In 1975, an International Symposium for Literacy was held in Persepolis, Iran. As a result, the Declaration of Persepolis was adopted as a charter by literacy workers throughout the world. It states: “Literacy is not an end in itself. It is a fundamental human right.”
Following this international conference, an increased awareness of the problem of functional illiteracy within Canada began to grow. The need for a one-on-one volunteer-based adult literacy program for the Ottawa region was recognized by an inter-divisional research team from Algonquin College, and in 1978 People, Words & Change (PWC) was formed.
Algonquin College offered extensive practical and financial support to PWC until 1986, when PWC became separately incorporated. From the beginning, PWC has also received support from several sources, including volunteers, individuals, corporations, school boards, private foundations, fundraising activities, bingo and municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
Over the years some of the faces have changed and our offices have moved several times, but the fundamental work of the organization has not wavered from its mission.
People, Words & Change is a member of:
Dee Sullivan – Executive Director & Education Counsellor
“I joined the People, Words & Change team in the fall of 2007. Prior to joining PWC, I taught English as a Second Language to new immigrants to Canada in Ottawa area LINC Programs. Helping adults achieve their language and literacy goals, whether English is their first or second language, is incredibly inspiring and rewarding. Doing this in a friendly, positive, and dynamic work environment makes PWC a pleasure to come to every day!”
Julie Oliveira – Education Counsellor
“My role as Education Counsellor at People, Words & Change began in 2015, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience so far! Before that, I spent many years teaching ESL and LINC in Ottawa. I really enjoy working in the literacy community serving the brave and hard-working adults who come to us. Amazing work is being done here at PWC and so it is a real honour to be able to work with and learn from the dedicated tutors, learners and staff that make up the PWC family!”
Karen Hilderman – Computer Instructor
“I have been involved in adult education since 1998 teaching LINC and Citizenship Test Preparation to newcomers to Canada and I held a Co-ordination role for an ESL Literacy Program. I love learning new things and most recently, I have become interested in exploring digital literacy skills and how to teach them to my students; transitioning to online teaching during the lockdowns fast-forwarded that! I am excited to be working with PWC and helping our clients improve their computer knowledge and skills for work, school, and independence.
Volunteer tutors form the backbone of our organization. Approximately 130 people volunteer for PWC each year. Some of our volunteers are retired, but most are still involved with careers and families! Many of our volunteers have been with us for 5, 10, 15 or even more years and have worked with learner after learner after learner!
Some of our volunteers sit on our Board of Directors, and as well as providing excellent support, share their professional skills in areas like accounting, law and fundraising.
Since our inception in 1978, more than 3,500 people have volunteered with us! A very conservative estimate calculates that together, our PWC tutors have spent at least 10,000 hours teaching other adults to read and write.
We are commited to increasing the number of learners we can help and are always looking for new, qualified volunteers either as one-on-one tutors, or to volunteer in our computer lab.
Board of Directors
Our board of directors consists of 8 -10 members elected at our Annual General Meeting in June. The board in turn elects its own executive members, and appoints a treasurer. The board meets about ten times a year, and is responsible for the legal and financial aspects of running a non-profit organization. Volunteers interested in becoming board members can contact Dee, who will put them in touch with one of the directors for further information.
The directors for 2021 – 2022 are:
Margaret MacDonald – President
Alison Rutherford – Vice President
Tanya Ruppell – Secretary
Lynn Hemmings – Treasurer
Leith de Tracey
Dee Sullivan – Staff Representative
We welcome all tutors and learners who wish to become members of PWC. Please ask the staff at the PWC office to provide you with our very short application form. Once completed, you will become a voting member of the organization, and welcome to take an active role in our work. Members are entitled to receive notice of, attend and vote at all meetings of the membership. There are no dues and you are welcome to retain your membership as long as you wish, at the discretion of the PWC Board.