The people who run the non-profit organizations in our city have come to the roles through many paths. Sheryl Harrow-Yurach, who is now E.D of READ Saskatoon, began her journey with a desire to work in education. She got her degree in 1996, and then moved to New Zealand where her family is from to teach for three years. When she came back to Saskatchewan, there weren’t many jobs in education and she found herself working for an AIDS organization. She found that working in the non-profit sector gave her the opportunity to use her skills and her knowledge in new ways; which, when she moved to READ Saskatoon meant she could really use her education background to root her new role. She says, “Working as an ED, or even as staff here, you get to try new things, like marketing or volunteer coordinator. There’s lots of learning on the job, which is a blessing although sometimes it’s hard. I get to use my education background, teaching people to read with the use of volunteers.”
She continued studying while working, although she shifted her focus. She initially wanted to do an MA in Education around Numeracy, but she took an MBA, which she says has greatly benefited READ Saskatoon. “I can apply business thinking and models to our community work and bring our work to businesses.”
READ Saskatoon works with 165 volunteers, who all together donate over 30,000 hours a year, around the work of 16 full time staff. READ runs weekly programs where people come for six months or a year, and they work with families and children, in total supporting around 2500 people a year. Through COVID, some of the programming has moved online, and Sheryl says, “Our biggest worry is always our clients. Many of them are very lonely through COVID-19. Information out there isn’t always trustworthy and it can be confusing. Our one-to-one programming is online and not everyone has access to technology, so it’s been a lot of work to pivot, and we’re counting the days until we can meet face-to-face again.”
She adds, “We help children and adults understand and rediscover language and skills, so they can think about ways that they learn and understand those. Rachel, who co-ordinates our children’s literacy programs, met online with one a little girl doing our program and Rachel asked: How do you know you’re reading better?
The little girl replied, “I have a book mark with reading strategies. When I come to a word I don’t know, I do chunky monkey, I break the word down into chunks. And if I can’t do the word, I work through the strategies on my bookmark to figure out the word.”
This little girl was thinking about how she reads, and her strategies. That metacognition piece is a real gift to kids and adults, who believe that they are ‘good or not-good’ until they learn these tools. Many of the adults we’ve worked with think of reading as magic, until they learn these tools.”
READ’s video shares the connection between a volunteer and a reader–a journey that brings together two people and gives them both so much. If you want to connect with READ Saskatoon, or find out more about their work and their needs, their page is here.