Victoria Literacy Connection: A Brief History
The Victoria Literacy Connection (VLC) was formed in early 2017, but its roots reach much further back than this date indicates. The VLC was created when the Boards of The Victoria READ Society and Literacy Victoria decided they could be more effective organizations if they worked together to reach a wider and broader range of people who struggle with literacy in its many and varied forms.
The READ Society has operated in Greater Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula since the 1970s. Over the years it has supported thousands of children and youth who have needed help with literacy in the early stages of their education. For many of its young learners, the work done by The READ Society was transformative and they have gone on to lead productive lives, gain a good education and contribute significantly to our society.
In the mid 1980s, Literacy Victoria (LV) was formed as a breakaway charity from The READ Society. It was believed that the reason many children struggled with literacy was because their parents did as well. LV was dedicated to helping a wide range of adults who had challenges reading, writing, or doing basic mathematics. Over the years, services extended to include help with computer literacy. LV had two hard and fast rules: all tutoring would be undertaken by dedicated, trained volunteers, and no individual would be charged for tutoring services. They felt cost should never be a barrier to literacy.
As so often happens in life, things came full circle. Rather than maintaining distinct separate services and competing for financial support, the folks at READ and LV decided there would be significant benefits to working together. Now, under the brand of Victoria Literacy Connection, we offer a more holistic literacy service and make our hard earned donations stretch even further. We invite you to read about our various programs on this website. If you know of someone who would benefit from our services, we hope you will point them in our direction. If you would like to be part of our volunteer team, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or suggestions.
Everyone in Greater Victoria has opportunities to acquire the literacy skills to function effectively in today’s society.
We help children, youth and adults improve their literacy skills, including reading, writing, and math, by providing tutoring and a variety of other programs.
We believe that:
- Literacy is essential for the well-being of children, youth, adults and the communities in which they live.
- Learning occurs most effectively in a safe, caring environment that honours and addresses individual learning styles and needs.
- Skilled, experienced volunteers are integral to the services we deliver to the community.
- Successful literacy outcomes are achieved through collaboration with all the stakeholders involved in the learners’ successful paths.
- Program decisions should be based on the sustainability of effective services.
- It is important to measure and assess our services on an ongoing basis and adjust as necessary.
- It is important to ensure that meaningful programming responds to emerging and changing needs in our communities, and we must collaborate with other literacy partners to make literacy and essential skills accessible to all.
Meet the Team
Christine has nearly twenty years of extensive experience in managing non-profit programs internationally, nationally and regionally. This path was pre-determined through her academic studies in the realms of Political Science, Project Management and Philanthropy. She worked within Humanitarian Aid under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross.
Sofia Lopez Fuertes
Sofia has worked for many years as a coordinator for rural and urban literacy programming, supporting various populations including First Nation groups. She was most recently the coordinator for the Greater Victoria Alliance for Literacy, where she learned about the literacy needs and gaps in our region.
Administrator, Computers & PenPal Coordinator
Marla brings many years of administrative, customer service, educational support and entrepreneurial experience to her role with VLC. Her favourite aspect has always been the human connection. She genuinely cares about people. As a parent, she discovered a passion for literacy support and volunteered at her child’s school with students who need extra literacy support to build their confidence and skills.
Meet our Board
Janine Hannis (Chair) has an extensive background in adult education spanning over two decades particularly for the Ministry of Education, as well as being a founding member of the Greater Victoria Alliance for Literacy. She has a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on adult education, and was responsible for developing the prison education program to support the provincial correctional centres in BC. Her passion is to create educational pathways for adults to realize their career dreams.
Ian Culbertson (Vice-Chair) spent a decade in the non-profit sector in Victoria with the Boys and Girls Club, gaining experience in program development, strategic planning, and evaluation capacity building. He recently completed his CPHR designation and has launched a new Human Resources career with Stocksy United in Victoria’s burgeoning technology sector.
Sameer Shah (Treasurer) is an independent corporate finance and strategy consultant. He headed Deutsche Bank’s Global Equity Services business for Asia Pacific and the Arabian Gulf countries as a Managing Director before moving to Saudi Arabia in 2013 as CFO of Petroleum, Chemicals and Mining Company. After traveling the world with his job and his family, Sameer decided to settle down in Victoria towards the end of 2017. Sameer firmly believes that everyone has an equal right to education.
Erin Halma (Secretary) moved to Victoria for law school and found she could not bring herself to leave. She now works as legal counsel with the provincial government. She is an avid reader, always looking for a recommendation of a good book and wants everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy reading as much as she does.
Hank Mathias worked for 30 years as a manager with the BC government in the areas of corrections, public safety and security, employment and social programs. His community efforts have focused on social justice and access issues, and have included being part of Oak Bay Parks and Recreation Commission, the Greater Victoria Housing Society, the John Howard Society (BC and Victoria), and the Vancouver Island Criminal Justice Association. Hank chairs the Finance Committee.
Dana Anderson is a Chartered Professional Accountant with many years of experience working with not-for-profit clients. She now works for the BC Ministry of Finance. She was raised in Victoria and has a BA in History from UVIC. A lifelong “bookworm”, Dana believes in the importance of literacy in all facets of life.
Holly Kinkaid is a Senior Policy Analyst in the provincial government. She has a Master of Arts Degree in Education from the University of Victoria and has been a literacy tutor of both children and adults. While living in the Middle East, she volunteered in the community as an ESL and Cultural Exchange Facilitator.
Dawn Minty has a 35 year history of public service. A retired B.C. Assistant Deputy Minister Advanced Education she has served on several provincial and national boards including Past President of Skills Canada B.C. A strong advocate for trades training Dawn is deeply committed to student success, skills training, indigenous education and community engagement.
Vicki Roberts is a Vice-Principal at the Greater Victoria School District.
Members of Honour
Vern Paetkau is a former academic scientist, who worked at the University of Alberta and at UVic, where he served as Dean of Science. Since retiring he has followed an interest in science communication, including creating a science website. He is the past Chair of Literacy Victoria and contributed immensely to the sustainability of this organization.
Carol Carman was a Communications Director from 1990 to 2006 for several B.C. Ministries, speechwriter and owner-operator of Helix Communications. She is the past Chair of Victoria READ Society and was deeply involved in promoting literacy in Greater Victoria.
Susan Reece was the President of Oxford University Press Canada from 1993 to 1999 and Managing Director of the International Division of OUP from 1999 to 2009. She has been a literacy tutor and has sat on the Board for six years; four of them as Chair/Co-Chair.
Charlie Etchell is a semi-retired educator and active cyclist. He has strong interest in literacy and community development. Charlie was Chair/Co-Chair of the organization for four years.
Phil Wynne is a retired business executive. As a Board member he has worked on the development of VLC, helped in the area of fundraising and volunteered on the front-line as a tutor.
Gwen Anholt considers learning as the foundation and passion of her career. Beginning in Early Childhood Education, then moving into adult education, her work has spanned 30 years in the public and private sectors. Now retired, she began as a tutor for Literacy Victoria before joining the Board. Gwen was the first Vice-Chair of the VLC and contributed to the merger and building the new organization.
Barbara Newton joined the Board of the Victoria READ Society in March 2016 and is the chair of the new organization’s Fundraising and Communications Committee. In her work life Barbara is a small business consultant and sessional instructor at Camosun College. Barbara was the second VLC Board Chair.