Our language is adapting and we are adapting as well.
The word adapt means to change or adjust. Being adaptable is something that we humans are good at. We can think creatively and imagine solutions. Our behaviour IS adaptive. We also organize our societies within frameworks which are designed to withstand sudden changes. This provides us with security. But what if something really big happens, like in the movies. What if… a global pandemic shakes us to the core?
In our quiet corner of British Columbia, many of us were looking forward to our regular spring break last March. No one expected that our work and personal lives would be so transformed over a period of several months, or that it would continue into the unforeseen future.
Looking back (and forward), I view adaptability as a major strength of the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL). Many organizations that operate at a community level have shown themselves to be highly adaptable. CBAL has had to make changes that allow us to work together effectively and to work within our communities creatively and safely.
We have the capacity and the confidence to switch gears and envision very different models of delivering programs to families and adults. This requires energy for learning and doing. We are adopting online tools such as Zoom. Understanding what is and isn’t safe. Learning what will be of interest to participants. Learning how their needs are changing.
With both feet now firmly planted in the ‘now’ of the pandemic, I feel one of the biggest wins is that CBAL has learned to experiment. This has been achieved because of the flexibility we have as an organization and the flexibility we have within our programming.
Ideas are being tried and shared. For example, cooking programs for adults and children that are fun and full of learning were quickly adapted to an ‘at home’ model. Everything from recipes to ingredients are provided and everyone gathers online to create their masterpieces together.
There’s an online support program for parents who suddenly find themselves teaching their kids. We’re providing kits to families – arts and craft kits, activity kits, and cooking kits - supported by newsletters and online get-togethers. Now you can even get technology support over the phone or online.
All of this online connection can become overwhelming, so it’s even more important for us to expand our safe in-person and outdoor programming options. StoryWalks®, Wild Outside, by appointment in-person tutoring and physically-distanced classes are all part of our new programming collection.
We have moved beyond just sharing program ideas amongst CBAL staff from different communities. We now share programs and facilitators virtually. A participant from Kimberley can join in on a financial literacy program offered in the Slocan Valley. English Language classes may have participants joining in from both the East and West Kootenay. Canadian Language Benchmark Placement Test can be done remotely, by a facilitator many kilometres away.
The cost of this is that direct human contact, the coming together and sitting around a table to learn and share, is missed. Healthy communities are nurtured by the social and supportive relationships we build. In addition, those who are already vulnerable become even more so, without the means or knowledge to participate using all the electronic tools we depend on.
CBAL’s role is to continue to bridge the needs with all of the tools at our disposal. Because we are nimble and in touch with our community members directly, we ARE coming up with new ways to offer literacy support. We continue to both teach and learn, ultimately blending the successful models while embracing the journey.
If you are interested in learning about which CBAL programs are available to you, go to cbal.org. That’s also the place to go to connect with your local community literacy coordinator who is interested in hearing what literacy program needs you or your organization have. We are here to support people in the Columbia Basin and Boundary region – unprecedented times or not.
Community Literacy Coordinator – Kimberley
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy