May 15 Program: Mary Vahl, Director of Development, ProLiteracy
Mary Vahl spoke about ProLiteracy after an introduction by Betty Anne Keat (right).
The organization’s headquarters is in Syracuse, NY (with an office in Washington, DC) but activities extend throughout the United States and the world. It is the largest adult literacy organization in the world. They are changing lives through literacy.
ProLiteracy is addressing the literacy crisis today. There are 30 million adults in the USA who read at a third grade level or below. World-wide there are 800 million at this reading level. Lack of literacy has a profound impact on these people.
Literacy has the power to overcome poverty, injustice, discrimination and violence. Eighty percent of those who are incarcerated in the USA are at a low literacy level.
ProLiteracy is a merge of two organizations: Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America. The local organization, Literacy Volunteers of Morris County, is a part of ProLiteracy. Click here to go to the LVMC website.
Dr. Frank Laubach, who founded Laubach Literacy International in 1955, had the method “Each one, teach one”. He believed that you need to reach people in their native language and be relevant to their lives, to give them the tools to teach each other. His work was more phonetically based.
Ruth Colvin founded Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) in 1962. She used a learner-centered approach, a sort of one-on-one traditional approach. Her work has been focused on national action, for which she has received many awards. Ruth is still active at age 96.
ProLiteracy has over one thousand members and partners who interact through the year and participate in an annual conference (Barbara Bush spoke at a recent conference). They advocate for public policies and legislation that benefit adult learners and programs that support them. They publish educational materials and carry out International Programs. There are 52 grassroots programs in 30 countries.
Literacy for Social Change promotes economic self-reliance, health, education, peace, environment and human rights/status of women. They focus on women because they raise the children and can teach them. The total number of enrolled learners is 51,607 (11 percent men and 89 percent women). Total number of teachers/facilitators is 1,184. Over the past 20 years, they have reached 4,029,794 people in 120 countries.
The organization is moving into a new “Green” headquarters building in Syracuse, NY. An old warehouse district is being revitalized with community partners in an environmentally conscious way. There will be a learning center where members will try new approaches and best practices can be shared with others.
Everyone can help by donating to ProLiteracy, advocating for their programs, and volunteering locally (contact Literacy Volunteers of Morris County). Mary handed out literature and showed a very interesting video. Click here to view the video on YouTube. Learn more - click here to visit the ProLiteracy website.
The audience loudly applauded this informative and inspiring presentation.