and the Beat the Street Program. She was named along with other volunteers Pauline Mulder and Brian Keith. They have gone above and beyond in their roles, working as a team to set an example of what volunteers should be. 

Becoming a literacy tutor is without doubt the most rewarding adventure that I have pursued in my post work life.  

Literacy really does change lives.  The young adult learners with whom I work tell me that their one-on-one learner/tutor learning experience in the Beat the Street program represents a turning point in what often has been repeated and failed attempts to advance their literacy. 

I have witnessed so many positive changes for my learners and their families during my 14 years as a volunteer with the program. I have seen my learners move on to thrive in full time employment, advocate successfully for their children’s schooling, pursue their own small businesses, rejoice in attaining their Canadian citizenship and participate fully in society. 

Volunteer tutoring for me has been a cross generational bridge to engage with young people who previously were not part of my personal or professional circle. In many cases, we have forged bonds and maintain contact even after the learners have left the program. 
Rachel Rafelman was nominated by Denise, Community Coordinator for the Literacy and Basic Skills program in Scarborough, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to literacy and going above and beyond as a volunteer.    

My involvement in United for Literacy has also had valuable personal benefits for me. In getting to know my students, I not only learned about their cultures and experiences in a new country, but also their personal struggles. Volunteering with United for Literacy has allowed me to feel a part of something positive and larger than myself. It has shown me that volunteering weaves us together as a community and the work benefits us all. Through volunteering, I have come to understand the importance of effective communication in social unity, and how language plays a critical role in all our lives. It has been an honor to be a part of United for Literacy and to help students develop their facility with the English language. 

Read Rachel’s whole testimonial here. She describes how she found a deeper appreciation for the importance of effective communication. She also experienced personal growth by building trust with her students. 
Patrice Yamada in Winnipeg was nominated for her commitment to improving the literacy skills of learners. Her warm and welcoming attitude, drive, and the connections she makes impress Mona and Sunny, the Instructor Coordinators the Learn Outside the Box program. 

 My association with Frontier College began in 2010, and since then, my work as a volunteer tutor has allowed me to create a sense of community by sharing common interests, values, and hope with my students. Tutoring provides an opportunity to meet diverse people and to feel included in their journey toward learning. By working together, we learn how cooperation benefits both of us and how empathy is the way forward. My time at Kaakiyow li moond likol, an adult education centre in the inner city, taught me about reconciliation and hope, and strengthened my resolve to make my community a more inclusive place for all. Through my efforts, I have seen my students achieve their scholastic goals and feel more confident to begin the next chapter of their lives. This accomplishment has empowered them to see themselves in a different light and has encouraged their children to stay in school. Volunteering weaves us together, and tutoring is an excellent way to make a difference, one interaction at a time.

Read Patrice’s whole testimonial here. She describes her experience as a volunteer tutor with United for Literacy. She talks about the impact it has had on both her students and her own sense of community. She also shares the challenges and rewards of working with students from diverse backgrounds. She emphasizes the importance of education in empowering individuals and building a strong community. 

Alyssa Gould volunteers with the Reading Club in New Brunswick. Community Coordinator Cindy nominated her because of the enthusiasm she brings to her role each week. She always greets learners with a smile and enjoys watching them grow. 

Becoming a volunteer with United for Literacy has been an incredible experience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of the process. From the first training session to attending weekly meetings with the kids, it’s been both fun and rewarding. Seeing the progress students are making week after week is amazing. It’s also been special to witness their confidence build over time. I recommend anyone who is interested in giving back to their community to start an application with United for Literacy. Their staff is supportive and will provide you with the tools necessary to become the best volunteer you can be!  

Find out more about volunteering with United for Literacy.   

Shades of green with eternity symbol and portraits of six volunteers
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