In Celebration of our Volunteers

National Volunteer Week


“Why are you doing this when you’re not getting paid?”

It was the same question our volunteer tutor had heard the three weeks previous, as he settled in for another math session at the local coffee shop. The adult learner he was working with couldn’t believe he would show up week after week purely to help him reach his employment goals, without asking for anything in return.

“What motivates you to volunteer with us?”

It’s a question I too like to ask our volunteers. It’s inspiring to hear the passion in their voices as they talk about making a difference, giving back, their desire to see individuals and families succeed. They also speak about the deep satisfaction they receive from helping others to reach their goals—whether that’s helping a parent to gain new skills as their child’s first teacher, understanding the letters coming home from their child’s school, passing their driver’s test, deciphering a medicine label, or simply gaining the confidence and skills to fill in important forms for themselves.

Last year, 237 Centre for Family Literacy volunteers invested over 9,300 hours in our work to build, develop and improve literacy with families in Edmonton. Their behind-the-scenes commitments included board and committee work, assisting with Family Literacy programs, facilitating Adult Literacy Classes, tutoring one-on-one, office support and fundraising events. Their collective impact was extraordinary!

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers. We would like to take this moment to express our gratitude especially to our volunteers with the Centre for Family Literacy. Whether they’ve just joined our volunteer team, or served with us over twenty years, together we are working to foster a healthy, literate society where we are all able to contribute and succeed.

Volunteer Canada put it beautifully: “Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom. Thanks to volunteers, our communities grow strong and resilient. Even the tiniest volunteer effort leaves a profound and lasting trace in a community, much like tree rings that appear over time.”

Why are you doing this?”

If you want to be inspired, put this question to a volunteer. Then watch them light up. Better yet, find that niche in the community where your passion and skills will enhance the lives of others while also enriching yours, and volunteer!

National Volunteer Week

The Centre for Family Literacy is grateful for our incredibly generous and gifted volunteers who commit their time to help us build, develop and improve literacy with families and communities.

It’s National Volunteer Week April 6-12 – a week set aside not only to thank and honour the people who donate time, talent, and energy to their fellow citizens, but also to increase public awareness of the powerful social investment volunteers make in and to our communities and to the Canadian society as a whole (Volunteer Alberta).

In the past year, 260 volunteers gave a collective total of 14,972 hours to contribute to the work of the Centre.

We’d like to take a moment to thank each one:

Thank you to our 45 board and committee members, who together invested a total of 2,040 hours to serve on one of our six committees or our governing board.

Thank you to the 86 tutors who gave a collective 11,655 hours to work one-one-one with adult learners to help others achieve their goals in reading, writing and math.

Thank you to our 9 group class facilitators who invested 440 hours and together offered 11 classes including Literacy, GED, Financial Literacy and Book Clubs.

Thank you to the 8 family literacy volunteers who gave their time to our family literacy programs, research, or assisted us directly here at the Centre, giving a collective 216 hours.

Lastly, thank you to the 112 special events volunteers who assisted us with five special events last year, giving 620 hours to help us reach our fundraising goals to ensure we can all continue to do all that we do.

On behalf of the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, I would like to thank you for truly making a difference in our community through your efforts. Our organization can only make the impact we do through the support and contribution of our wonderful volunteers.

We hope that through your involvement in our organization, you have developed new skills, made new connections and become more engaged in your community. We wish you all the best in the year ahead and look forward to continuing to partner with you in our vision of a healthy, literate society where all are able to contribute and succeed.

Monica Doherty, Volunteer Coordinator

Success Stories from our Adult Tutor Program

Three months ago, I was privileged to become part of the Centre for Family Literacy team as Coordinator of the Volunteer Program. In my role, I have the pleasure of getting to know some of the most generous people I know – people who make space in their often busy lives to give of themselves to make a difference in someone else’s life. Many of our volunteers have committed to work with us as tutors, meeting weekly with an adult learner who is eager to improve their reading, writing or math skills.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already encountered more success stories than I can recount here. For example, the learner from China who had made up her mind to return to her home country when her children got older. But through her work with one of our tutors, her love grew for English and for Canadians and she decided instead to stay. Or the learner who dropped out of high school to work, but was discouraged when he discovered he could not read and write well enough to get a good job. While he worked with his tutor he began to enjoy books, read the newspaper with comprehension, and believe in himself. Now he is studying at NAIT.

Many of our learners are no longer coming to the Centre because they have achieved their goals: entering the workforce, passing difficult exams, or reading with ease to their children and grandchildren. Thanks to their tutors, they have each grown not only in skill but also in confidence. Perhaps one of the most rewarding transitions I’ve observed is seeing adults who came to us as learners and are now volunteering as tutors themselves. What a beautiful picture of ‘giving back.’

Several of our tutors have nominated their students for a Lois Hole Award. These awards recognize an outstanding individual who has shown a commitment to his or her own learning. Here is how one of our nominated learners is described by her tutor:

“She is one of the bravest people I know. Her long-term goal is to go to NAIT to take banking and business to improve her employment prospects. In order to enhance her English skills, she is working in a Dollar Store as well as supervising grade five students on their lunch break. She often endures harassment from the customers in the Dollar Store when she cannot understand quickly enough or is unsure of how to handle a situation. Yet her determination to reach her goal is undiminished. She goes to the store for each of her shifts and does her best, hoping to improve her English sufficiently to be accepted at NAIT.

She is always smiling and she never hesitates to give me a warm welcome when I arrive. She is usually at the Centre before I am, and I will find her working on homework for either our class or another one that she is taking. She is willing to try new approaches to learning and often asks me to help with work she does not understand in other classes.

She has made a great deal of progress in speaking, reading, and writing English since our first lesson. Her determination to learn more, her high intelligence and her unflagging optimism should enable her to meet her goals.”

We recently published a collection of similar success stories from our Adult Tutor program.  If, like me, you can never hear too many of these stories, feel free to request your own copy of Life Changing Stories from the Centre for Family Literacy here:


The Power of Volunteering

It was 2005 and I was taking Business Management at NAIT. The overall experience was somewhat dreadful for me, but there was one defining event that concluded my academic career on a high note.

My favorite class was Leadership and it required 15-30 hours of volunteer work. Literacy is my passion, but how would I accomplish the required hours in a short time frame?

I would host a school-wide book drive! I organized a core planning team, and we recruited over half of the Leadership class as well as some volunteers who just wanted to be part of the experience. Together we executed the “Need 2 Read” book drive, a 3-day event with volunteer stations placed strategically around the school. Over 30 volunteers were a part of this exciting endeavor. We raised over 3,000 books for the Centre for Family Literacy!

That one experience left such a positive impression on me. Now, years later, I am the Volunteer Coordinator at the Centre for Family Literacy.  It just goes to show… Follow your passion and volunteer for what you believe in. You never know what may come as a result.