Cecelia has always had difficulty with math.
The Victoria resident, who did not want to give her last name, is dyslexic. When she was younger, she moved around a lot, making it challenging to find consistent help.
She had problems such as adding tax onto grocery bills. Being on a fixed grocery budget, she would end up going to a register with no idea of the dollar amount in her basket.
“It’s difficult for me to see the numbers the right way,” Cecelia said. “It’s been really hard.”
That’s when Cecelia decided to get help.
She had seen signs for Project Literacy Victoria, a program that provides free one-on-one literacy tutoring, and decided to enrol. Shortly after, she was paired with 21-year-old volunteer tutor Austen Whitehead.
Whitehead developed an activity plan to help Cecelia with her math skills. They started with math problems and worked their way up to multiplying the 12 per cent sales tax to prices, as well as long division.
Over the last four months, Cecelia’s skills have improved dramatically.
“I feel more confident now,” she said adding she received 28.5 out of 29 on a recent math test.
Kathleen Troger, executive director with Project Literacy Victoria, said she’s seen a visual difference in Cecelia as well.
“She’s just blossomed in front of my eyes. When I first paired her up with Austen she was very nervous and uncomfortable and didn’t have a lot of eye contact,” she said. “Whereas now, she looks me in the eye. She’s beaming.”
Cecelia and Whitehead are one of 50 tutor-learner pairs at Project Literacy Victoria.
The program has been operating in the city for the past 28 years, helping adults with literacy such as reading, writing, comprehension, numeracy, and provides support for computer-literacy related goals as well. They also assist residents with getting driver’s licences or B.C. Medical.
However, last fall the program was forced to close its doors for six months due to funding cuts, despite public outcry from tutors and people who benefit from the program.
This year, the program was one of 89 non-profit organizations on Vancouver Island that were awarded a record-breaking $1.7 million in community grants from the Victoria Foundation.
The $20,000 grant for Project Literacy is a significant chunk of the program’s $80,000 to $100,000 operating budget, allowing them to continue to offer programs again.
Troger said they’ll work on rebuilding the program, including bringing on additional staff.
“It really is going to help us focus on increasing the number of tutor-learning pairings we have and ensuring the quality of our programming is as high as it possibly can be,” she said, noting they also received $50,000 in funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education. “This service is a real fundamental in this community.”
Carol Hall, director of community initiatives and grants with the foundation, said this year’s grant recipients address at least one of 12 vital sign issue areas, including learning, arts, environment and homelessness.
“Literacy is really central in helping people realize their potential. It’s a cornerstone to community well-being in many ways,” Hall said. “We’re really pleased to see such a diversity of projects going out in this year’s community grants.”