Volunteers of the Month

July 2024

Doug White

Meet Doug White, our July 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Doug’s family consists of his wife, three children, five grandchildren and two cats.

He has been tutoring with Project Literacy for one and a half years.

Prior to joining Project Literacy, Doug gained teaching experience with School District #23 where, for 33 years, he taught social studies (history and geography), psychology and English at the senior high level.

Doug applied to tutor with Project Literacy after reading an article about our organization. He was looking for a volunteering position and thought it would be a perfect match for his skill level.

His greatest satisfaction with tutoring comes from seeing a student progress in their English and continue to adapt to their new country. A new Canadian citizen emerges before his very eyes.

When not tutoring, Doug enjoys traveling, hiking, golfing, cross-country skiing, reading, and playing with his grandchildren.

We are so pleased to have Doug as a tutor with Project Literacy. His tutoring has been so valuable and we appreciate his generosity of time. Congratulations to him for being named our July Volunteer of the Month.

June 2024

Brigitta Switalski

Meet Brigitta Switalski, our June 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Brigitta has been happily married for almost 47 years, to her husband George. They have one son, William.

Brigitta joined Project Literacy’s tutoring roster in 2020. Previously, she tutored in Hamilton, Ontario for Hamilton Literacy Council for approximately nine years. Upon moving to the Okanagan, she wished to continue this generous activity. She actually began tutoring because she saw a PSA on her television, one night, which showed a very young girl speaking with the elders in her community about the teachings of the bible. They did not recognize the book and it dawned on Brigitta that seeing pictures and symbols is not always enough to get by. Knowing how words, tone, intenation, and the culmination of it all is most imporant.

She enjoys the opportunity to meet the unsure members of our community who just need that helping hand to learn. It’s all the incentive she needs to continue to educate.

During her personal time, Brigitta loves to sew, though claims she is no seamstress. She enjoys needlecrafts as well as other craft projects. Like so many Okanagan residents, she loves to walk. She also travels when she can; spending quality time with friends and family.

We are so proud to have Brigitta within the Project Literacy family and so grateful for her many years as a Tutor. Congratulations to her for being named our June Volunteer of the Month!

May 2024

Peter Rochfort

Meet Peter Rochfort, our May 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Peter was born a proud fifth generation B.C. boy during the last century. Married to his lovely wife, Krys for 53 years with three children, four grandchildren and currently one dog (a pure bred Mexican beach dog). Peter has lived in Kelowna for the past 44 years with no intention to move anywhere else. For three years, he had coached the K.L.O. High School girl’s rugby team with Project Literacy Board Member, Doug Manning, as well as the Kelowna Crows mini rugby for two years. Peter also coached girl’s house soccer for 10 years and co-coached the rep team to five B.C. titles, for which he received ‘BC Soccer’s Coach of the Year. As well, Peter coached, both, Okanagan College’s and later UBC-O’s girls’ soccer teams. He also coached the senior boys rugby team at OKM and senior boys rugby team at K.L.O. (different years). One could say he is an expert at coaching human tenacity.

Peter began tutoring with Project Literacy in December 2023. Previously, he had never tutored before but felt his experience with coaching would help immensely. He really looks forward to coming into “work” and enjoys working with both staff and students. Peter’s current student, Ruben, is incredibly focused and has a real thirst for knowledge. One of the foremost reasons why Peter joined Project Literacy was because he thought that, as a nation, if we are going to welcome people from all over the globe, we should be prepared to help ease them into the workforce and society.

He has always taken pleasure in globetrotting to new and exciting places. He has been to China three times, Taiwan twice, Mexico five times, the Carribean a whopping fifteen times and across Canada and nineteen of the United States. When relaxing at home, Peter also spends a significant amount of time reading as well as in his garden growing a fair amount of beautiful flowers. In addition to all of this, you will also find Peter at the “Arctic Blondes Club” for his regular Thursday libation.

Peter is such a delight to have as a Volunteer Tutor with Project Literacy. Congratulations to him for being named our May Volunteer of the Month!

April 2024

Joanne Grindley

Meet Joanne Grindley, our April 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Joanne originally grew up in Montreal and Toronto. She moved her young family west, first to Edmonton, then Calgary and finally settled in Kelowna just over 20 years ago. She has two grown children who currently both live in Montreal. During the isolation of the COVID years, and after recently losing her beloved 16 year old border collie, she weakened and adopted a new puppy who keeps her very busy!

Joanne has been volunteering with Project Literacy for two years and has had the honour of meeting and tutoring two wonderfully talented and brave women from the Ukraine and more recently from the Philippines.

Before joining Project Literacy, she did not have any previous tutoring experience. Although, she was a university graduate with a major in English and Theatre, most of her previous experience had been business related in her executive career in management. Joanne has always been interested in different volunteer opportunities. In speaking with friends, neighbours and acquaintances, Project Literacy was consistently mentioned as a great organization that offers a fun, meaningful volunteer experience.

Joanne feels that tutoring at Project Literacy has given her, not only a sense of purpose, but also of community. She is most appreciative of the wonderful relationships that she has developed through her involvement with Project Literacy; whether it has been with her students, fellow volunteers or the “enthusiastic and talented staff.” It has been a tremendously rewarding experience.

In her downtime, Joanne adores hiking, biking, dog walking, yoga, pilates and generally being outdoors or simply spending time with friends. Enjoying great theatre, films, art, books and wine are also on the top on her list!

Joanne is such an integral part of the success of Project Literacy and we are so incredibly grateful for all that she does. Congratulations to Joanne for being named our April Volunteer of the Month!

March 2024

Patti Sader

Meet Patti Sader, our March 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Patti is proud of her small-town Alberta roots. However, she is extremely happy to have called West Kelowna ‘home’ for the last 32 years. She and her husband are both teachers and have enjoyed living and working in this beautiful corner of the world. They have three amazing adult children — one is a nurse in Smithers, one is a scientist at the University of Victoria, and one is studying to be a doctor at University of BC in Prince George.

