Here’s a contribution from our Communications Manager on her experience sitting in on an ALTA class.
“I recently sat in on an Alta class at our Belmont location to get some footage for a video and ended up staying longer than I had anticipated. It was one of the best things that could have happened. As Communications Manager I work on ‘the other side of things.’ I’m primarily in charge of disseminating information to our tutor network and target market and while I have a great understanding of what Alta is about, how the programme is run and the incredible impact it has had over the years, nothing beats experiencing something first hand.
What struck me first that day was the diversity in the classroom. I think when most people imagine an Alta class they think of students in their late 30’s and older, but there were women and men from 16 to 65 years old, not just sitting in the same class, but working together, helping each other with exercises, reading the newspapers together and encouraging each other.
During the exercises that day, the class learned about words like rope where the silent ‘e’ at the end of the word results in a long ‘o’ sound. This made me think about my own experience with learning to read which I don’t remember. The class went through all the words like rope and then others like ‘come’ where this rule does not apply. It made me think of how difficult it must be to remember all of these rules. In that moment I was in awe of every single student in that classroom. Making the decision to come back into the classroom as an adult is a daring one – especially for students who had negative experiences with education when they were younger. Sticking it through the Alta programme and committing to coming to class twice a week for two hours to improve their reading and writing skills, while also managing other life commitments is a great achievement.
Unfortunately due to stigma surrounding poor literacy skills in society, many look down on Alta students. Last week as I sat in on the class, I really could not be prouder of them- they’re all heroes and heroines in their own way. The Alta programme is unique; it really is the answer for anyone who struggles with reading, writing or spelling. I now understand what our tutors mean when they say they leave their Alta classes feeling refreshed and fulfilled. ”
In celebration of Alta’s 25th anniversary, the Association plans to host a series of events in the month of March. Since 1992, Alta has provided free reading and writing classes to adults around the country. This has resulted in an Association of over 250 tutors, thousands of students and over 50 venues around Trinidad. Due to the size of the organisation, Alta operates in regions with a coordinator spearheading all Alta programmes and decision making in the different regions. The regions have decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary in their own way.
Alta’s first event was a Sports Day, held last Saturday March 10, 2018 from 9AM-6PM at the Lopinot Historic Complex. This event was hosted by the East and Mid-East Regions and catered specifically to Alta students and tutors in this region. It was a day of competitive and non-competitive fun among both tutors and students from Alta’s East Trinidad classes. The Alta programme encourages at least one outing per academic year which should stimulate a writing lesson for students. As the East region has often done this as a regional event, their sports day was welcomed by students and tutors alike.
The second event will be an afternoon of ‘Readings Under the Trees’. This event will be hosted by Alta’s North region this Saturday March 17, 2018 from 2PM – 5:30PM at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Port of Spain. Well known authors such as Michael Anthony, Lisa Allen Agostini and Judy Raymond will be joined by newly published writers such as Kevin Jared Hosein, Breanne McIvor and Judith Theodore. Members of the public are invited to come listen to readings by these authors, as well as Alta tutors and students. Children are also welcomed as there will be a special area for them with appropriate readings from authors and literacy games. Alta asks that all attendees walk with drinks, eats and mats or blankets as we celebrate.
The final event will be hosted by ALTA’s South and Central regions and will take the form of a Fun, Food and Frolic Day. The event which is also open to the public will be held on Saturday March 24, 2017 at Guaracara Park, Pointe a Pierre from 10AM-4PM. The event will be partly sponsored by Mario’s Pizzeria Limited who will be there with giveaways, games, their mascot and prizes for winners of the various games! The different Alta venues in South and Central Trinidad will be distributing samples of food and playing literacy-centred games, all with a literacy theme.
Alta looks forward to the celebration of the organisation in the coming weeks and encourages members of the public to join Alta tutors and students at ‘Readings Under the Trees’ in Port of Spain on Saturday March 17th and the Fun, Food and Frolic Day in Pointe a Pierre on Saturday March 24th, 2018.
Monday morning blues after busy weekend lime,
Sort out cards, read over notes, prepare for Alta time.
