Carrie has a number of stresses in her life. Her husband cannot work due to major health challenges and Carrie takes care of him and their three children. They live on very little money and are barely able to support their family’s basic needs. Carrie came to Action Read Community Literacy Centre, a United Way funded agency, extremely worried that she did not have the skills to get a job to assist her family in meeting their financial needs. To date, she had only completed a Grade 10 life skills program, and she had been away from school for many years. Carrie felt nervous about her literacy skills and her ability to study, which affected her confidence and self-esteem, and she hated the fact that she wasn’t able to help her children with their school work.
Carrie is not alone. Despite our advanced education system, low literacy remains a major problem in our country. According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 7 or 15% of adult Canadians 16 years and over are in the lowest level of literacy. In Waterloo-Wellington, the number actually rises to 1 in 4 or 24% of adults. Furthermore, the 2006 census for Guelph and Wellington indicated that almost 15% of adults ages 25-64 have less than a Grade 12 education. With low literacy skills, a person can only manage very simple written materials involving uncomplicated tasks. They do not have the basic skills needed to successfully meet the demands of many workplaces, and the day-to day demands encountered in managing one’s home, health, finances and social relationships.
Action Read’s Educational Supports For Disadvantaged Adults program, funded by United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin, helps individuals with reading, writing, numeracy, and other essential skill challenges to gain the support and tools that they need to improve their skills and make fundamental improvements to their lives. Program participants typically have a range of educational, social and learning challenges. Many participants are vulnerable adults, who have learning barriers, developmental challenges and / or physical and mental health challenges, which require specialized resources, tools and supports. Learners in this program typically come to Action Read having experienced very little success in their lives. School, work and living independently have been difficult because of such challenges as undiagnosed learning disabilities, poverty, substance abuse and trauma, to name a few. A common feature of these diverse individuals however, is their commitment to take control of and make improvements in their lives. When learners gain literacy skills, the world opens up – they receive the supports they need to obtain or retain employment; and they learn how to read and access information about a range of topics related to living independently such as health, civic participation, budgeting or eating well.
Carrie started working on math in the GED group. She received plenty of individual attention and encouragement. Her motivation and positive outlook soared. She was so motivated that she quickly asked for a tutor to help her with the language arts portion of the GED, where she made great progress with math and language arts. With her increased knowledge, she began to gain the self-confidence needed to continue learning independently at home and she is now able to help her children with their homework.
Through Action Read’s support and her own great attitude, Carrie passed her GED test with flying colours. She recently got into a Personal Support Worker Program. She credits her experience at Action Read with giving her the confidence, supports and tools to learn successfully as an adult. Carrie is yet another example of a changed life, made possible by United Way donors like you.