“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
- A. A. Milne
As a young child, my heart was drawn to the spark of curiosity and wonder that stories have to offer. I read everything I could get my little hands on – Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia, Nancy Drew, and others. But my favourite was always Winnie the Pooh.
I could not have imagined a childhood without the gift of reading. And because of this gift, I have always been an avid reader, and I am a devoted life-long learner.
This is why I believe in CODE – because I believe in the life-changing power of reading and education.
Reading is not just an escape to a fantastic realm of magic. It shows us a reflection of our world and of ourselves. It unlocks the potential in every child and empowers them to lift themselves into a brighter future.
As a CODE donor, I have had the opportunity to visit the schools that my gifts help sustain. I have seen the enthusiasm and excitement of the children as they are inspired by their teachers and schoolwork. And I recognize that same spark of curiosity in their eyes that I had as a child – reading is truly magical and the adventure that is education.
Adele Imrie with students outside a Maasai village school in northern Tanzania.
I believe each of those children I met will go on to make a difference, and be a positive force in their communities, families, and for themselves.
That gives me incredible hope. And it also makes me grateful – not only for every opportunity I had as a child but for this opportunity I have now to offer the same kind of experience to children everywhere.
I have seen and felt the difference my gifts to CODE have made. It’s why I keep giving – because I know every dollar I give is doing the good work that I deeply believe in.
And I know that together, we can continue to open minds and spark a love of reading – and lifelong learning – in children all over the world.
For the love of reading,
CODE Foundation Board Chair
Long-time Donor & Forever Friend of CODE
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Lawyers Daily by Carolyn Gruske (January 4, 2018)
Very few people ever get to summit a mountain. Even fewer have the opportunity to do so multiple times. This summer, Chris Bredt intends to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro for the fourth time — and to do so while raising money for charity.
Bredt, a senior litigation partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and a bencher with the Law Society of Ontario, is also a board member of the CODE Foundation, an organization that manages the endowment fund for the Canadian Organization for Development through Education, better known as CODE. CODE is a Canadian international development organization focused on advancing literacy and education around the world. Although it runs one program in Canada that produces literature for First Nations, Inuit and Métis young adults, and one in the Caribbean, most of its work is done in African countries including Mali, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania (among others), helping to train teachers and to produce and make books available in local languages.
The education of women and girls is also a priority for CODE, said Bredt.
“The power of education, in essence, you are building up the human resources of these countries and in the long run, that is going to do more for development than any other program there. Education is the key, and particularly, education of women and girls. The importance of educating a girl or a woman in Africa ... can’t be overstated. The girls that are educated, their kids are better educated, their kids are healthier, it does huge amounts for development.”
To support that education, Bredt is once again organizing a fundraising climb of the famous African mountain. Set for July, the Summit for Literacy, will see Bredt and the climbers spending seven days hiking up to the summit of the mountain (Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t a technical climb, it is typically considered a trek that is walkable) on the Lemosho Route, which starts on the far western part of the mountain and two days descending the mountain.
Over the course of the climb, Bredt said participants will experience an incredible range of sights.
"Kilimanjaro is right on the equator, so each day is quite different. When you start off on your first day, you are climbing through a tropical jungle. You don’t see the mountain. You are hiking through a forest. You might see some black-and-white colobus monkeys, and there are blue monkeys there. The first night, you camp in the forest. The second day you would climb out of the forest through what’s called the heathland. At the end of day two, you come over a ridge and you’re on the Shira plateau ... you actually first see the mountain because you have to get up out of the forest before you actually see the summit. On the Shira plateau, it’s actually like a savannah, like grasslands. As you go higher, you get to an alpine desert.
“Obviously, when you get to the summit there are still glaciers and ice fields up there, although I have to say, every time I go the ice is less, it’s going higher up the mountain. I expect that maybe 20 or 30 years from now there’s not going to be much ice left at the top of Kilimanjaro at all,” he said.
Bredt, who is in his early 60s, said that every climber who has accompanied him on past excursions to the mountain has made it to the summit, which is important when the goal is to raise funds, and that he has taken people ranging in age from 15 to 68.
