Literacy Program Helps Adults Overcome Setbacks in Life

Heather sits with Frank learning to write

Imagine being unable to complete sentences for a job application or even read a menu at a restaurant. To overcome significant setbacks in many lives, The Salvation Army’s adult literacy program in Winnipeg is removing self-doubt and replacing it with hope for a brighter future.

“I feel confident every time I come here,” says Frank, 46. “I was helpless not being able to read or write. I am learning something new every day.”

“I feel confident every time I come here.”

STEP (Stages Education Program) is a community-based program open to anyone with a low literacy level (usually below Grade 6). There is no set curriculum, so an education plan can be developed for each individual student. Classes include reading, writing, math, computers and life skills.

“The goal of the program is to build up people, their reading and writing skills, so they can function in society,” says Heather, teacher of the Stage 1 literacy class. “From learning to write their name to reading a newspaper article or completing a form, we help to fill in the gaps for those who have either stepped away from learning due to crisis in their life or couldn’t study for other reasons.”

It’s Never Too Late to Learn

Frank was subjected to substance use as a child; by 14, was making his own home brew. He was desperate to fit in but was bullied repeatedly at school. One day, in Grade 8, he threw his binder on the floor, walked out and never returned. To numb that pain, for decades, he abused alcohol, couldn’t keep a job, and was in and out of jail.

“I want to get my life on track,” says Frank. “It’s time now.”

At Stage 1, which brings students to a Grade 3 and 4 reading level, Frank has learned to sound out words, read and spell. He enjoys history books and wants to be a carpenter.

Daldar works with Heather to improve her writing skills

Daldar works with Heather to improve her writing skills

At another table in the classroom sits Daldar, who fled with her family from Iraq in 2000.

“When fighting started, we lived in fear,” she says. “We left in the dark of night with only the clothes on our back and some milk for my son.”

In Canada and with small children, Daldar was unable to go to school to learn English. Now that they are grown, she is excited about this learning opportunity.

“The Salvation Army has changed my life.”

“When I came to The Salvation Army, I couldn’t spell my name. Now I can spell my children’s names, write long sentences and fill out forms. The Salvation Army has changed my life,” she smiles.

“Teaching takes time and encouragement,” says Heather. “And as a person gains confidence and skills, there is a ripple effect that positively affects their parenting, life choices and livelihoods. It is never too late to learn.”

By Linda Leigh