Patti started volunteering with Project Literacy in December 2022. Prior to tutoring with Project Literacy, she was a classroom teacher for over 30 years. She began her career in Whitecourt, Alberta. She then had the privilege of teaching in an international school in Sao Paulo, Brazil for three years. Patti and her husband enjoyed a rewarding year in Hainan China teaching at a college for English language learners. It was great to return home to the Okanagan where they began teaching in School District 23. For the last 14 years of her career it was a joy to teach Kindergarten children. 

After retiring, she was looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities where she could utilize her skills. Patti has always been drawn to newcomers to Canada. The few years that she spent overseas helped her realize the importance of learning to communicate.

Patti delights in volunteering with Project Literacy and particularly loves the relationships that she has developed with her students as they are such inspiring women!

When not volunteering at the learning centre, she absolutely loves spending time in the outdoors…hiking, biking, canoeing and cross-country skiing. She loves a lively game of pickleball as well as quiet evenings reading a book, playing piano or playing table games. Crokinole anyone? Retirement has opened up opportunities to travel…across Canada and beyond. Last year we fell in love with the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy. A return trip may be in the works.

Patti is such a valuable part of the Project Literacy family and we are so profoundly pleased to name her our March Volunteer of the Month!

February 2024

Marie Schmidt

Meet Marie Schmidt, our February 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Marie is a retired language teacher and has had a rewarding career teaching people of all ages and from many countries. She is an immigrant from England who arrived in Canada at the difficult age of thirteen. This is why she can empathize with students experiencing homesickness and culture shock.  After graduating from UBC, she lived in Japan. She moved to Kelowna, three years ago, and started to build a new life here. Her three adult sons also moved to Kelowna to began their careers in a more friendly environment than they were experiencing in Vancouver. Marie’s husband has also been lucky enough to transition to working from home and so they live together with their Aussie Shepherd dog.

In the two years Marie has been volunteering at Project Literacy, she has worked with four different students.She feels so very grateful for the opportunity to work in an organization that allows volunteers to make meaningful connections in the community. Marie loves the energy that her students bring to their lessons. She also loves the sharing that happens working one-to-one with another person.

Her interest in language teaching began back in her twenties when she taught reading to Kindergarten students. She went on to work with dyslexic students in a detailed systematic approach to language. Marie combined those skills with her CELTA training to become an EFL teacher. She loves making individualized curriculum to match a learner’s needs and interests.

She really loves working in a quiet environment with super kind and hard-working people. She also loves the flexibility to take short holidays. Recently, she went to the BC rainforest in Bella Coola to observe Grizzly bears in the wild.

When not at Project Literacy, Marie loves walking and hiking outdoors. She also enjoys taking road trips in her green truck called Fern. Last summer, she drove around the Kootenays. Marie also takes delight in getting out onto the lake in the summer paddleboarding and outrigger canoeing. Since turning 40, she has tried one new thing every year. Her favourite part of her week is her yoga movement class followed with an almond milk cappaccino.

Marie is such a tireless and dedicated tutor. Her learners clearly love her, as do we! Naming Marie as our February Volunteer of the Month was an easy choice and rightfully earned!

January 2024

Alex Carr

Meet Alex Carr, our January 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

Alex originally came from Winnipeg and migrated to Kelowna in 1999 with his wife, Fern, and son Matthew. Over the years, they’ve had two dogs (Westies) and a cat but unfortunately all gone now.

Alex has been a tutor with Project Literacy for a whopping 15 years! He originally heard about the learning centre through the grapevine and we are so glad he did!

As a former teacher of Physics, Chemistry and Math, Alex is always ready to quiz people on such trivia. He also loves to offer idioms for learners to understand. If you need a movie suggestion, Alex is the guy to ask!

Alex has enjoyed his many years with Project Literacy. He especially delights in the opportunity to become friends with people of many different cultures and learning about their customs.

When he is not tutoring his roster of learners (because you can never have just one!) he enjoys reading news articles, studying astronomy and astrophysics and travelling.

Alex has been such an incredibly dedicated tutor over the years and we are so grateful that he chose to join us. It is long overdue that we call Alex our January Volunteer of the Month!

December 2023

Joan Irvine

Meet Joan Irvine, our December 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Joan was born in South Africa, 70 years ago, and came to Canada in 1967. She and her husband have been married for 42 years and they have two grown children. She was a freelance editor for 25 years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Joan is a return tutor with Project Literacy and has been volunteering, this round, since August. She first volunteered with Project literacy when she arrived in Kelowna, ten years ago, until 2018. She took a hiatus from tutoring when she found full-time contract work and then went back to College.

Before moving to British Columbia, she worked as a Christian Education Coordinator in Anglican and United Churches. While her children were in school, she volunteered in their classrooms, helping with reading and writing. She tutored schoolchildren, privately, for many years, in Math and English, as well as ESL. She also taught Creative Writing to children and adults, and was in charge of the BC Provincial Effective Speaking program of the Air Cadet organization for 10 years.

In Vancouver, tutoring was a way of earning a supplementary income. In Kelowna, as a volunteer, it was a way of both finding a place and fitting into a new community, and a way of using her skills to make a contribution to the lives of others. It is the people that she enjoys most about the tutoring with Project Literacy.

When Joan isn’t tutoring her many learners, she enjoys learning other languages, reading, teaching, swimming, cooking and baking.

Joan has been an integral part of Project Literacy’s volunteer roster. She is kind, dedicated, devoted, and so very giving of her time. We are delighted to call her our December Volunteer of the Month!

November 2023

Nycole Yanow

Meet Nycole Yanow, our November 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Nycole was born in Quebec. She is French-Canadian with French as her first language. She learned to speak English in her early teens and can appreciate how difficult it is to learn a new language. Nycole has been married for 52 years. She met her husband, Joel, while skiing in her hometown. They’ve known each other since they were 16 years old. Together, they have a miniature Dachshund named Summer and they simply adore her.

