A story of a volunteer at the Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust
Written by Bruce Fincham
During the first COVID19 lockdown in NZ, I was jobless, yet hopeful that a new adventure and opportunity was waiting for me around the corner. After countless job applications and unsuccessful emails coming back, I thought…NOW WHAT?
Luckily, I was fortunate to find a volunteer role.
Early into my new role, I came to realise just how much of an issue reading and writing literacy is in NZ nationwide. Before joining RYALT, I had absolutely no idea and to be quite frank, I thought it was something EVERYONE knew how to do it!
Boy was I wrong! Boy was I ignorant in thinking that!
Part of my job is reaching out to communities via social media. Seeking people to come forward, letting them know about the free service we offer. A service to help rural youth and adults improve their literacy. The responses that came through blew me away! It was really quite humbling, and my heart went out to these people who took the courage to even reach out and say they needed help!
Jo, our CEO, says that people often ask her what a literacy student is like, and her answer is that they all have one thing in common – ‘they have courage.’
I felt something spark up inside of me. Before I knew it, I became very, VERY, PASSIONATE. I wanted to get the message out to the whole of New Zealand that we (RYALT) are here and we WANT to help!
With my passion for RYALT’s mission being extremely high, I wanted to know more about our non-profit organisation. Still, most importantly, I wanted to bring AWARENESS to the literacy issues people face. Like me, you too may have no idea of the literacy issues within our rural youth and adult communities. You may have come across someone in your life that struggles with reading and writing, but like me, you probably put it down to the odd one out of the whole entire country. AGAIN IGNORANCE!! AND I AM TRULY SORRY FOR MY IGNORANCE!!
I have decided that no matter what it takes, I am going to do my utmost to bring awareness of the lack of literacy to the public consciousness. And also, bring awareness that the organisation I work for can help!!
I had a desire to carry out some research of my own. The goal was to find what issues existed for Maori/Pacific Islanders, low decile High Schools; and what problems existed with reading/literacy in general. It did not take me long to find information upon information around this. One thing that stood out for me was one particular news article by a teacher who wrote about her experience in teaching at a low decile High School and what she saw. It absolutely broke my heart! It almost reduced me to tears reading about students where outside-of-school-influences played a role in how they approached reading and literacy. The environment they lived in, their family, the support, or the lack of support, all contributed towards a student’s capability to read and write. She noticed that the majority of these students entered High School already 2 years delayed in their levels of reading and literacy from where they should be within their age group! I just could not believe it!
This only added fuel to the fire. Even more, I wanted to reach out to the Youth and the Adults that had literacy issues.
How could these literacy issues not be a priority!
I see focus around health and wellbeing, but isn’t reading and literacy part of wellbeing? When youth and adults struggle in these crucial areas, the individual has a lack of confidence, esteem and typically struggle pretty much their whole life with these issues! The individual declines into a world where they have to pretend, hide in fear of embarrassment or worse! They hide in fear of facing bullying! To have this carry right through life from youth into adulthood is such a heavy burden!
When youth and adults are helped overcome what they see as a massive obstacle in life, it brings about such a wealth of increased self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth!! You soon come to notice that they stand taller, they are smiling. Their eyes brighten up – they have newfound hope – they know they can overcome significant challenges in life!
I applaud anyone that has shown the bravery and courage to reach out and seek help!
To those out there that do not know, or to those that know someone going through these struggles – PLEASE, I URGE YOU, I ENCOURAGE YOU – PLEASE reach out to RYALT. We are here to help!
The service is free! Literacy lessons are in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace and at a time that suits. The one-to-one tutoring is friendly, open, and non-judgmental!
PLEASE REACH OUT TO US TODAY! Ring us on 0800891339 or private message me through this link https://www.facebook.com/RYALTrust/
This article is based on a story as told and written by a volunteer at RYALT – Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust.