Reading, It’s Life!

ALTA welcomes two new Board Members

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

Since the foundation of the Adult Literacy Tutors Association in 1992, the local NGO has been guided by a strong management team and a Board of Directors. Past and present members of ALTA’s Board have helped to shape the Association into the strong, impactful organisation it is today.

The ALTA team recently welcomed two new members to its Board of Directors, Amol Golikeri and Cassandra Ramkerrysingh. Their wealth of knowledge and experience in a plethora of fields make them an invaluable addition to the current board which is comprised of:

  • Nigel Baptiste, Chairman
  • Paula Lucie Smith, Founder and CEO
  • Marise Warner, Legal Officer
  • Hamilton Padmore, Treasurer
  • Gem Rowe, Secretary

Amol Golikeri recently retired as Assistant General Manager at First Citizens Asset Management Limited with responsibility for the Investment Management, Investment Operations and Marketing Departments. Mr. Golikeri has over 25 years of experience in the financial sector encompassing asset management, merchant banking, corporate banking, risk management, treasury management and financial services, having spent the last thirteen years exclusively in asset management. He joined the First Citizens group in September 2001 after holding key management positions at Intercommercial Bank, Citibank and RBTT Bank. Mr. Golikeri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and an MBA in Finance from New York University. Amol is also a first year ALTA Tutor at the UWI St. Augustine venue.

Cassandra Ramkerrysingh is a transformation specialist with over 30 years’ experience. She has led complex institutional strengthening projects for Governments, Ministries, Utilities, and Private and Public Sector organisations toward performance improvement, growth and development. Central to these transformation projects was the design and implementation of efficient and effective processes and systems, and adult training to effect sustainable culture change.  Several of these targeted socio-economic reform. She has worked primarily in the areas of education and social development, governance and financial management – all relevant to ALTA. She has proven experience in facilitating dialogue with Ministers and Senior Leadership, International Development Agencies, NGOs and community groups.

Cassandra is also experienced in Financial and Risk Based/Value for Money/Performance Auditing and has worked in several countries. She holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Warwick University, UK, a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Mathematics from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She is a Project Management Professional (PMP) with Project Management Institute (PMI).


The Association welcomes our two new board members and anticipates mutually beneficial relationships as we work together to empower adults through literacy.






Sitting In On An ALTA Class

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

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. ”


Celebrating ALTA 25

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

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.

Being an ALTA Tutor

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

Being An Alta Tutor


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.


 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.


 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.


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!

How to speak to a non-reader about Alta

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

After a successful student recruitment campaign last September, Alta registered and welcomed over 800 new students to literacy classes around the country. Walk-in students are currently being accepted at select venues and you are encouraged to share this information with persons who may need it. 

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.
It’s important to remember that students are easily scared back into “hiding” due to the stigma of low literacy, so:
  • Be discreet: Once you can, choose a private place and time to talk and stay away from the words ‘illiterate’ and ‘slow’. Use ‘difficulties with reading or writing’ or ‘improve your reading & writing’ versus ‘learn to read and write’
  • Be relatable: Draw from personal challenges with mastering a new skill and show the parallels between this and the skills of reading/writing/spelling. Normalise the idea of going from a state of not-knowing to knowing.

Situation 1 – This situation is ideal for a workplace or when dealing with someone you may not know very well.


“I’ve noticed that you need some help to (insert reading related task, e.g. complete this form, sign your name, write report).
Lots of times we struggle to master a task, even when it comes easy to others. I remember having difficulty with Y (insert something here, e.g. three-point turns, sewing, learning dance steps, reading or spelling). Would you say that’s
true for you when it comes to reading/writing?
Reading, spelling and writing are skills and some have a talent for it, others don’t – the same way some people can sing or kick a football better than others. If you don’t have a talent for reading and writing, you can still become a good
at it, you just need more teaching than those with a talent for it.
There are options out there to help adults get better at this. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. How does that sound? Would you be interested in finding out more?


Situation 2 – This situation is best if you notice the person has a spelling problem but it can be used in almost any other situation, as it is generally more socially acceptable to admit to spelling problems than reading or writing problems. This can work for both strangers you interact with and persons you may know well.


“English spelling is real tricky.  I always have problems with the word (x,y,z). The good thing is that there are options out there to help adults who want to work on their spelling.  It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Would you be
interested in finding out more?’


 Situation 3 – This is suitable for an informal talk with a friend, family member, co-worker etc. in a high paced environment.