Nycole joined Project Literacy in January 2016. She graduated UBC Okanagan in 2015 and was looking for an interesting volunteer opportunity. Project Literacy just seemed liked like the perfect fit and, to her delight, it was!

Before coming to Project Literacy, Nycole had never tutored before. She did teach French, years ago, in an English-speaking daycare but teaching adults was a completely new experience. As, she herself, had learned English as a Second Language (ESL), she understood the difficulties of learning a new language and wanted to help others in that same situation. She knew it was her turn to help someone else and so she applied to become a tutor. Nycole loves the people at Project Literacy. The students are so keen to learn and her fellow tutors and the Education Coordinators are so eagre to share their knowledge of teaching. She feels that is a very rewarding experience to help a student discover new possibilities and she is such a proud Canadian who truly loves sharing her pride of Canada with the each new arrival she meets.

During her spare time, Nycole’s hobbies include her love of the arts: she paints Acrylic — mainly abstracts or modern themes. Her main pleasure, in life, is travelling with Joel and discovering new places, off the beaten track and experiencing the world on their own terms. During those travels she loves to visit European art museums which house the Masters, of which she is in awe. Whenever she can, she attends live performances. Nycole also loves to cycle, kayak, downhill ski and play pickleball.

Project Literacy feels so lucky to have Nycole as one of our Volunteer Tutors. Her years of dedication and passion have given so many new opportunities in their lives. We are so pleased to name her our November Volunteer of the Month!

October 2023

Teresa Nykilchuk

Meet Teresa Nykilchuk, our October 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Teresa has two older brothers, two amazing sisters-in-law, and three wonderful nephews. She typically has a cat, although her current one spent most of the summer outside 24/7. She is hoping this cooler weather will encourage him to spend more time inside with her!

Teresa began volunteering with Project Literacy in 2016. She can’t believe it’s been seven years of tutoring! Before tutoring, she did not have any formal educational training although in her employment, she was accustomed to training her colleagues on the software systems they used. Teaching others came naturally to Teresa.

She chose to join Project Literacy for two reasons:

  1. She liked the idea of making immigrants feel welcome in Canada; helping them get over the isolation that can happen if they can’t communicate. And…
  2. She also loves to travel, herself, and is interested in learning about other countries and cultures. Many times as a traveller Teresa has been in situations where she has struggled to make herself understood and relied on hand gestures, broken words, and the patience of the listener to get what she needed. So she completely understands that perspective and wants to let her students know it is fine to take the time needed to express themselves.

One of the things she enjoys most about tutoring, is the chance to learn about her student’s former lives in their home countries. The things that are similar to Canada and the things that are different. For example, in Korea, SPAM (canned pork and ham product) is held in such high regard that they have special edition SPAM gift baskets to give at certain times of the year. Teresa is fascinated in knowing that and trying to imagine the reaction she would get if she brought SPAM as a housewarming gift here in Kelowna.

When not tutoring, travelling is Teresa’s greatest passion. She has lived in three other countries other than Canada and been to approximately 40 countries on six continents. Only Antartica is left to discover and she hopes to do so within the next three years. Reading and learning is her next big passion. Teresa loves to expand her knowledge-base and challenge herself. She’s just gone back to school to retrain as an Accountant after 24 years in Marketing. She loves starting from “I have no idea how to do this” and getting to “OK I understand this now.” Achievement is a wonderful feeling. Teresa also loves spending time outdoors, typically in the summer she hikes around Wilden and loves paddling with her dragonboat team: the Sonar Dragons. They actually won a gold medal at the Vancouver Dragonboat festival which was a 100m sprint!

Project Literacy is so appreciative for all that Teresa does here at the Learning Centre. Not only is she a tutor but she also has been our volunteer weekend waterer all summer long and has volunteered for our various events. She is such an asset to us and we are so grateful to have her here. Thank you, Teresa for all that you do! And congratulations on being our October Volunteer of the Month!

September 2023

Clint Kilback

Meet Clint Kilback, our September 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Clint was born and raised in Cranbrook, BC and also lived in Calgary for 11 years before moving to Kelowna for work in 1998. He attended SAIT in Calgary studying Chemical Technology which led to his job here. He spent 16 years in the Hazardous Waste business as an operator, lab tech, manager and technical advisor. Currently Clint has two jobs: one at a local church in facilities and another as an audio/video and livestream tech for a local funeral home.

Clint met his wife Jennifer, in Calgary, and they’ve been married for 26 years. They have two lovely daughters. To round out the household, they have a dog, a Boston Terrier named Indie, and two cats, Fionna and Peter.

Prior to joining Project Literacy, Clint had no previous tutoring or teaching experience other than helping fellow students and family members when asked. He was in transition between jobs and looking for something meaningful to do with his time. He had helped his wife get through a statistics course for her accounting program, and she suggested he should consider tutoring. Clint has now been tutoring with Project Literacy since 2015.  He started as a Math tutor but has also been a Digital Literacy tutor for the past couple of years. He really enjoys helping people; meeting new people and hearing their stories. He loves to see those ‘light bulb’ moments when people’s eyes light up as they figure out something they’ve been working on.

In his spare time, Clint plays softball and hockey. He’s been a Habs fan for over 50 years. He enjoys travelling, camping, being outdoors, reading, cooking and cars. He also volunteers as a sound, media and video tech at his local church. In fact, He enjoys techie stuff of all types. He really loves spending time with his family and pets.

Project Literacy is so appreciative for all that Clint does here at the Learning Centre. We need more diverse tutors like him and we are honoured to call him our September Volunteer of the Month!

August 2023

Linda Hawker

Meet Linda Hawker, our August 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Linda is a retired family doctor, happily married for 43 years with three adult children. Her one son is a doctor in Kelowna, another son is a nurse practitioner in Pitt Meadows and her daughter, in Toronto, is a policy analyst for the federal government. When Linda retired from practice, eight years ago, she knew that she wanted to continue volunteering in the community, something that she had done at her children’s school as well as for the Central Okanagan Bursary and Scholarship Society. She and her husband also volunteered with a local group of doctors and nurses teaching health care professionals in Zambia, where she saw, first-hand, the challenges they faced offering healthcare with very limited resources. This experience and the time she has spent working with newcomers to Canada through Project Literacy makes Linda appreciate the incredible privileges and opportunities we have as Canadians.

