The ABC's of Volunteering

The ABC's of Volunteering
  By Erin Taman

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Volunteering with a literacy organization can be a very rewarding experience and you don't have to have a teaching certificate to sign up!

Frontier College is "a national non-profit literacy organization geared to help people raise their basic literacy skills in a non-traditional way," said Tina Savenkoff, regional coordinator for Frontier College in Saskatoon, SK.

More than 100 years old, Frontier College is located in many communities across Canada. "By focusing on improving reading and writing through alternative education, we work in schools, detention centres and in partnership with other community organizations," said Savenkoff. "We aim to improve adult literacy by reaching out to and assisting marginalized young people labeled 'at risk' whose needs are not met by the mainstream education system."

There is no required age for volunteers with Frontier College but you must be available for at least one hour a week. And if you haven't volunteered with a literacy organization before don't be worried - the training for volunteers is extensive and newcomers are always welcome.

Potential volunteers are required to attend informational training sessions where they are introduced to the College's guiding principles, mission, and goals. They are provided information on literary techniques and tools so they can go out and meet with literacy learners, said Savenkoff.

Then an application form needs to be filled out so that the organization can get to know the volunteers better and a personal interview follows next as part of the national screening process. Then come reference checks and a criminal record check.

Once the training process is complete, approved volunteers in Saskatoon can help out with the following Frontier College programs:

One-to-one reading buddies - volunteers go to local elementary schools and work one-on-one with children who need additional support.

Small group youth literacy circles - volunteers work with youth in detention and custody centres to build literacy and life skills and are supervised by social workers on-site.

After school reading circles - volunteers work in groups with children after school. They play literacy games, complete reading and writing activities and crafts.

Junior chef program - volunteers are placed one-on-one with children and participate in sessions led by nutrition experts where they read recipes, prepare meals and share stories during the meal.

Summer reading tent - held in a community park in an open tent, this program is similar to the reading circles program but runs in July and August rather than during the school year.

There are currently 130 volunteers helping Frontier College meet their goals in Saskatoon. As an added bonus, volunteers can participate in professional development opportunities offered by the College throughout the year and they also are invited to attend any conferences the group puts on.

READ Saskatoon is another literacy group in Saskatchewan which is community-based and offers free literacy help to adults and their families. Volunteers with READ Saskatoon must be at least 18 years of age.

Prospective volunteers for READ Saskatoon go through a process similar to that of Frontier College. It begins with two training sessions "which (are) a basic introduction to who we

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