Pictured here with new graduate Josiane Umunyurwa, Linda Richards (right) delivered an
inspirational address at the Stella’s Circle 2018 ABE graduation ceremony. Photo Credit: The Telegram
Before attending high school equivalency classes, Stella’s Circle participant Linda Richards was withdrawn and increasingly isolated. “I was very shy,” says Richards. “At times, I would isolate myself from everyone and just stay home.” Though Richards managed to find work at a home care agency, reading was a daily struggle. “It was very difficult to fill out the paperwork and reports. I also found it, at times, hard to read prescription labels. After my job ended, I knew it was time to make a change.”
Despite her sense of isolation, Linda was not the only one struggling. Today, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have limited literacy skills. Regardless of employment status, those with low literacy face barriers which impact every facet of their lives.
“Everyday activities including completing doctor’s forms, understanding rental agreements, filling prescriptions and paying household bills are just a few of the situations that can prove challenging for someone with minimal literacy levels,” says Rob McLennan, Director of Employment Services at Stella’s Circle.
Stella’s Circle is a not-for-profit community organization with a mission to transform lives by offering “Real Homes, Real Help and Real Work.” “We provide various housing, counselling and employment programs to people who face many barriers to fully participating in their community,” says McLennan. “These barriers can include mental health issues, addictions, homelessness, poverty, criminal justice involvement, trauma, low literacy and long periods of unemployment.”
“Our learners are both male and female and range in ages between 20 to 65, with an average age of 30 to 40,” says McLennan regarding the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program.
For learners like Linda, literacy training is a first step towards a brighter future. “I am looking to explore my options as to what is next for me with work,” says Richards. “ABE has changed my life so much… not just with my reading and writing, but with my confidence. It changed me… it was as if a door had opened for me.”