Prior to joining Project Literacy in October of 2022, Linda tutored medical students at UBCO in small group sessions for a few years, reviewing various clinical scenarios. At times, she even got to role-play being a patient, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She’s always had a keen interest in education for both children and adults and see it as a vital part of helping individuals to reach their personal potential as well as contributing to their larger community. Working with people who want to learn and put forward their best effort, then seeing the results, is extremely rewarding.

She loves the personal interaction of tutoring with Project Literacy — from early elementary school students in our Summer Reading Program to adults in our One to One Tutoring Program. Every student comes with a new set of challenges; no two are the same. Each relationship is rewarding in it’s own way. “You never know what might happen; after tutoring a struggling grade two student for several weeks she decided to write a story, six pages long with one sentence and a picture on each page. She was so proud!”

As well, the welcoming staff and abundant teaching resources Project Literacy offers volunteers went a long way to helping Linda feel confident and supported while tutoring. She had no previous experience teaching literacy skills, but knew she could go to the staff with any questions.

With retirement has come more time for her and her husband to do what they love: hiking, kayaking, camping and just spending time outdoors. No grandchildren yet, but they do dog-sit their son’s young Whippet named Zip, who lives up to his name! Last but not least: Linda loves to read and expand her horizons.

Project Literacy is so grateful to have such a dedicated volunteer like Linda within our organization and we are so thrilled to name her as our August Volunteer of the Month!

July 2023

Eric Chung

Meet Eric Chung, our July 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Eric graduated from the University of British Columbia, where he majored in Geography and minored in History. He became interested in volunteering for Project Literacy because it offered him the extraordinary opportunity to reach students within the Okanagan. Tutoring helped him to learn even more about different places and their pasts. He doesn’t currently have any pets but, one day, he would like to have a cat.

He started volunteering as a tutor with Project Literacy in 2021 and has been volunteering with Project Literacy ever since. Eric decided to start tutoring with Project Literacy because he wanted to help support as many students as possible through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has also volunteered as a Reading Mentor with the ‘Learning Buddies Network,’ and as a Cadet in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets before joining Project Literacy in 2021.

Eric enjoyed tutoring online and getting to know each of the students who had their own unique and interesting ideas to share during their reading sessions together. Often, he got the opportunity to also get to know their pets too! He truly relished exploring the books and making connections with the students about their favorite animals, foods, and places.

Eric studied Geography because he took delight in exploring the outdoors, taking landscape photographs, and making maps. In hi spare time he likes skiing, swimming and mountain biking. On weekends, he induldges in brewing coffee and making fresh bread from scratch.

We feel so fortunate to have Eric as a tutor with Project Literacy and are delighted to name him as our July Volunteer of the Month!

June 2023

Linda Hanlon

Meet Linda Hanlon, our June 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Linda has lived in Kelowna for almost 20 years. She moved here from Calgary with her husband and daughter, Cate, who now lives in in London, UK after getting her degree from St. Andrews University in Scotland. Linda and her husband try to get over to her twice yearly.

Linda started volunteering with Project Literacy when Cate left for university, six years ago. Prior to tutoring, Linda was an elementary school teacher for 16 years, prior to getting married and having a child. She did much volunteering in her daughter’s classrooms and did one-on-one tutoring there for several months. She also worked a summer with an ESL company that offered six-week camps in Calgary, Alberta.

Linda decided to start tutoring with Project Literacy because it seemed like teaching without the bureaucracy. The hours are very flexibe and the people are great. She loves to meet the students who need help. Their stories are so amazing and she feels she has bonded with nearly all of them. It truly gives her great satisfaction to see the progress they have made.

When not generously devoting her time to Project Literacy, Linda spends most of her home time in the kitchen. She enjoys cooking and baking and trying to make something untried at least once a week. Her husband loves everything she makes, which helps. When her body allows, she enjoys golfing and cycling. They also travel a fair bit and love to visit Europe. Linda finds other cultures greatly interesting. Her most substantial pleasure is found in having a good cup of coffee or glass of wine on their dock whilst watching the world go by.

Linda plays such a pivotal role as a tutor with Project Literacy and we are so very happy to name her as our June Volunteer of the Month!

May 2023

Gary Alzomal

Meet Gary Alzomal, our May 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Gary is originally from Regina, Saskatchewan. He is married to his wonderful wife, Kim. Approximately seven years ago, they relocated to the Okanagan after retiring from careers teaching in rural Saskatchewan. They enjoy spending time with their family and especially with their three grandsons in Calgary and Okotoks.

Gary has been volunteering as a Digital Tutor with Project Literacy for about five years.

He was a high school teacher in rural Saskatchewan for 35 years teaching — mainly teaching Math, History and Computer Science/Applications. For the last eight years of his career, he was a Digital Learning Coach, working with individual teachers in classrooms to enhance their digital skills. He was also part of a team that presented numerous workshops introducing new approaches to using technology in the classroom. He also taught introductory wordprocessing, spreadsheets and basic computer skills for adults at the local community college. Teaching and learning with technology has been an important part of Gary’s career for over 40 years.

He has always enjoyed teaching and learning. Working with adults has been a major influence in his career. It led him to go back to university later in life to obtain a Master’s Degree in Adult Education. Gary sees himself as a lifelong learner and thoroughly enjoys providing learning opportunities to other adults, especially seniors. His teaching style involves finding  a way to make technology work for the student in their own situation, enhancing their existing skills which leads to more confidence in using their devices. The one-to-one tutoring Gary does at Project Literacy works well with his teaching style. 

