Success Stories

A Free Literacy Based Program is Necessary for Individuals Settling in Our Community

Erlon, Joelina, and their young son moved from their home country Brazil to Canada last October. In Brazil Erlon was a professor at a variety of colleges and universities. He even had his own IT company. Joelina studied pedagogy and was an executive assistant. Prior to arriving, they were both very nervous. Not only was it a huge change to their stable life in Brazil, but they would be moving far away from friends and family. However, with the country becoming more dangerous day by day they felt moving was necessary.

Erlon began searching for a job in the Vancouver IT sector but the couple decided Vancouver wasn’t for them so they moved to Kelowna. Kelowna became home for the couple and their son. However, when they moved here they realized their “English was not enough”. Erlon had written the IELTS English test but did not achieve the necessary grade. Unfortunately he failed by one point on his listening skills. They both reached out to English resources in the community but they could not get any support because they were on a work visa. Other English courses that were available were far too expensive. They decided to contact Project Literacy Kelowna for help. The education coordinators at Project Literacy gave Erlon the books he needed to study for his exam and paired husband and his wife up with tutors.

Both Erlon and Joelina met privately with their tutors once a week to improve their English writing, speaking, and reading skills. Erlon says Project Literacy provided huge support for his English proficiency test in order to get his permanent residency. It truly helped him achieve the grade he needed. Erlon accepted a job and is currently working at a local IT company in downtown Kelowna. He says, “the biggest challenge is the language but I am improving day by day.” Erlon wants to give back to the community by becoming a volunteer and teaching IT. He says;

I want to be part of this community. I am doing my best.

Joelina says one day she would like to teach but she must continue to improve her English. Her main goal is to get hired in Canada and will continue to work on her English until she gets there. Joelina says at Project Literacy she feels at home. Joelina explains, “everyone has been so nice to us. We feel safer… happier.” Joelina loves the weather and the friendly people in Kelowna. Erlon agrees and says, “it’s a great place to live. We are enjoying it a lot.” Project Literacy helped make this possible.


Literacy: It’s more than simply Reading and writing, it’s the Confidence to Speak

Ji Kwon is a 28 year old woman from South Korea. She moved to Kelowna in 2015. This was her first time in Canada and she was very excited to be here. However, upon arriving she realized that integrating into Canadian society would be a struggle. She was unable to easily communicate in English and she could not transfer her hairstyling skills in the workforce because she could not converse with clients.

For a year Ji studied English on her own without success. She understood the value of improving her English and sought out help from Project Literacy. In March 2016 Project Literacy paired Ji up with a tutor named Gerry whom she has been meeting once per week ever since. Ji has improved both her spoken and written English skills and has been able to secure a full time position working at Chatters, a hair salon in Orchard Park Mall. Her Project Literacy tutor Gerry explains that, “it is very important to learn language and culture because culture is held within language. What should I say? What could I say? There are lots of decisions.”

Ji has gained two steps in hairdressing and aspires to obtain a promotion to masters. Her dream is to, “get into Canadian styles, to understand how to be like a Canadian, and have a happy family.” Ji continues to meet with Gerry at the Project Literacy office before work. Ji works on her grammar, everyday Canadian English, vocabulary, how to talk to her clients, common courtesies, and what she thinks is socially appropriate or expected. Ji appreciates how both Project Literacy and her loving husband have supported and encouraged her. When asked about her future, Ji says;

My English is getting much better. I just want to be happy. I want to be more comfortable here.

Ji credits her achievements to Project Literacy and her tutor. She’s grateful for the help she’s received in achieving her goals and create a brighter future. Project Literacy’s assistance has enabled her to feel more self-assured in her abilities. Ji says, “Gerry helped me a lot. She made me very comfortable. I always tell my husband that I am so lucky to have met Gerry!”


English Idioms “Greek” to Learner from Iran

When Shabnam Javeri moved from Iran to Kelowna, she was fluent enough in English that she could land a job utilizing her degree in Economics, but if people were to say something “cool” to her, “clear out of the blue,” she would have had a “fat chance” of knowing what they were talking about.

Thanks to tutor Alex Carr, she’s getting a “handle” on the strange idioms unique to the English language. “Shabnam is quite characteristic of the people we have doing advanced English. Her vocabulary is excellent for normal conversation but as soon as you get into depth, she misses a lot of words,” said Alex.

While many might just associate Project Literacy with helping those struggling with literacy or English as a Second Language students, one look at the roster of learners Alex works with will tell you otherwise. Out of the ten he currently tutors some are advanced like Shabnam, others are studying English at the intermediate level and one student has a PhD but cannot speak English. He also tutors people in math. “Project Literacy is not only to work on English, but people come to us for math skills as well,” he said.

“Many of the university courses have a math requirement and a lot of people are afraid of math – it’s like they have a math block,” said Alex, “so the problem is to get them over their fear.” One such learner recently wanted to become a teacher but could not meet the math requirements. After working with Alex for a year and a half, she went on to ace her math exam and was admitted into the education program at the university.

Shabnam first learned of Project Literacy through a friend who had also used the services. “I’ve been to other classes before,” she said, but found them to either be too big or not suited to her goals, “but what I found is that here, you can improve on a specific area.”

Alex, who can be found at Project Literacy every day of the week, commented “Sometimes people ask me, why are you doing this for free, but when you see someone say, ‘hey, I get it!’ that’s my reward!”

Conquering Math Multiplies Careers Options
Kristy came to Project Literacy hoping to improve her job prospects. She had dropped out of high school and felt that she was in a dead-end job. Her goal was to pass the General Educational Development (GED) test to provide her with the equivalent of a high school diploma, so she could apply to a college program and move up the employment ladder. Kristy checked out the GED workbooks from the library and came up against a brick wall — Grade 12 Mathematics.

Brooks has a similar story. He also realized he needed his high school diploma to find a better job. He plans to take the GED in January. He was referred to Project Literacy by his Work BC Employment Coordinator.

Both Kristy and Brooks have been in the work force for several years and are representative of many people who come through the doors at Project Literacy. They are looking for a better, more secure future and need that extra help to achieve their career goals. After being assessed by an Educational Coordinator at Project Literacy, Kristy and Brooks were matched with math tutor, Richard Callihan. Richard has been tutoring for three years and is typical of many tutors at Project Literacy in that he is totally dedicated to promoting literacy. He began tutoring after seeing a news program about the organization that stressed the need for math tutors. Before his retirement, Richard had been a surveyor. In addition to his technical qualifications, he understood the importance of the second chance.

He had dropped out of high school himself and he soon realized that in order to provide for his family he needed a high school diploma so he could qualify for post-secondary education.

Kristy and Brooks personify the reason Richard tutors. He spends two hours twice a week with each one and lives for that moment when he sees the light go on and knows “they get it!”

Both learners stress that they could not do the GED without Richard’s help and encouragement. They are highly motivated and work hard but both say they would probably have given up if they were trying to do the program on their own.

And, that is what Project Literacy does. By providing free, one-on-one tutoring in all areas of literacy, it provides the opportunity to adults to take a step up the ladder to a better life.