“The only difficult part about climbing Kilimanjaro is acclimatizing to the elevation. It’s quite high. It’s about 19,400 feet. So the longer you take to give your body an opportunity to acclimatize, the more likely you are to get to the summit.”
While it may not be what Bredt calls difficult, the climb does pose some challenges beyond a simple walk in the park.
“When you do the climb, it’s like a community. Everybody is helping everybody. You can’t do the climb without becoming really good friends with people you are spending time on the mountain with. There are some tough days when everybody really digs in together. You’re eating dinner and you’re spending a lot of time chatting. Everybody who has come on the climb has had quite an experience, both in terms of getting to the summit, but also in terms of the people they’ve met but also getting to know Tanzania,” said Bredt.
Since organizing the first climb in 2006 and following up with summits in 2010 and 2014, Bredt said climbers have raised over $1 million, including matching funds from government programs.
People who want to participate pay their own way to Tanzania, buy their own equipment and commit to raising at least $5,000. The money is collected via individualized websites set up by CODE for each climber.
Typically, Bredt said participants spend between $8,000 and $10,000 on the trip, as most people undertake a safari after the climb, since some of the country’s top game parks, including Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, are nearby. Additionally, Bredt said he could arrange visits to the schools benefitting from the CODE programs.
Lawyers have made up a large percentage of the climbers in the past, and it looks like the legal community will be well represented this year.
Currently, Elizabeth Grace, a partner at Lerners LLP; Susan Vella, senior litigation counsel and practice group leader, sexual and institutional abuse and Aboriginal rights groups at Rochon Genova LLP; John O’Reilly, vice-president, legal counsel, labour, employment and litigation at Loblaw Companies Limited; Herman Van Ommen, past president of the Law Society of British Columbia; and Jeff Kehoe, director of enforcement for the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) are scheduled to take part.
“The more people who sign up, the more money you raise and it’s more successful,” Bredt said.
“Once you actually go and visit the schools and see the work that is being done, it deepens the commitment: you can’t come away without saying, ‘we’re making a difference here.’ ”
While some may question what benefit or enjoyment Bredt gets after making multiple trips to the same destination, he said there is a very simple reason why he keeps journeying up the mountain and raising money.
“These kids are so eager to learn. In Canada, we take for granted books and things. They don’t have a lot of that stuff in countries where we work, and if you actually go and you see these kids, they get so excited when they get the books and pencils. It’s very inspiriting. It’s part of why I keep doing that. Because I’m a reasonably successful lawyer, but I’m not always sure I’m making a huge difference, but I tell you, when you go to Africa and you visit the schools, you know you are making a huge difference.”
by Abdul Kanu and Johanna Kuyvenhoven
One of the highlights from Revitalising Education Development in Sierra Leone (REDiSL) happens when a dozen children come to learn with us. For 45 minutes or more, they take up a cluster of desks at the front and make our learning “real”. During the session, three or four teacher participants lead children through a teaching of reading lessons. The children aren’t the only ones learning. We all are!
The children come earlier than most teacher-participants. They fill the playground and school veranda with talk, play, and laughter. When the bell rings they watch the 376 teachers-in-training make their ways into the 12 classrooms. They are left sitting in a long, longing row; waiting for 9:30. Then, they’ll eat breakfast with us and then join us in the classroom.
Teacher-participants take turns, in small groups, conducting a lesson with the children. Every session is centered around an apt story or poem. Teachers introduce the lesson with a snappy-chant and then go to prepare for comprehension with questions, a storytelling, some drawings or objects to talk about. Having gained children’s interest and established a context for thinking about the reading, the next participant steps up to work with the reading. Again, using children’s L1 or, as it is called here: children’s Mother Tongue, a participant introduces the (English) text and reads slowly, translating, explaining line by line. After reading and talking together, the next participant follows up the reading with talking, drawing; directing a dramatic replay or other comprehension activities. Finally, the lesson moves to working with words we learned in the text. We do an onset and rime or vocabulary activity with the word wall. When the children leave we discuss what we’ve learned. Inevitably, it’s a lot.
