In 2005, VSEAL began serving communities through our Poetry for Our Future! workshops to promote literacy, creative writing, literary appreciation, and self-expression as empowerment. VSEAL’s outreach program has since grown from providing 10 workshops, to now providing 35 workshops annually at over 25 different organizations to underserved communities, primarily in Montreal, aimed at children, youth, and adults. Our program is aimed to serve participants from from low-income, low-education, and New Canadian families.
WHY OUR WORK IS IMPORTANT
According to the Literacy Foundation, 800,000 Quebecers are illiterate and one in five adults (aged 16 to 65) experience difficulty reading. While these numbers inform our programming, VSEAL recognizes that there are many forms of literacy that are not always recognized by standard evaluation methods and celebrates and encourages these nuanced and complex forms of communication in our workshops through the medium of poetry. We also recognize that while participants may be English-language learners, this does not negate their complex literary abilities in languages other than English.
We believe that by encouraging expression, participants develop the necessary skills to advance their English literacy goals in a holistic, self-motivated way. The Conference Board of Canada found that Quebec ranks 8th among the 10 Canadian provinces in terms of adequate adult literacy skills. Our approach to literacy aims to make a lasting impact on these statistics.
95% of our workshops take place in Montreal, a diverse multicultural city, with visible minorities comprising more than a third of the population. The majority of our workshops are conducted in English, which is considered an Official Language Minority (OLM) in the province of Quebec. As an OLM there is a need for resources such as Poetry for Our Future!, which is one of the few programs within the province offering free, creative literacy workshops to adults in English.
According to the 2011 Canadian Census:
–Anglophones account for approximately 12% of the population in the Greater Montreal area
–Allophones (person whose mother tongue is neither English nor French) account for 24% of the population in the Greater Montreal area
Our program was created to address these deficits, and specifically to contribute to a need for accessible and inspiring learning opportunities.