Gary thinks the people at Project Literacy, both staff and students, are great! He feels that the connection tutors make with their students is one of the best parts of tutoring. Working with students is rewarding especially when they reach that “Ah ha!” moment and they realize they can perform a new skill.

When not tutoring, Gary likes to read, golf, curl, cross-country ski, go biking and enjoy taking walks in the Okanagan sunshine. He and his wife also enjoy travelling, both, throughout Canada and abroad. Gary has a keen interest in history and enjoys discovering local histories everywhere they travel.

Gary is a vital part of the Project Literacy world and we are incredibly delighted to name him as our May Volunteer of the Month!

April 2023

Judy Arnold

Meet Judy Arnold, our April 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Judy and her husband, Alan, grew up and worked in Ontario for many years. They came to British Columbia in 2001 and moved to Kelowna in 2012 when Judy was working in the Yukon. She formally retired in 2017 but continues to do consulting work with the First Nations in Yukon. Judy and Alan, have two sons and a daughter. One son and their two grown grandchildren live in the Kelowna area. Their middle son lives in California and has a seven-month-old son. Their daughter is an English Department Head in Burnaby. They have two dogs, both schnauzers — the elder dog is Tucker and the younger is Skyler.

Judy began volunteering with Project Literacy since 2018.

Prior to joining Project Literacy, Judy had a background in education and had completed masters and doctorate degrees in leadership and curriculum design. She began as a teacher and then became a Principal and held various leadership positions at the Ministry in British Columbia and the Department of Education in Yukon.

She continues to be interested in education as a key to the success of all learners, children or adults, and as she had not worked with adult ESL learners, previously, it presented her with a brand new challenge.   

She enjoys individualizing approaches and programs to suit the needs of each learner. One tactic she uses is taking them shopping so they can better identify the products they need on a daily basis. She also enjoy watching her students grow as English learners and as new members of Canadians society.

Judy and her husband love to travel around the world and to learnabout different cultures and meet amazing new people. She also loves gardening, exercising, hiking, and kayaking in the summer.

Judy is such a beacon of joy when she comes to the learning centre and we are so very pleased to name her as our April Volunteer of the Month!

March 2023

Ruth Walper

Meet Ruth Walper, our March 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Ruth is a retired Accountant and had a 30 year career with several municipalities around B.C. She is divorced and has a son and daughter and five grandchildren that she loves very much. She was taking a course with CREST, a Christian Leadership program when she moved to Kelowna in the summer of 2013.

One of the suggestions in the course was that they be involved with a non-profit organization. Ruth saw an ad by Project Literacy looking for Volunteer Tutors and contacted the office. She was then interviewed and accepted as a Volunteer and took a brief training course with several others.  Ruth started with us in the fall of 2014.

Before tutoring with Project Literacy, Ruth had no prior tutoring/teaching experience. She had been a speaker at some of her accounting and municipal conferences but no teaching experience to speak of. She did, however, traine and encourage staff during her career and has found that experience applicable to tutoring.

Ruth has found the friendly environment and offered training by Project Literacy to be exciting and she was eagre to start tutoring.  Once, one of her students asked Ruth what she wanted to do when she was a child. Thinking back to that time, she responded with “I wanted to be a teacher.” Her student said, “Well now you are!” Until that moment, she hadn’t realized that she indeed was!  Ruth is now doing what she’s always wanted to do since she was a little girl.

Ruth really enjoys talking with her students and getting to know them better. As they learn better English their conversations get more in depth, and she loves to see this happen. Often, she learns about the students’ cultures and that increases her empathy and knowledge about their differences and similarities.

In her free time, she loves to read and to do group studies of books. She started dancing with her father shortly after her separation and consequent divorce.  She really enjoyed doing that, although she hasn’t done it for a few years. She may just start doing it again! IRuth also likes to swim, practice yoga, hike and walk. She also loves to visit with her son and his girlfriend and also her daughter, her husband and Ruth’s grandchildren. They often look for some kind of adventure to undertake, as a family, such as the butterfly world, Kangaroo Farm, botanical gardens, etc.

We are so very happy to name Ruth Walper as our March Volunteer of the Month. She is truly a kind and generous addition to the Project Literacy family!

February 2023

Sylvester Abanseka

Meet Sylvester Abanseka, our February 2023 Volunteer of the Month!

Sylvester joined Project Literacy in August 2022 as a regular sought-after Digital Tutor. This wasn’t his first experience teaching digital literacy, as he had done something similar in the UK. There, he would train people at work, from time to time, as part of his daily tasks, albeit on more security-focused topics.

Sylvester decided to start tutoring with Project Literacy as a small way of giving back. Sylvester believes that he is who and where he is today because someone spared time out of their hectic schedule to help. So whenever and wherever he can, he tries to do something within the community.

Besides digital tutoring with Project Literacy, Sylvester has also volunteered to:

  • Walk retired greyhounds who were awaiting adoption.
  • Courier medication and other duties to senior citizens as part of the British Red Cross.
  • Be part of a rescue team of 4×4 owners to help people stranded or stuck in harsh weather conditions.

Sylvester loves digital tutoring with Project Literacy because he witnesses the joy and confidence his learners develop very quickly when using their devices or performing other tasks. He also enjoys the variety of challenges and people he interacts with.

We are so very happy to name Sylvester Abanseka as our February Volunteer of the Month and are so grateful to have him in our Digital Tutoring roster!

January 2023

Basil and Rita Skodyn

Meet Basil and Rita Skodyn, our January 2023 Volunteers of the Month!

Basil and Rita have been married for 33 years. They are both retired. They have two daughters and one son who live in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. They have four grandchildren, all girls, aged 13, 15, 20 and 22.


Basil is an immigrant to Canada and has lived here for more than 50 years. English is his second language but he began learning it as a child of five or six years. He can appreciate the difficulties of a new language, especially to an adult.

Prior to retiring, Basil was a teaching assistant at UBC in Vancouver for two years as I worked on my masters degree in English literature.