I’ve noticed that you require some help to do X (reading-related task).
It’s not a big deal…it’s just another skill like sewing, cooking or driving! Many people have these issues and have struggled with reading for years!
If you want to work on these skills there are options out there to help! It may not be easy but it will be worth it. Would you be interested in finding out more?


If the person is interested in finding out more, tell them about Alta! Here’s a guide if you need it:

 Alta has free classes around the country for adults who want to improve their spelling/reading/writing. Everyone in the class are adults and there to learn. It’s a happy space because the students are doing something positive for
themselves. It’s not like the classroom you remember from school. Alta tutors are volunteers who want to be there so they take their time and ensure you understand what you’re being taught. Many Alta students are successful
business people or talented individuals who just have difficulty with reading or spelling. Alta can teach you skills and show you strategies to improve your reading. Contact Alta at 624-ALTA or 741-9454.

Ways to Sponsor an ALTA Student

i Jan 5th No Comments by

One out of four adults in Trinidad and Tobago is unable to perform basic, everyday reading and writing skills.

Less than half the adult population can read and understand the newspapers and simple medicine labels.


In Trinidad and Tobago today if you are not literate, you are left out of life.  Literacy is the key to a good job, access to services, participation in community, school and church. Sponsoring an ALTA student will enable ALTA to continue offering free literacy classes to the national community, benefiting existing and potential literacy students.


In the spirit of giving, sponsor an ALTA student at a class in your community or anywhere around the country for $200 TTD (for one term) or $600 TTD (for one year).  If you donate $600 you will receive a report of the progress of the student you chose to sponsor at the end of the year.


If you would like to sponsor an ALTA student, here are the two steps:


1. Complete the Sponsor a Student Form Online


2. Make your payment.

You have three options for payment:


Via cheque (The Adult Literacy Tutors Association), Linx or cash at any of our offices (Belmont – POS, San Fernando, Arima)

Bank transfer (online or at any Republic Bank Limited branch). Bank Info: The Adult Literacy Tutors Association, Republic Bank Limited, Elerslie Plaza, Acc No: 3405028337401

Visit any NLCB Lotto Center and tell the operator you wish to donate to The Adult Literacy Tutors Association with Account Number  14 and provide your $200 or $600 donation and you receive a receipt – take a quick picture of the receipt and send it to us.

     Click to enlarge


Sponsor an ALTA Student for Christmas

i Nov 27th No Comments by

One out of four adults in Trinidad and Tobago is unable to perform basic, everyday reading and writing skills.

Less than half the adult population can read and understand the newspapers and simple medicine labels.

In Trinidad and Tobago today if you are not literate, you are left out of life.  Literacy is the key to a good job, access to services, participation in community, school and church. Sponsoring an ALTA student will enable ALTA to continue offering free literacy classes to the national community, benefiting existing and potential literacy students.


This Christmas we give you TWO options:


  1. In the spirit of giving, sponsor an ALTA student at a class in your community or anywhere around the country for $200 TTD (for one term) or $600 TTD (for one year).  If you donate $600 you will receive a report of the progress of the student you chose to sponsor at the end of the year.

  2. Purchase a Gift of Reading Certificate as a gift for a colleague, friend or family member. A donation will be given in their name to sponsor an ALTA student for one term ($200 TTD) or one year ($600 TTD).


If you would like to purchase a Gift of Reading Certificate:

  1. Call or email us your order beforehand. Give us one (1) business day to get the order ready.

  2. Come in to any of our offices in Belmont, Arima or San Fernando. We accept cheques (The Adult Literacy Tutors Association), Linx and cash. You can also make a bank deposit and come in with the receipt if this works for you.

If you would like to sponsor an ALTA student:

  1. Complete the Sponsor a Student form online:

  2. Make payment via cheque (The Adult Literacy Tutors Association), Linx or cash at any of our offices.

  3. You can also visit any NLCB Lotto Center and tell the operator you wish to donate to The Adult Literacy Tutors Association with Account Number  14 and provide your $200 or $600 donation and you receive a receipt – take a quick picture of the receipt and send it to us.

Click to enlarge


Bank Info: The Adult Literacy Tutors Association, Republic Bank Limited, Elerslie Plaza, Acc No: 3405028337401


Thanking you in advance for your support this Christmas!




ALTA Launches New Logo

i Nov 1st No Comments by

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.


Benefits of Volunteering with ALTA

i Oct 23rd No Comments by

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!

  • Learn or develop a new skill

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.

  • Community building

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.

  • Networking and socializing

 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).

ALTA and the SDGs Catalyst Network Part II

i Oct 23rd No Comments by

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.