NWT Literacy Council’s work is rooted in connecting with community-based organizations. We do this through community visits, hosting trainings and networking events, and interacting directly with our many partners. As with all organizations, we have spent the last six months trying to strategize how we will do this work while adhering to Emerging Wisely regulations and respecting individual participants’ and communities’ comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each of our projects has had to change in their own ways. For Family Literacy, we have been working to recreate the hands-on learning and community networking that take place during our annual Family Literacy Training Institute. We have created a training series with a combination of live, interactive video calls and pre-recorded learning modules. Participants will receive all of the supplies needed to do the learning activities.
Our Community Oral Healthy Literacy Coordinator has also had to re-imagine her project. This year was to have been full of community visits and Oral Health Gatherings, helping to share Our Ever Awesome NWT Brushing Song! and a youth-led oral health puppet show. Instead, Steph has created an online training program for community members to learn about oral health, and how to share messages. Trainees will also be eligible for funds to run a safe oral health event for their community.
Coleen is also working to bring Skill Builders for Youth training to participants virtually. Her sessions will bring together the hands-on elements of the training and the discussions and idea-sharing between programs. Looking ahead, Coleen is also working with partners to plan different ways that we can all celebrate Indigenous Languages Month in February.
Our Community Connections program offers non-formal English language and literacy programming as well as learning about the community of Yellowknife. Karen has had to find new ways to do this work throughout this year. She quickly took her Speak English Café program online, and participants were able to continue their conversational English practice. This did limit the participants who were able to join based on equipment and technology skills, but still kept many people engaged. Over the summer and fall, Community Connections programs were able to meet outside with limited participant numbers and with maintaining distance. As we move into winter, Karen continues to find new ways to offer programming.
We’ve also been learning new ways to connect as a team, as we shifted to working from home and then returning to our office building. While working at our homes, we quickly saw the need to connect with each other often and would do so via video chat meetings. Despite all of us being back in the same building, we do not have an appropriate space that allows physical distancing for us to meet together, so we are continuing to use online tools to meet.
Each year in January and October we have planning days as a team. We meet to map out all of the work and events in each project, planning how to schedule and how we can support each other. Looking back at the planning we did in January 2020, it is amazing to see how we were able to change quickly and still complete many of the things on our spring plan.
With our current limitations, we also had to do our fall planning differently. We decided to use the opportunity of our planning meeting to practice different online tools that we will be using in training sessions. Instead of all sitting around a table and filling in physical calendars, we used a Google Sheet that we could all access from our own computers. Instead of separating to different areas to have small-group discussions, we used Zoom Breakout rooms. Facilitating this process online, along with some tech hiccups that came with it, made me feel much more prepared for our first FLTI session this week.
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