For 37 years, Reclaim Literacy has worked to help the English community fight illiteracy. They have provided reading and writing skills to adults, children, and English language immigrants in need. In September, they moved to Verdun in a partnership with the Epiphany Church and set up their Learning Centre within the church. They held the inauguration for their new center in early November.
Reclaim is an acronym for Reading Council for Literacy Advance in Montreal, a community-based, not-for-profit charity that offers two streams of services to their clientele, one-on-one tutoring and group sessions. Demographics have shifted over the last few years and they realized that there was a greater need for their services in Verdun.
« We were in Saint Henri for 13 years but doing a lot of work in the Verdun as it has a very high rate of illiteracy. But it also has a high rate of volunteerism in the English community, so we and realized we should have our home base here, » explains Reclaim Executive Director Joy Fyckes.
In an effort to reach their clients, they formed a partnership with the Epiphany church and moved in.
Reclaim Literacy helps clients with two approaches, group sessions at their Learning Centre and One-on-One tutoring either in the Center or in the client’s home. There are three different groups at the learning center, with between 15-20 learners in total, and there are 14 pairs of one-on-ones.
Group sessions are led by a volunteer « literacy learning facilitator » who introduces basic reading skills, journal writing and words of the week in small groups at the Learning Centre. More than 40 adult learners pass through the program each year.
The one-on-one tutoring deals on a more personal level, as many of those who come for help are suffer from the shame and stigma of illiteracy. Helping them overcome that is part of the process. Often the older clients left school early to work or have been suffering from undiagnosed learning disabilities for their entire lives.
For some of the younger clients, though they may have been diagnosed with disabilities, they are pushed through the system due to lack of resources. Other cases involve recent immigrants from English speaking countries who have never gone to school.
Regardless of their background, Reclaim Literacy tries to support them through the often difficult process of learning how to read and write.
The move to the Epiphany Church has been a welcome one. Reverend Brian Perron sees it as another step in the community building project he started two years ago when he became the parish priest. « I see this as a great place to reach out to people to inform and encourage. Today we had 90 people show up for the inauguration. Our partnership with Reclaim is the tip of the iceberg, » he said.
Councilor Luc Gagnon was on hand and the reverend was quick to praise him for the boroughs support of the church and local groups like Reclaim Literacy. They are also supported by the Government of Quebec and the English Montreal School Board.
« Quebec has been very good at investing in literacy at the ground level. Other provinces put literacy as a job market essential skill, Quebec wanted literacy accessible to all, » Joy Fyckes states.
The Learning Centre currently operates Monday to Thursday mornings and Thursday afternoon, while the one-on-one tutoring works at the time and place that is convenient to the client.
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