02Jul 20

Highlights 2019-20: A Year of Unpredictability and Adaptation

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As I sat down to write about what I would say to highlight this year for READ Saskatoon, all I could think was “Wow”. We are living through strange times that none of us could have foreseen in our wildest dreams, not only for READ Saskatoon, but for all the areas of our lives. We have had to adjust on the fly with changing information, sometimes on an hourly basis, all while doing our best to be responsible community members and still attending to our basic needs. If this has been challenging and stressful for me, imagine how it must feel for the one in three adults in the province who struggle with literacy challenges.

I imagined having to deal with daily updates from my children’s school via email and trying to provide support for online classes when I am perhaps a single parent, new to Canada, and not familiar with the normal operation of the school system. It would be difficult to understand the ever-changing rules, directions, and guidelines for recognizing symptoms, seeking medical advice, and going out in public. While our governments provided additional programming for financial support during these times, we had to apply for everything in writing online, and wait for hours to speak to someone on the phone for assistance, if you could even get through.

As I imagined this, I was so grateful that organizations like READ Saskatoon exist, and that I am lucky to be part of it. The staff and the Board stepped up during this challenging time, holding frequent communications and discussions of how best to serve our clients while maintaining safety for the learners, volunteers, and staff. 

I joined the Board of READ Saskatoon because I love to read. I found it devastating that some people could not immerse themselves in a good fiction novel or learn about a celebrity’s life through a great autobiography or teach themselves a new skill. As I have progressed through my four years on the Board I have gained a much greater understanding of the challenges  our learners overcome: reading prescription labels, helping children with homework, navigating the workforce, applying for RESPs, understanding budgeting and managing debt, and now navigating a pandemic focused world.

Our programming year that started in September did not start off in a pandemic, and the Board put a strong focus on our strategic roadmap through: Mapping the Route – strengthening our internal environment by creating an exceptional place to work and serve communities; Filling the Tank – Ensuring our financial resources meet our community’s literacy needs; and Going the Distance – Increasing literacy skills in our city and province. This foundational work allowed us to weather the pandemic these last few months. We did experience setbacks. The office needed to be closed and staff continued to work from the safety of their homes. All programs were cancelled and technological solutions needed to be found. Two fundraisers were cancelled: LIT UP!, our gala event, and Telling Stories & Storytelling. Unfortunately, revenue was not the only casualty, we missed the opportunity to recognize some of our key learners and supporters.

Even with these barriers, programming was only impacted by the logistics of pandemic restrictions, and the staff put on their thinking caps to find new and creative ways to still reach our clients. Our volunteers and staff  provide tutoring support, family literacy programs, and continued our children’s tutoring program using online platforms. This opened our eyes to the possibilities of expanding our virtual reach to the four corners of this province- to learners we have never been able to reach before. We are not out of the pandemic woods and while no one knows how long it will be until “normal” life resumes, one thing I know for sure is that READ Saskatoon will continue to provide important support to our city.

Leah Shipley
Chair, Board of Directors
READ Saskatoon