He has been tutoring with Project Literacy for approximately five years. He saw how much enjoyment tutoring gave Rita so he asked her to refer his name to Project Literacy as a potential volunteer. He enjoys meeting new people who wish to learn English so they could make a new life in Canada.

Basil enjoys taking walks with Rita and watching movies. He likes crossword puzzles and card games, biking, golf, and other outdoor activities.


Although, she was not a teacher, Rita taught library classes when she was a Librarian at a small school. She also volunteered with West Kelowna schools, tutoring students who were struggling with reading.

Rita began volunteering with Project Literacy in 2015. She really likes helping people. Her parents were immigrants and she knows of the struggles involved in starting over in new country. Rita felt that with her experience of copyediting and working in a library, she could aid people in learning English.

She’s truly enjoyed getting to know people from all over the world – Kazakhstan, Dominican Republic, Syria, Morocco, Quebec and Ukraine – and learning about their cultures. She’s also loved sharing our Canadian culture with them and helping them improve their English.

Rita loves walking and will often walk from their home, in Lakeview, to either Kelowna or West Kelowna! She’s been vegan for 15 years and enjoys experimenting with new recipes. Basil is a good sport about trying the things she makes…he’s even tried tofu although it’s not his favourite. Rita also volunteers with the Kelowna dog rescue: Paws It Forward — an amazing organization that helps countless dogs. Additionally, she is utilizing the Duolingo language app to learn a little Ukrainian so she can better understand the challenges her Ukrainian learners have with understanding English. She finds it fascinating. There’s never enough time in the day to do everything she wants to do but she does her best to do quite a bit.

We are so very thrilled to name the dynamic duo, Basil and Rita Skodyn as our January Volunteers of the Month!

December 2022

Geraldine (Gerry) Hewitt

Meet Gerry Hewitt, our December 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Much of Gerry’s life has been spent travelling and living in other places, especially Australia where she lived for 13 years. She still returns regularly to Australia to visit her son and his wife. Her daughter, on the other hand, lives close by in Vernon with her lovely Siamese cat, her grandpet, Theo.

Gerry has had the pleasure of volunteering at Project Literacy for approximately eight years!

She became interested in teaching English as a Second Language, in Australia. She recognized there were challenges being in a new culture even with a shared language so she became involved with an ESL program for immigrants called Each One Teach One. This interest in teaching ESL continued when she returned to Canada; volunteering for Kamloops Immigrant Services, and returning to UBC for more ESL training. Then began a long teaching career at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops where she prepared international students to learn English for their academic programs. The students came from all over the world – Asia, South America, Europe, the Middle East. It was exciting and gratifying to teach and learn about so many languages and cultures and to be with these students as they prepared for their future.

Volunteering as a tutor at Project Literacy was a natural next-step when Gerry retired and came to live in Kelowna. She had always enjoyed teaching ESL and, with an introduction to Elaine and all those working at the Learning Centre, she felt welcomed to Project Literacy. At Project Literacy, helping someone to learn English is more than teaching and/or learning a language. It’s also about helping them to reach their goals and to live confidently and comfortably in their community.

Project Literacy is a meeting place for learners from around the world where tutors have the privilege to share in their journey. Project Literacy offers great educational support and encouragement and celebrates learners’ success.

In her personal time, Gerry likes to be active especially outdoors – walking, hiking and exploring the Okanagan with her partner, playing pickleball and badminton. She also enjoys reading mysteries, playing the piano, and taking part in a local group Next Steps for Walking the Reconciliation Path.

Learning about different cultures continues to be an important part of Gerry’s retirement, by travelling to new places and also by tutoring learners who bring their life and their dreams to Canada.

We are so very happy and honoured to name Gerry Hewitt as our December Volunteer of the Month!

November 2022

Felour Behrouzi

Meet Felour Behrouzi, our November 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Felour is a retired Registered Nurse. She is originally from Iran but has lived in several countries including Zambia, China and Bulgaria. She and her husband have three children: two sons and one daughter as well as seven grandchildren.

She taught nursing in Iran for two years and at a Zambian Nursing School for ten years. She also taught English a foreign language for one year in China.

Felour has been volunteering with Project Literacy for just over a year. She likes volunteer work, especially if someone can benefit from it — to see the progress of her students with learning English and its effect in their lives. She also loves to learn about different cultures and the beauty of what we all share.

Felour has a love of reading non-fictional books, socializing with friends, new and old, and just being of some help to anyone in need.

We are so thrilled to name Felour Behrouzi as our November Volunteer of the Month!

October 2022

Dale Darychuk

Meet Dale Darychuk, our October 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Dale is a retired lawyer who moved to Kelowna, last December with his wife, Tracy, and their three adult daughters. They have one pet: a Flatcoat Retriever named Romeo. They moved from New Westminster and are very much enjoying the Okanagan life with Romeo happily swimming in the lake, most days. They also enjoy volunteering with the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project at their vegetable farm plot — planting, weeding and harvesting some fabulous vegetables for local charities.

Dale became involved with Project Literacy after attending the presentation of their radio play, “For the Love and Apples,” presented at the Kelowna Community Theatre in March 2022. He decided to start tutoring as a way to meet some interesting people and make a small contribution to assisting people in adapting to the English language and Canadian lifestyle. As a student of languages and a traveler, he knows the difficulty of learning a new language and fitting into a foreign culture. Dale has no tutoring or teaching experience, however, he has been on the other side as a student while attempting to learn Italian and is empathetic to his students’ plight.

Dale enjoys learning from his students about the lives which they left behind to come to Canada. He loves to learn about their country, especially their every day activities, such as what they eat, their transportation systems and how they spend their personal time. Dale also takes delight in enlightening his learners, in return, about Canadian elements such as the hockey team: Toronto Maple Leafs, not “leaves” — despite it being grammatically incorrect. He knows that English is an extremely difficult language with all it’s silent letters, idioms and own set of rules. He truly enjoys his time at Project Literacy and it’s very rare that Dale and his students don’t have a good laugh in their lessons.

