Serving since 1978
A BRIEF HISTORY
A society that can put a man on the moon, invent the computer and educate all its citizens is both an amazing achievement and something we almost take for granted. But some people never get a chance to share in that achievement, or even in the basic personal accomplishments it is built on. For many different reasons, hundreds of people cannot or do not benefit from the standard education they receive and emerge as young adults with low literacy levels. As a result they find themselves limited in the workforce, and frustrated as parents and as citizens.
The Canadian Council on Learning estimates that 19.9% of the Canadian population has low literacy levels, and even lower numeracy levels. The Council also expects these proportions to get bigger in the next 10 to 15 years. However, where there is a problem, we can always find people who are up to the challenge.
Back in 1978
A group of volunteers in Winnipeg decided to take up that challenge. They formed "Winnipeg Volunteer Reading Aides" proudly declaring "We help people learn to read". Their idea was to train volunteers to help individuals with their reading. Under the auspices of the Lutheran Church Women, they invited U.S.. literacy experts to train tutors to work one-to-one with learners. At its peak, WVRA had as many as 100 matched pairs of tutors and students. Their work was highly valued by organizations dealing with the fallout of low literacy - and institutions like Earl Grey School and later Red River College recognized its value by providing free space. Because of this community support, for the first six years WVRA was able to operate on a purely volunteer basis with no funding. Inevitably, as demand for its services grew, WVRA needed more than friends and gifts to survive. The Winnipeg Foundation became the first funding organization to support their endeavours.
In the 1980s the organization applied for funds from the Federal government and carried out research projects to qualify for these grants.
In 1983 WVRA incorporated as a non-profit and later changed its name to LiteracyWorks. Later in the 1980s, they also began to receive funding from the Province of Manitoba.
By the early 2000s the Federal Government was no longer interested in funding service-based literacy and since that point the main funders for the organization have been the Government of Manitoba Adult Learning and Literacy Program (AL&L) as well as the Winnipeg Foundation and the Manitoba Community Services Corporation.
In 2009, the Manitoba Government enacted a new Literacy Act that required all government-funded literacy groups to offer minimum hours of classroom tuition in addition to any tutoring they might provide. In 2010, under the direction of Sabena Singh LiteracyWorks has been providing six hours of literacy classes per week, in addition to a reduced tutoring program.
Our goal for the foreseeable future is to increase student enrollment in our classes while maintaining the option of tutoring for those not yet ready to - or unable to - benefit from the classroom setting. To this end we are developing a partnership with Horizons Adult Learning Centres and planning to move into a shared, enhanced space to help us better serve more learners.