This practice has been extraordinarily educative. Participants learned about, and then practiced or watched the rhythm of a reading activity that ensures children’s interest and comprehension. The observe and learn about children’s reading activity and independent literacy practices afterward. Participants saw for themselves that children can read a new text with the teacher, instead of repeating line by line. They discovered that children, given the opportunity, have “very clever ideas”! Children are quite able to draw and try to write without copying. Given gentle, persistent guidance, children do catch on to onset and rime patterns and more.
Perhaps best of all, they have experienced the ways in which children’s own languages are critical to learning activity and comprehension. In our classrooms, the arguments were passionately for only English use. Faced with the children faces, and experiencing strong evidence of the ways genuine comprehension of a text or task crushed the argument. Participants saw reading come to new life and energy; children’s responses eager and informed. They found themselves making more extensive and authentic use of Mother Tongue to teach reading; to learn about sounds and letters, and gather up richer meanings for the words in their stories.
There is another reason for the success of the Fishbowl. The activity is consistent with oral cultural learning pedagogies. In our workshop, we have realized how Kono District participants come, rich with oral culture. Participants use speech and personal interactions in complex ways, with confidence and power.
In the classroom when we ask for volunteers to give an oral summary, a story or lead the discussion, almost the entire class clamors for the honor. Participants memorize a song or reading after hearing it twice. We find participants to be skillful listeners and orators. Classrooms ring with conversations, songs, chants, vigorous discussions and more. As we enlarge the potentials of language with print practices, we are learning to use this rich scaffolding ‘space.’
We won’t pretend this was easy to pull together. Gathering and organizing 86 lively children; coaxing teachers who don’t usually interact with children in these ways; working through the awkwardness of new methods ... these are just some of the challenges we all faced. But, gentle persistence led to the thrill of clear learning achievements.
At the conclusion, the Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) office gave every child a notebook, pencil, and sharpener. An apt reward, one that recognizes a possible new beginning: Children who read and write.
Abdul Kanu and Johanna Kuyvenhoven are trainers working with CODE in Sierra Leone to deliver professional development to upgrade teachers skills through the REDiSL initiative.
An article written by CODE's Executive Director, Scott Walter is featured in the Diplomat & International Canada magazine - Summer 2017 issue - Notes from the field: Literacy thanks to CODE.
The full issue is also available at
“Reading is life. It brings me closer to the children in guiding them to work confidently in pursuing education - the key to peace and happiness.” –Memunatu Sumah
This mother’s day celebrate a “mama” in your life with the life changing gift of literacy.
Meet Memunatu Sumah. She is an early grade school teacher at St. Leonard’s Primary School in Marut village, Rokel, Western Rural District, Sierra Leone. Memunatu is also a “mama” and in these pictures, she is reading to her young daughter - enjoying the pictures and relatable storylines of Memunatu’s favourite books “I Fooled You” and “Here We Go”. They are part of a collection of culturally meaningful and fun-to-read Reading Sierra Leone books - all written and illustrated by Sierra Leoneans, for Sierra Leoneans.
The books were created with the support of CODE’s partners in Sierra Leone, PEN S.L and TALLE (the Association of Language and Literacy Educators) and form part of CODE’s comprehensive Reading Sierra Leone initiative. “RSL” supports the publishing of locally authored and illustrated storybooks, gets teachers like Memunatu quality training, and supplies Sierra Leonean community libraries with much-needed books.
The Reading Sierra Leone program is entirely funded by generous donors who believe in the transformative power of education. Their belief is anchored in the idea that a reading child becomes a reading adult – one who, through knowledge acquired through reading, can make informed decisions and better navigate the obstacles - and embrace the opportunities - of life.
And, while all children should have access to good books and a quality education, for girls the need is especially vital. It can mean the difference between a young girl knowing she has other options besides dropping out of school to become a child bride. It can offer her the self-confidence she needs to continue learning … to become a teacher, a doctor, a writer, or an astronaut - and, one day, maybe even a “mama” herself. A “mama” who, in turn, will pass that confidence and love of learning to her own children – “guiding them to work confidently in pursuing education – the key to peace and happiness”.
This mother’s day celebrate a “mama” in your life with the life changing gift of literacy.
At CODE we are so fortunate to work with some incredible volunteers. One of these amazing people is Rick Wilks.