Traffic’s bad, it’s wet outside, a hundred things to do.
But my students come because they know I’ll be there too.
“Good Morning Miss”, comes from a welcoming face,
A sense of purpose tells me I’m in the right place.
A greeting, some chat, cards on the table,
It’s a good place to come; people do what they are able.
Class starts, heads bow and brows furrow,
Tutors quietly help, there is hope for tomorrow.
Topics are discussed while ideas are shared.
What would happen if nobody cared?
A bag of fruit from someone’s yard,
A smile for mastering something that’s hard.
We get our thanks in many ways.
For knowing we are helping make better days.
There’s no us and them, we are all just people,
We teach them letters, they teach life’s struggle.
If we can make a difference and hear what they say,
Shouldn’t we do what we can in our own small way?
By: Judith Affoo, Alta Tutor
Judith Affoo is one of Alta’s stalwart tutors and the Regional Coordinator for all Alta venues in North West Trinidad. Judith’s words in the poem above echo the sentiment of many tutors who come to Alta to teach adults to read and write. While they do not receive financial compensation and finding time to tutor twice a week is sometimes difficult, it is well worth it!
There are only three weeks left to sign up to be an Alta Tutor this year! Interested persons should have a Grade I or II CSEC English (or equivalent) and be able to commit to teaching an Alta class twice a week for two hours each time, from September 2018- July 2019.
If you have the time, Alta tutors over the years have all said that their experience tutoring has not only been incredibly rewarding but also an eye-opening experience. Here are the six steps you should take if you’d like to become a certified Alta tutor:
STEP ONE: Make contact
A simple phone call or email to one of Alta’s three offices to express interest in volunteering and have questions answered is the first step to becoming a volunteer. Persons calling can also schedule to attend an interview in Belmont (624-2582), Arima (664-2582) or San Fernando (653-4656).
STEP TWO: Interview
Volunteer tutors at Alta are unpaid, but no experience is necessary to become a volunteer. Volunteers must have Grade 1 or 2 in English and be able to commit to teach for an academic year. Interviews allow an opportunity to meet long-serving Alta members and get a better ‘feel’ for the organisation.
STEP THREE: Observe
Volunteer applicants get the privilege of meeting our students when they are invited to observe a class in session for 8 consecutive visits. Observation is a prerequisite for Alta’s annual Tutor Training Course.
STEP FOUR: Train
ALTA provides training for all tutor volunteers. At the end of the observation period, volunteers will be asked to contractually agree to commit to teaching at an Alta class in September (which immediately follows training) before they can attend training. Training is a very important period on the ALTA calendar, and is done over six weeks between April/May. Training gives volunteers the skills necessary to deliver the Alta Programme.
STEP FIVE: Teach
Volunteers who complete the training will choose a class venue where they will begin their year of volunteer service. Teaching is the practical component of Alta’s Tutor Training Course and volunteers must complete 150 contact hours of teaching, or an academic year to be certified as an adult literacy tutor. Newly trained tutors are placed with an experienced tutor to team teach at a venue of their choice.
STEP SIX: Certify
Completing an academic year as an Alta tutor is an accomplishment to be celebrated and each year certificates are awarded to volunteers completing their year of service at our Annual General Meeting. Certified tutors can then become members of the Association.
Alta looks forward to hearing from you!
Many persons know someone who needs Alta – it may be someone you work with, someone you meet while running errands or they may be a friend or family member. Fortunately, there is still space in Alta classes around the country for them but sometimes it’s a difficult topic to broach – especially with someone you may not be familiar with. How should you tell them about Alta? Last week, Alta shared some guidelines for potential situations which may be helpful when speaking to non-readers about Alta classes. Today, the column explores two other situations which can assist.
Bank Info: The Adult Literacy Tutors Association, Republic Bank Limited, Elerslie Plaza, Acc No: 3405028337401
On November 1, 2017 the Adult Literacy Tutors Association launched a brand new logo. The launch of the logo, which was designed by Keya Marketing, is the first of a number of events planned for ALTA’s twenty fifth anniversary. Celebrations begin this month and will run until September 2018. The logo which is meant to reflect youth, vitality, relationship building, transformation and social movement has been well received by ALTA’s membership.