Dale has great admiration for the hard work and diligence his students have in attending their weekly lessons whilst also working full-time and adjusting to Canadian life. It is always inspiring for Dale to meet that diligence and do his best to encourage them and to give them the opportunity to achieve their goals in their new lives.

When he is not spending his many hours at Project Literacy, Dale loves cycling, reading, and gardening. He and his wife also enjoy new challenges. Since coming to Kelowna, they have taken up rowing and they are working on eliminating the pontoons on their rowboat. They’ve also taken up tap dancing! Their middle daughter was married in July and they performed a tap dance to the song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” at their reception. They had so much fun with the choreography and hope to create another routine for Christmas!

We are so happy to name Dale as our October Volunteer of the Month!

September 2022

Dennis Averill

Meet Dennis Averill, our September 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Dennis lives with his wife, Judy, and their two cats.

He has been volunteering with Project Literacy for four incredible years.

Before tutoring with us, Dennis was a teacher for over 40 years. He taught elementary, middle and high school and college students. He also delved into the administrative side of education.

He began tutoring with Project Literacy because he enjoys working with adults, especially new immigrants to Canada. Not only do they learn from him but he loves learning from them — new things from each one.

Dennis enjoys seeing the different perspectives from various cultures. It fills him with a sense of gratitude for having been born into a Western culture.

In his spare time, he loves to exercise, dance, explore local surroundings, target shoot, Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera classes, researching UFO phenomena and watching movies. He a true movie buff.

We are so pleased to name Dennis as our September Volunteer of the Month!

August 2022

Tom Morton

Meet Tom Morton, our August 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Originally from Winnipeg, with stops in Calgary and Vancouver, Tom and his family decided to retire to Kelowna in 2021. He shares a role of servitude for two alpha felines: Blue and Figaro.

After joining Project Literacy through their Volunteer Fair in September, he was entrusted with his first learner in October 2021 — UBCO foreign students and two families who decided to immigrate to Canada and make Kelowna their new home.

Tom’s professional experience includes corporate training, however, Project Literacy is his first opportunity to support individual learners.  Appreciation for the teachers and professors who left a positive imprint in Tom’s life was a catalyst for his decision to become a tutor at Project Literacy.

Also, growing up in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Winnipeg, witnessing the challenges immigrant families faced as they started their new lives in Winnipeg, contributed to Tom’s decision to help newcomers to Kelowna learn English and assist them with their transition to Canada.     

The leadership, guidance and support by the team at Project Literacy provide the relevant tools and curriculum necessary to help learners achieve their English language goals.

Complimentary, and equally important, is the opportunity to help leaners with a variety of tasks that could include academic papers for UBCO students, reviewing driver education manuals, completing government forms, resumés, job applications etc.  Tutoring at Project Literacy is also a learning experience for tutors as learners share stories about their countries’ culture, history, events, politics and family experiences. Their excitement for a new life in Kelowna and Canada is contagious.

Tom’s greatest pleasure is time with family and friends.

Tom is active with Prostate Cancer Foundation British Columbia as a member of the Board of Directors and the organizing committee for the West Coast Motorcycle Ride to Live. Also, joining the Kelowna Newcomers Club has been an excellent opportunity to meet people who share similar interest in sports, cultural events, dining and entertainment. 

We are so very delighted to name Tom our August Volunteer of the Month!

July 2022

Ann Dinnert

Meet Ann Dinnert, our July 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Ann is married to Bernd, an immigrant from Germany, many years ago. They lived in Toronto and the surrounding area for most of their working lives, before they retired and moved to Kelowna in late 2015. She has an independent step-daughter, Sabine, and a dog, Callie.

She has been volunteering with Project Literacy since 2017.

Before tutoring with Project Literacy, Ann was a successful lawyer. As such, she has an deep appreciation for the English language, and she also enjoy learned new languages herself. In doing so, she felt that she had something to contribute to the language learning community.

The passion started with the Syrians, who were in the news in 2016-17. She enjoys international travel, and wanted to do something to help the Syrian Refugees integrate smoothly into Canada. She found they were largely coming to Kelowna and, in the process or her search to help, she found Kelowna Community Resources. This amazing centre partners with Project Literacy, which later lead Ann to our Learning Centre! She found that teaching English was the way she felt most suited to helping immigrants.

Ann loves helping immigrants to integrate and feel welcome within Canada. She also takes pleasure in learning from them about their own lives and cultures in their home country, and their new lives in Canada. She also, very much, delights in learning about how to teach, and how each person learns differently; things that she has been learning organically whilst tutoring.

Ann enjoys pretty much all of what Kelowna has to offer, including hiking, boating, downhill skiing and snowshoeing, golfing, wine, reading and travel.

We are so very delighted to name Ann our July Volunteer of the Month!

June 2022

Sanaa Katula

Meet Sanaa Katul, our June 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Sanaa moved to Canada almost eight years ago with her two younger boys. Her two older sons remained in Lebanon. All four are her pride and joy.

She has been volunteering on and off since for over fifteen years.

Sanaa is a teacher by profession with a degree in special education.

She knows how difficult it is to move to a new country, especially when one doesn’t speak the language. It is so easy to feel isolated when you can’t communicate with people outside your household.  Sanaa is so glad she can make use of her qualifications and empathetic nature to help.

For Sanna, the best part about tutoring is the students. She has been so lucky to teach so many inspiring people who are determined to learn, and who, in spite of the many difficulties, still manage to come regularly, on time, with a smile on their faces.

In her spare time, Sanaa loves all kinds of crafts: knitting, painting, mosaics, and quilting.  She enjoys taking long walks in Kelowna’s beautiful parks. Her greatest passion, however, is reading.

Sanaa is a lovely bit of sunshine, here, at Project Literacy and we are so pleased to name her the June Volunteer of the Month!

May 2022

Geoffrey Barrow

Meet Geoff Barrow, our May 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Geoff is married, retired, and a proud grandparent. He feels he is pretty much living the dream.

Geoff has been tutoring with Project Literacy for almost eight years! Having never taught or tutored before, this was a new experience for him and he’s never looked back. He has always enjoyed reading and wanted to extend this skill and passion to others. Upon his retirement, he found he had more time at his disposal and chose to join Project Literacy to do just that.

Most of the Learners he has tutored, over the years, have been recent immigrants to Canada. From them, he has learned a great deal about their countries of origin and the cultures from which they come. Through them, he is reminded of how fortunate we are to live in Canada. By them, and their dedication, he is constantly inspired. Being able to share their successes is just a bonus for Geoff.

In his spare time, Geoff enjoys hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. His grandchildren are the greatest pleasures of he and his wife’s lives.

Geoff is a dedicated and generous Tutor, here, at Project Literacy and we humbly award him the title of May Volunteer of the Month!

April 2022

Blaine Rose

Meet Blaine Rose, our April 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Blaine grew up on a farm in southwestern Manitoba and as a young lad, enjoyed the cattle and especially the playful newborn calves. Eventually Blaine moved to Alberta and worked as an elementary school teacher in Northern Alberta, teaching indigenous students for two years prior to teaching in Calgary. When he retired from teaching, he worked as a ‘Work Experience Advisor’ at a private college, in Calgary, before settling in Kelowna.

Before tutoring with Project Literacy, Blaine had experience working as a private tutor with elementary school students. Once he was retired he wanted to find meaningful ways to spend his time and approached Project Literacy to begin volunteering.  A couple of years later he also began volunteering as an ambassador at Kelowna’s airport. Blaine has now been volunteering with Project Literacy for 12 years.

Blaine enjoys working with the students one-on-one at Project Literacy and getting to know them.  Blaine loves that Project Literacy is a warm , welcoming environment with a caring and committed staff.

These days, Blaine likes to spend time with his family and friends. He loves to read, play golf, volunteer and he’s looking forward to being able to travel again once it is safe to do so!

Blaine is such a positive asset to Project Literacy and we are proud and grateful to him for so many years of support and service. We are honoured to call him our April Volunteer of the Month!

MARCH 2022

Glenna Turnbull

Meet Glenna Turnbull, our March 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

Glenna started volunteering with Project Literacy back in 2011 as a member of the board. She completed a two-year term and enjoyed it very much. She also helped organize and promote the Wine & Words fundraising event with some other amazing board members. It wasn’t until COVID-19 hit and her professional workload lightened substantially that she was able to start volunteering as a tutor in the summer of 2020. She felt very lucky to learn early in life how wonderfully satisfying it is to volunteer. While serving on Project Literacy’s board, Glenna glimpsed the impact that tutoring could have on people’s lives, so once her schedule and solo parenting duties made it possible, she put in her application to tutor.

What she loves most about tutoring is the amazing opportunity it gives her to meet and work with people who are eager to learn. Without fail, every session with every Learner has some instance where they find themselves laughing and Glenna says she has learned so much from the people she tutors. “It’s incredibly satisfying!”

When not tutoring at Project Literacy, Glenna is an avid skier, hiker, and commuter cyclist. She loves camping and snowshoeing, as well, and prefers to be outdoors whenever possible. Yoga has been a huge part of her life for more than two decades as it helps both mentally and physically to cope with life’s stresses, as does playing the piano (Royal Conservatory Grade X). Glenna has had several short stories published in literary magazines and currently has two novels that she is seeking representation for. She is also just starting to work on a third.

Glenna raised two sons as a single parent while putting herself through university, taking one or two courses per semester. Her ‘boys’ are now two amazing young men, both of whom she is extremely proud. Glenna has worked as a freelance writer and photographer most of her adult life and work as a stained-glass artist. She now has two dogs – a wise and amazing senior Border Collie named Finnigan and a new addition, a Great Bernadoodle puppy named Oscar. She is a regular volunteer at the Central Okanagan Food Bank as well as at Project Literacy. Glenna also taught piano when she was younger, during her university years. She had the privilege of being a teaching assistant for her Creative Writing professor, John Lent. Other than that, however, she had little experience with teaching and/or tutoring and that made her nervous. She wasn’t entirely sure how to start and hoped she’d learn what to do quickly!

We feel so lucky to have such a committed individual volunteer with us. Glenna’s passion knows no bounds and she always jumps at the chance to help whenever needed. We didn’t hesitate when coming to conclusion of choosing her for our March Volunteer of the Month!


Byron Johnstad

Meet Byron Johnstad, our February 2022 Volunteer of the Month!

If you visited the Project Literacy office over the Christmas holidays, you would have seen some of the lovely decorations, including a beautiful wreath that Byron graciously donated for our Holiday 2021 Season. Byron was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and immigrated to Vancouver in 1967 and  attained his Canadian citizenship in 1973.  So, immigration is also part of his personal story.

Byron has been tutoring with Project Literacy for approximately eight years! He holds a Master’s Degree and taught for nearly 27 years in post-secondary institutions in BC. After retiring in 1997, he has worked at keeping his time, mind and skills engaged with post-retirement activities such as teaching, along with display design and teaching Interior Design. Byron sees volunteering is one of the ways that he can give back to his community and being part of Project Literacy allows him to share and utilize his teaching experience and instructional skills.

Through volunteering at Project Literacy, Byron feels tutoring English to new Canadians is a very meaningful way to create real change in our learners lives. Byron says, “acquiring and expanding language and knowledge of Canada gives our learners skills that help them integrate, achieve, prosper”… thus, they become a more comfortable resident in their newly adopted country and with a new language.

On a more personal note, Byron has maintained an aesthetically developed home and garden and enjoys searching for undiscovered and undervalued antiques or collectibles in local thrift shops. Byron acknowledges that at his advanced age of 8o he is required to cut back on some of his more physical activities, however teaching is using the brain muscle and it is easy enough to continue to exercise this way!

Project Literacy would like to thank Byron for his enthusiastic efforts and years with us. We are proud to honour him, with the title of February Volunteer of the Month!