Rick transformed Canada’s literary landscape in 1976 when he co-founded Annick Press Ltd. – one of the most cutting-edge and innovative publishers of books for children and young adults.
Rick supports CODE's Reading Programs in Tanzania and Kenya where he conducts workshops with local writers and publishers - offering guidance and expertise.
In Rick’s own words:
“I have followed CODE activities for many years, motivated by my interest in development through literacy and reading. I’m convinced that a society that encourages and promotes reading, especially among its youth, will become a more socially cohesive community where citizens enjoy a higher level of achievement and are more actively involved in civil society.”
“CODE is committed to my great passion: the building of a writing and publishing culture so that nations have a strong sense of who they are. Most importantly, if a culture recognizes itself in its literature, youth are better prepared to face the challenges of finding their place in society and functioning as healthy, contributing citizens.”
Thank you, Rick, for all you do to support CODE’s work with local authors and publishers!
CODE and its partner in Sierra Leone, PEN-Sierra Leone, are thrilled to be getting a helping hand with their programming from the crews of two visiting Royal Canadian Navy vessels. On Monday, March 20th, sailors from the HMCS Summerside and the HMCS Moncton will take to shore for a trip to Aberdeen Municipal School in Freetown to participate in a group reading of CODE’s locally produced Reading Sierra Leone children’s books. The books will be presented to the school by Willy Rangira – CODE’s program manager for Sierra Leone. The marines and sailors will interact with school children and will also help build and install shelves in the school library.
CODE’s Executive Director, Scott Walter, is delighted that CODE’s programming has once again been selected as an example of Canada’s ongoing support of development through education. Last October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited CODE’s programming in Liberia.
“The ability to read and write is the very foundation of what children need to grow into independent learners and problem solving adults who can navigate the world around them”. -CODE Executive Director, Scott Walter
The Aberdeen school outreach is part of the RCN’s broader Neptune Trident 17-01 mission to strengthen Canada’s relationship with West Africa and to retrace historical footsteps connected to Nova Scotia. The city of Freetown was settled by Nova Scotians who were once free slaves that had migrated up to Nova Scotia during the American Revolution. In 1792, 1500 of these freed slaves boarded two vessels and crossed the stormy Atlantic to settle in Freetown. The journey has particular meaning for Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith, the commanding officer of the HCMS Summerside. Lt.-Cmdr Smith is the first black captain of a sea-going Canadian Navy Ship. The HMCS Moncton is commanded by Lt.-Cmdr Nicole Robichaud.
The High Commissioner for Canada to Sierra Leone, Heather Cameron, will be attending the school activity along with local members of the education community in Freetown and CODE’s volunteer expert and Reading Sierra Leone program developer Dr. Charles Temple.
High Commissioner Cameron is hosting the initial event on Sunday March 19th highlighting the rich historical ties between Canada and Sierra Leone and marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This coincides with the 225th anniversary of the founding of Freetown and will take place on board the HMCS Summerside and the HMCS Moncton. CODE’s Willy Rangira and PEN’s Mohammed Sheriff will attend the reception along with Alhajie Sallieu Kanu from Reading Sierra Leone’s other local partner, TALLE (The Association of Language and Literacy Educators). Other guests will include the Canadian expat community in Freetown and Sierra Leonean dignitaries – including the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, and the Ministers of Tourism and Education.
The Reading Sierra Leone program is entirely funded by CODE and loyal Canadian supporters.
By: Heloísa Modesto, CODE Programme Manager and Gender Specialist
“I decided to become a teacher because I like to share my knowledge with others.” -Isaquiel Vicente
What a surprise to discover that Isaquiel Vicente - a teacher I met today at the IFP Joaquim Chisane in Pemba, Cabo Delgado, had years before attended an elementary school I had visited in the district of Montepuez back in 2001! Isaquiel, now 21, is the perfect example of young Mozambican who has benefited from the long-term commitment of CODE, with Associação Progresso, and the Canadian Government supporting primary education in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.
Isaquiel was a primary student at Escola Completa de Alto Gingone, at a time when the education system in Mozambique was expanding rapidly as it tried to meet the Education For All Millenium Development Goals. At that time, CODE and Progresso - with funds from a bilateral project funded by Canada - supported in-service training as the high demand for teachers had left the government with no choice but to hire untrained teachers.