The desire to remain relevant in the minds of the public, led to ALTA taking many steps in the past year to establish and maintain a strong brand presence. All the advice received said that the logo needed to be updated. The black and white logo which many have come to know, served ALTA well in the largely print medium of the first 25 years. However it doesn’t work as well on the screens of phones, tablets and computers. The teal and orange in the new logo are colours which stand out on these devices and reflect the youthfulness and vitality which this logo is meant to represent.
As ALTA turns twenty five, the three main goals are to develop ALTA Online, strategic planning and spreading awareness of ALTA. The third goal will be achieved when ALTA becomes a household name. While the program is known very well locally and even regionally, a lot of work still needs to be done with strengthening brand awareness and ensuring relevance in the minds of the public.
Additionally, the anniversary will be marked by celebrations in all regions. Rather than hosting a national event, the seven regions of ALTA – North East, North West, Mid East, East, South West, South East and Central – will host events for tutors, students and members in their respective regions. There is also a plan to host Tutor Recognition Awards for members who have served with ALTA for a number of years and those who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The anniversary will also see the launch of the highly anticipated Republic Bank sponsored ALTA Online programme. ALTA Online will bring the ALTA programme to anyone with an internet connection. People 9+ will be able to access this online programme to strengthen their literacy skills via their computers, tablets or phones.
ALTA looks forward to another twenty five years of empowering adults through our literacy programmes and remains grateful to all sponsors who continue to support ALTA’s initiatives.
In Trinidad and Tobago today, anyone interested in volunteering has quite a number of causes and organisations to choose from. Organised volunteering has certainly grown over the years with persons young and old getting involved in giving back to community on a consistent basis. Volunteering with ALTA is a commitment and could be a long process if you’re interested in becoming a tutor but the rewards are surely worth the investment. If you’re thinking about volunteering with ALTA but not too sure of the benefits, here are three benefits current ALTA volunteers enjoy!
If you have a particular interest in education, teaching, learning or literacy, ALTA is the place for you. Whether you are a seasoned teacher or have never entered a classroom, volunteering with ALTA gives you the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Before entering the ALTA classroom, you’re given the opportunity to observe ALTA teaching methods at a venue close to you and then you’re trained by expert facilitators and trainers during ALTA’s annual Tutor Training Course.
ALTA tutors will tell you that the intensive training period is extremely rewarding. You are given thorough training in teaching methods, classroom delivery and team teaching. These are skills which will last a lifetime and which you can use with your own children. When you begin teaching, you will gain further skills in time management, patience and creativity which will benefit you in your personal and professional life. At the end of the academic year you are certified as a trained adult literacy tutor.
Many of the skills you learn as a volunteer can also come in handy at your workplace and make you a more dynamic and holistic person.
When you volunteer with ALTA, not only are you giving back to the national community by improving the national literacy rate, you may be assisting an entire family in your community. Sharing the skills of reading and writing with someone who may have children in their care can change the quality of life for an entire family.
Many of the social ills which scourge Trinidad and Tobago can be removed if people were more invested in building community. We depend on each other for survival and so we should try to help each other in whatever way we can. If you have the opportunity to build your community and improve the society in which we live, why not help?
Volunteering helps you to have a positive impact on another life. By working with ALTA, you will be returning to society some of the benefits that society gives you.
Dedicating some of your time to a worthy cause is a good way to meet new people on a professional and personal level. ALTA classes ensure that you are able to spend time with other like-minded people and make meaningful connections. Many volunteer tutors have found lasting friendships in ALTA; friendships with co-tutors, facilitators, staff and students. Once you contact ALTA and sign up to be a tutor, after your interview, you will have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. You will interact with students and ALTA tutors during your class visits and observations and meet other prospective tutors during the training sessions. Imagine that you can do all this while making a difference! Call ALTA at 624-2582 and experience the benefits of volunteering with ALTA today! ALTA asks that interested persons have a Grade 1 or 2 CSEC English and the ability to commit to teach for one academic year (September 2018- July 2019).
