53 years ago this fall we opened the doors to our Literacy Program and in that time our tutors and learners have worked together through earthquakes, floods, fires, refugee resettlements, recessions, immigration crack-downs and amnesty to build better lives for their families. We are infinitely grateful to the people who have supported this project with their time, talent and contributions over the years. Because of them we have built a strong program to serve the needs of our neighbors.
As we each find ourselves stating in nearly every context of our current lives– We have never seen a year like this! The entire California Educational system – from pre-school to Higher Education – is struggling to find a way to manage instruction safely during this pandemic. The majority of our tutors are retirees, a higher risk population for Covid, and the majority of our learners work in high-risk, low wage jobs that are “essential” to our economy, yet provide little protection or health care to their workers. For the first time in our history, face to face instruction has been suspended since February.
Our volunteers have been working hard to reinvent our beloved program to work in these conditions. While it is challenging and requires redesigning everything we do, from intake to testing, curricula, tutor training and support, and actual instruction, we realize that our learners have never needed us more.
Consider what our Literacy Program learners are facing:
Most of our learners are struggling to support their children’s distance learning without the community tutoring and after school programs they normally rely on. The children of Spanish speaking families are falling behind disproportionately during distance learning. Our tutors can be a lifeline for these parents and seeing their parents work with distance learning themselves is a powerful lesson to their children.
We know that Covid is decimating low wage earners in the Latino Community nation-wide, and that many of the benefits that have kept other families whole, such as the stimulus check and extended unemployment, are not available to our students. Our Access to Health Care units can save lives. In addition to providing information and referrals to our learners to help them access resources, we were also able to pass along food gift cards provided by an anonymous donor to 75 of our learners.
Unemployment is at 20% locally, with high impacts in the restaurant, housekeeping and hospitality sectors that employ so many of our learners. They are desperate for tools and skills to help them move into other jobs. Our Survival Skills Get a Driver’s License lessons are helping learners find a path to getting hired in the growing grocery and food delivery industries. We are emphasizing job skills and job search in the refresh of our Tutor training and Survival Skills lessons plans to give our students the tools they need.
During the best of times, our students have to work hard to create a path from poverty to prosperity that has always been the promise of the American Dream.
In October we launched a special campaign to raise the funds needed to stand with our participants when they need it most.
We hope you can help us meet our goal of raising $25,000 before the end of the year, so we can invest in these modernizing changes to meet today’s challenges:
- Only half of our tutors can teach through video conferencing, so we must double our tutor core in the next 6 months to meet the needs of learners on our waiting list.
- In November we launched our first completely online new tutor training series and are hoping to expand and upgrade our video/webinar hosting to increase our capacity for this.
- All current tutors must be retrained to substitute effective distance learning strategies and new online material, so our current lending library of resources must be replaced with online resources.
- With no in person classes, we must train volunteers and establish convenient test locations throughout the county so learners can be assessed and learning plans developed in a timely way.
We know it has been a tough year for you too, and we realize that the current conditions mean that not everyone can volunteer or give in the same way they have in the past but we invite you to do what works for you. Every bit helps!