Where the funds go
Two out of every five Canadians struggles with basic reading and writing. It affects their jobs, their health and their family. Funds raised at the Muskoka Novel Marathon are donated to YMCA Muskoka Literacy Services (part of YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka) and help keep the doors open to those in the community that want to overcome literacy challenges for a better life.
This video features one of the program's participants and how it has helped to improve her life. (We were thrilled that Nora joined us as a first-time writer in the 2013 Muskoka Novel Marathon and has joined us every year since!)
These are some of the programs funded by your donations (information courtesy of Nancy West, Team Leader, YMCA Employment and Literacy Services. Huntsville, 2012):
The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is grateful for any donations received to help supplement the Literacy program in Huntsville. Current Government funding is limited, and allows for very basic staffing, supplies and programming. Thus, literacy programs have relied heavily on volunteers - the tutors who work tirelessly to pass their knowledge on to those who struggle with English reading, writing, and math. And any expansion of service has relied on fundraised dollars.
In Huntsville, some specific challenges have arisen. For one, seniors were coming into the centre looking for affordable basic computer training. Fast becoming the new literacy gap in the industrialized world, computer literacy is essential for even the simplest of tasks: downloading required government forms, staying connected with grandchildren, storing and sharing photos electronically, and searching for information. Yet the simple manipulation of the mouse can be overwhelming.
Responding to this need, the Computer Savvy Seniors program was born. Although developed using a short-term Government grant, the continuation of the Computer Savvy Seniors program depends entirely on donations. And continue we must….there are always waiting lists for this program and there is no other agency offering such a program in Huntsville. And because of donations, we can offer this program FREE to seniors who are on very limited incomes. As the seniors learn, trepidation turns to triumph….and a whole new set of skills unfolds to them! The world suddenly enlarges for those with even the most limited mobility!
Another challenge on the electronic front was how to incorporate electronic learning into our already existing tutoring and classroom learning. Traditionally, books, pen and paper were the learning media. Those with low literacy did not utilize computers. Even many of our tutors were of the generation that had little computer experience! So the challenge was great. Yet adding computers as a learning tool would not only enrich the learning experience, but would also add essential skills to those who carried the stigma of being too “dumb” to use computers.
This year, with donated funds, we are developing a computer learning lab for low literacy learners. Easy to use, visual menus will guide tutors and learners alike to an absolute wealth of websites geared to teaching math and English at various levels. Countless hours of research have already gone into finding the richest, most interactive sites that - quite simply - make learning FUN! Learners moving from classroom to computer lab regard their experience as a “field trip”, and anticipation is high as they sit in front of a computer and prepare for animated, interactive learning. The joy of learning is definitely evident when I pause at the door and watch the student interact with the computer. And this translates into speed of learning! Much progress happens in the computer learning lab, that has not been seen using books alone.
Finally, we have been able to provide more man-hours teaching those with the highest learning needs, as volunteer tutors who are willing to teach those at the lowest learning levels are in short supply. This reduces wait times for learners to be matched with teachers.
All of these programs are made possible by people like you, who are willing to take a step and support the learning of others. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. But as a society, we all benefit when the next person learns to read.