The Sustainable Development Goals are targets which member states of the United Nations have agreed to work toward. The goals cover a plethora of issues from poverty, education and health, to sustainable development, environmental factors and equality with the aim of transforming our world.
ALTA’s work falls mainly under goal number 4: Quality Education. This goal speaks to “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all” (United Nations, 2017). A solid education is truly one of the best ways to improve people’s lives. It is out of this idea that our current ‘live your best life with ALTA’ campaign was born. Goal number 4 is a means of encouraging governments around the world to invest in quality education and increase access to education – especially for young girls who for different cultural and economic reasons are often denied even a primary school level education. Many persons think that this only happens in poorer countries and regions, but there are many ALTA students who never learned to read and write because they were forced to leave school early to take care of relatives, work or help out at home.
In Trinidad and Tobago education is mostly free but this is not enough. To ensure quality education our system has to be one which ensures that students in secondary school are literate – you would be surprised how many students in Forms 2 and 3 around our country struggle daily with reading and writing. By providing reading, writing and spelling classes to adults (16+), ALTA hopes to empower persons through literacy. Our comprehensive, structured literacy programme offers anyone over the age of 16, the opportunity to improve their literacy skills using materials produced by ALTA with our students in mind. The programme ensures that our students are able to read to their children and assist them with their homework. This can change the culture of a home – parents become more involved in their children’s academic life and the material learned at ALTA benefit both parent and child. In this way ALTA is contributing to Sustainable Development Goal number 4.
Our work also contributes to Sustainable Development Goal number 1: No Poverty and Goal number 10: Reduced Inequalities. Poor literacy skills undoubtedly affect individuals holistically, but people who cannot read and write well are more likely to live in poverty due to unemployment or lack of stable employment. People with poor literacy skills earn generally 30-42% less than people who are literate and their income tends to remain the same throughout their working life, as their literacy skills stop them from furthering their studies (World Literacy Foundation, 2015). Literacy can improve someone’s socio-economic status and also give them new opportunities.
ALTA is proud to contribute to three of the Sustainable Development Goals through our literacy programme.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are targets which member states of the United Nations have agreed to work toward. The goals which were set in 2015 are meant to frame the policies and agendas of countries around the world until 2030.
As one of the member states, Trinidad and Tobago has signed on to the agreement, but has not yet made clear which goals align with our top priorities. The 17 goals cover a plethora of issues from poverty, education and health to sustainable development, environmental factors and equality with the aim of transforming our world.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) around Trinidad and Tobago have worked tirelessly over the years on many of the issues covered by the 17 SDGs but not always cohesively. Collaboration and partnership have worked in advancing development in countries around the world and can work here too. With this in mind, on September 20, 2017 a group of 21 leading, local CSOs lead by a consortium of seven members officially launched the SDGs Catalyst Network. The group was formed with the aim of enhancing civil society’s contribution to governance and development process in Trinidad and Tobago.
The launch was chaired by Dr Jennifer Sancho, CEO of United Way Trinidad and Tobago with a speech from Nicole Leotaud, Executive Director of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI). There were greetings from Arend Biesebroek , Head of the EU delegation to Trinidad and Tobago who is the main sponsor of the project, Peter Mitchell of the Ministry of Planning and Development and Hazel Brown of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women who was the CSO representative on the panel.
After the launch, an inception meeting was held with all CSOs present to discuss the way forward for the project which will run for the next three years. During the meeting it became apparent that a lot of the work that organisations have been doing over the years is interconnected. This means that a lot of opportunities exist for partnership, capacity building and knowledge sharing within the network.
While the networks consist of 21 members, the knowledge and networking will surely benefit other CSOs around both Trinidad and Tobago which the members are connected to. The project consists of four components which are being led by CANARI, United Way TT and Veni Apwaan. The components will explore capacity building, advocacy strategies, networking and knowledge sharing. ALTA is looking forward to being a part of this esteemed group and using our network for good.