Quicksand: Covid-19 Edition
Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. This noun has been truly reflected in READ Saskatoon’s operations over the last 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives; it drastically changed the routines of day-to-day living. Program participants, volunteers, READ Saskatoon staff, and board of directors had to think differently, demonstrate patience, flexibility, and agility in how they worked towards their literacy goals. We are so proud to share that much was accomplished and needs to be celebrated, fully honouring 40+ years of literacy program excellence.
This past year saw everyone inundated with information continually: Covid-19 statistics and targets, roll out of government support programs, detailed provincial health authority restrictions - a literacy resource for our community members was needed more than ever, and we are honoured to have played a role to keep our community members safe.
We witnessed in-person interaction being shifted to virtual, complete with technical challenges that go along with such a switch. The volunteers, board, and staff provided the resources and connections; the participants provided perseverance and passion for success. Here are two quick examples where the result was significant: 20% increase in program participants in our adult literacy programming: “Learning to use FaceTime to read has been a great experience! It's going well. I'm reading with our grandkids more often now. Reading is tiring for me but I'm always glad that I met with my tutor” (Adult learner, 2021). We also saw a 33% increase in our children’s tutoring program as we moved into 4 school divisions: “One of my biggest highlights was when Zechariah came onto our Zoom session the day after he got his book pack. He was SO excited and told me about every single book he got and which ones he had already started reading. It was such a huge deal because before then, he was not very keen to read in-between sessions. After he got his books, he would always mention reading a bit of one of the books between our sessions” (Reading Guide, 2021). With the ebb of the most recent Covid-19 wave in Saskatchewan and the technology solutions that assisted in navigating the high tide we collectively look forward to our new learning future.
Bernard Kelvin Clive said “The future is not just about startups but stay-ups; anyone can start but it takes those who can stand the test of time to stay relevant.” Saskatchewan citizens need access to responsive community literacy programs, and we were proud to serve. We are pleased to share that based on our experience online is not impossible, even with no extra budget. In fact, harm would have come from not doing it. How do you stay relevant when you cannot navigate change? Is it ideal? No! Is it hard? Yes! Can it become an alternative method of delivery? Yes!
The 2020 cancellation of LIT UP! was the first salvo impacting our annual financial plans, it was a precursor to “we can do this, it’s just going to be different.” The READ Saskatoon virtual golf event was tremendously supported, showcasing the hard work and planning of the team members in its successful execution. Our donors were phenomenal allowing us to receive record donations for our holiday giving campaign and our monthly donor appeal. In addition, special thank you to Gail Bowen who arranged a special donation that raised over $5,000 for literacy programming.
We’ve all changed because of COVID-19. My observation is that the team at READ Saskatoon did not succumb to the operational quicksand they were thrust into, rather it was a masters class in crisis management. The team under Sheryl’s leadership took a carefully planned approach that put clients first and steadily maneuvered through the quicksand of the last 18 months.
As we look forward to another year of excellent and quality programming and initiatives delivered by the extremely talented team at READ Saskatoon, I am excited to hear, and share the success stories of our clients and of course their smiling faces in those important moments of accomplishment.
Chair, Board of Directors