Elaine Johnston loves her job with Project Literacy Central Okanagan so much that she is the longest-serving employee of the organization. As the Senior Education Coordinator, Elaine has been with the organization for over twenty years.
“I was first drawn to Project Literacy because of my passion for helping people reach their potential through achieving their literacy goals,” explains Elaine. “It is a positive place that makes a huge difference in the Okanagan.”
Project Literacy’s mission/vision is to empower individuals through literacy and provide volunteer tutoring support for the literacy needs of the Central Okanagan community. It started in 1986 and has expanded from Kelowna to include Lake Country to Peachland.
“Few people know the scope of the services we provide,” adds Elaine. “These include programs for adults, children and families. We also have a digital literacy program for seniors. It is a warm and welcoming organization where people feel at home.”
Giving back to the community is an enriching, fulfilling experience according to Elaine and Project Literacy has found that tutors receive as much benefit as they give. Tutors express that they learn as much from the students as they teach them and that they feel a great sense of satisfaction from doing their part to ensure that essential skills and knowledge are transferred to their fellow workers and citizens.
Volunteer tutors also appreciate opportunities to acquire new skills and competencies in adult education through on-going professional development offered by Project Literacy.
Volunteers support their learners in the Project Literacy office or in any public place such as libraries or coffee shops. The “lessons” are embedded in human stories, stories that demonstrate the depth of human desire and compassion, stories that weave a strong fabric of community cohesion. Another “classroom” that tutors teach in is the Community Care Garden that is planted each year by Project Literacy in collaboration with KCR Community Resources. The tutors plan lessons around growing and preparing the vegetables as students practice their English and Math skills.
“The volunteers have a tremendous impact on the community,” says Elaine enthusiastically. “We have tutors from all walks of life who are able to guide those, from other countries, in their professions; teaching Canadian practices. They also help with everyday English and with Canadian culture. Help is given with English Proficiency exams for Permanent Residence and Canadian Citizenship. Sometimes, learners need help with pre-requisites in getting into courses. Our tutors are talented, educated people with a wide range of skills.”
All volunteers must be at least 19 years old and will be required to undergo a criminal record check and provide three reference checks. Once they have been matched with their student, tutors are provided lesson plans, the needed resources and given guidance on how to use them.
“Volunteering at Project Literacy educates you about the world and helps those who are less privileged, continues Elaine. “Many have been a volunteer here for over ten years because it is so satisfying.”
“Project Literacy is an incredible place to volunteer, making the world a better place,” concludes Elaine. “You meet like-minded people and enrich your and your learner’s life. A learner who was helped with the English requirement for the Building Services Course said the tutor took the ‘rocks off his back’. He successfully got his dream job at Okanagan College.”