Volunteers needed to help improve literacy

Turning on a computer, or even reading a menu, can cause of great deal of fear to those who have difficulty reading.
The Valley Adult Learning Association here offers people a chance to improve their literacy skills—and it is looking for volunteers to help keep the program going.
“Literacy for the past few years has been a scary word and it is hard for a lot of people to come forward,” noted Barb Duguay, co-ordinator of the Valley Adult Learning Association.
In the last year, the association, which is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, has helped 93 people locally improve their literacy skills.
Located at 304 Scott St., it offers literacy assessments, one-on-one tutoring, and small classes on basic reading, math, communications, and computer skills.
It is able to offer services due to a number of volunteers who give their time and skills to help others. “We are past our capacity all the time, that’s why we need volunteers,” Duguay stressed.
As such, the association will host a training session for volunteer tutors Sept. 28-29.
Sponsored by Laubach Literacy Ontario, the weekend training session will teach everything from the principles of learning and sensitivity to the problems unique to adult non-readers.
There is a $10 fee to attend, but volunteers will receive a certificate upon completion of the workshop as well as lunch and refreshments on both days.
To pre-register, call 274-3553 as soon as possible.
Duguay said volunteers do not need to have previous teaching experience nor do they have to commit to several hours a week.
“It is all up to the tutor how much time they can commit,” she said, explaining that if someone would like to come for one hour a week, they will match them with a student whose needs require only someone for an hour a week.
“We try to meet the needs of the volunteer.”
“If people have experience with cash registers and converting Canadian funds to U.S. funds, we would love to have them volunteer,” Duguay added.
Part of the association’s challenge also has been to meet the needs of clients.
“Everyone has different needs and different skill levels when they come in,” said literacy instructor Karri Tougas.
Some people seek improvement for employment reasons, others come for literacy and education. A third group, which often includes English as a second language candidates, want to improve skills so they can gain more independence.
“If the goal of the person is to learn the manual on how to drive, then we help them with that goal. If the goal of the person is to read the menu at Robin’s Donuts, we help them,” Duguay said.
One of the most frequent reasons people seek these services is for employment reasons.
“If a business or company in our area is finding that one of their employees needs some upgrading to keep their job, then they can send them here,” Duguay said.
Instructors offer small classes in receptionist duties and customer service, as well as basic computer skills such as using a word processor or navigating the Internet.
They also run a mock store in the basement so clients can practice using a cash register or conducting inventory.
“We had one lady who had never used a computer before but her new job required a great deal of computer use, so she came here to upgrade her skills to keep her job,” Tougas said.
“It is a worthwhile program,” she added. “Right now the biggest thing we need is volunteers.”