Our initiative also promoted the development of local, mother-tongue children’s books in Mozambique and created school libraires. In a country where often student teachers have never had access to children books themselves, I was very excited to find out that Isaquiel had read several children books, and his favourite book was Ladrão de Tesouros, from Machado da Graça – a book that was published as part of the national literature contexts and provided to his primary school by our former project in Cabo Delgado.
Isaquiel explained: “I decided to become a teacher because I like to share my knowledge with others” and by being a reader, Isaquiel will surely have much more to share with Mozambican primary students in the coming years. In his first month attending the teacher education program, Isaquiel was a finalist in the reading competitions promoted through the BETTER Project, which CODE and country partner Associação Progresso are implementing in his IFP to improve initial teacher education in Mozambique.
On March 4th the IFP Alberto Chipande in Pemba, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique hosted the launch of a collection of 26 titles, involving 6 languages. This initiative is an important part of BETTER - as it supports the creation of concept books and books for emergent readers from initial primary classes.
Approximately 400 people attended the event — including government representatives, teacher educators, student teachers, primary students, teachers and parents.
The highlight was a reading competition in which 18 children from grades 2 to 7 indulged and inspired the audience with a varied array of short stories. The IFP student teachers animated the event with group and individual art performances.
The Global Affair’s Canada funded BETTER program (Better Education through Teacher Training and Empowerment for Results) is being implemented by CODE together with Associação Progresso and the Mozambican Ministry of Education and Human Development in four of Mozambique’s 12 provinces. The program is also generously supported by Mozambique LNG.
“How can we get more tablets?”
By Hila Olyan, CODE Director of International Programs
“How many people have used a tablet before?” asks the facilitator. One person raises their hand. “How many people have used a smart phone?” This time 6 hands go up.
There are 23 librarians around the table. It is the third day of librarian training in Addis Ababa. The librarians have come from across the country as part of CODE’s Reading Ethiopia / Beyond Access program.
The project is a joint effort by CODE, CODE-Ethiopia and IREX to pilot an improved set of services at community libraries. In particular, the project aims to improve access to supplementary reading materials in local languages; create opportunities for children, youth and their families to practice reading and writing; and strengthen parental and community engagement to support literacy.
...we’re introducing technology (tablets) into the program to further increase literacy and support readers of all ages.
The program has been ongoing in various iterations for more than 15 years but this time we’ve decided to get a little more innovative: we’re introducing technology (tablets) into the program to further increase literacy and support readers of all ages. Custom apps in Amharic and Afaan Oromo have been put on the tablets – and librarians are learning to use them for the first time.
To begin with the training is hard. Getting the hang of a touchscreen is a new experience for just about everyone. Desktop is a new term. Drag and drop is a new action. Uploading, downloading, USB cable – there are no shortage of new concepts.
Admittedly I start to worry. Perhaps we’ve been too optimistic. Can we really teach the librarians all they’ll need to know before they head home? We’ve got two and half days to move from ‘never seen a tablet’ to ‘in-house tablet expert.’ It is clear the next few days will be busy.
Turning it on is easy. Swiping right, that’s a little trickier. There’s the volume and the back light. It takes practice but its clear the librarians can handle that too. Then we move onto the apps. To begin with there will be three that were custom made. One for beginning readers. A second which starts to look at word recognition. Then there is story app.
Not only are the librarians able to navigate the apps (with our guidance), but it’s clear they are enjoying this. They are trying out the headsets, they are getting the hang of the camera (yes, there were selfies), but most importantly they are eager to explore all of the functions.
The day comes to an end. We send each librarian home for the evening.
Early the next morning we meet at the National Archives and Library Agency. It’s clear everyone has been practicing. It’s not clear that anyone has slept.
Every librarian has their tablet in hand. All of them have figured out the cameras and plan to take a video of the library to show their communities back home.
“Have you been trying the apps?” I ask one of the women.
“Of course.” She smiles. “I stayed up late practicing."
“What did you think?” I follow up.
“How can we get more tablets?” she asks, “I think they will be very popular.”