More than 50 of CODE’s most loyal supporters braved the humidity last week to attend CODE’s annual donor reception - held this year at the beautifully renovated allsaints community space in Sandy Hill. The reception date, Thursday September 8th, was very à propos as it marked the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day and the launch of the new Global Education Monitoring Report.
Scott Walter, CODE’s Executive Director, hosted the evening and paid special tribute to one of CODE’s most generous donors, William “Bill” Burt. Mr. Burt became involved with CODE in 2007 after taking part in its 2007 Seeing is Believing Tour to Ethiopia. Upon his return from that trip, Bill became a devoted and exceptionally generous CODE supporter. His first order of business? To help CODE get engaging books into the hands of young adults. In 2008, The Burt Award for African Literature was launched in Tanzania to recognise excellent, engaging and culturally relevant books. Burt Award programs for three more African countries soon followed. There are now Burt Award programs for Caribbean Literature and, most recently, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature.
Poor health prevented Mr. Burt from receiving the CODE Director’s Award but accepting it on his behalf were dignitaries from three countries in which the Burt Award program has made a tremendous impact -- namely Ms. Ukubi Hanfere Mohammed, First Secretary, public diplomacy of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Paul James Makelele from the Tanzanian High Commission, and Dr. Sulley Gariba –High Commissioner to Ghana.
Other attendees included CODE board member Rosamaria Durand, long-time CODE member and donor, Gwynneth Evans, and Afreenish Yusirah –CODE’s new CODE on Campus representative from Carleton University.
The event was also an opportunity for CODE to acknowledge 25 years of partnership with its UNESCO award-winning partners the Children’s Book Project of Tanzania and Associação Progresso of Mozambique.
The event concluded with the exciting announcement of CODE’s 2017 Seeing is Believing –Ghana tour. His Excellency, Dr. Sulley Gariba, High Commissioner to Ghana, personally extended an invitation to the audience promising participants a very warm welcome to his country. The tour, set to begin on February 15th 2017, will provide participants with the opportunity to visit children and teachers engaged in CODE’s programming in schools in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
As the 12th child in a family of 13, I value the small things in life – a great book to read, a good cup of coffee, or a friendly smile. My father was a single parent, who worked very hard to give us a full childhood and taught us the value of education early on.
He was a farmer and a leader in our local community. He gave of his time, talents and money to help others in need. I am very grateful to him and all I learned about giving back, education and valuing the seemingly “small” things in life.
As a university professor, I see firsthand the enthusiasm in students looking towards a brighter further. Nowhere more have I seen this then this past February when I travelled to Ghana as part of CODE’s Seeing is Believing tour.
I was unprepared for how much this would change the way I see the world. What I saw was truly inspiring. It was also heartwarming and overwhelming.
Imagine this – entering a classroom of 51 students all lined two to three per desk, eagerly waiting for visitors so that they could share all that they have been learning throughout the year. Their enthusiasm and love of learning were awe-inspiring and contagious.
"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts." - Winnie the Pooh
As we arrived at each school, we were given wonderful little booklets, which were made with the help of donors in Canada. In advance of our tour, CODE had asked donors to write stories about why reading was important to them. Most importantly, they shared a message of encouragement for the students of Ghana.
As I circulated through a Primary 4 class, students engrossed with their stories and drawings, I noticed a young boy who was sitting still. He was not writing his story or drawing his picture. I asked, “Is there something wrong; can you not think of something to write about?”
He said in a shy, quiet voice, “I don’t have a pencil.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a CODE pencil. I sharpened it and handed it to him. His face beamed and he excitedly got to work. A small thing - with so much meaning.
As I stood up, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other students quietly hiding their own pencils in their desks, under their seats or in their small schoolbags. Their hands then quickly shot into the air as they, too, wanted a new pencil of their own.
It was then that I really appreciated how something as simple as a pencil has the power to change a child’s day, and ultimately their future.
When you support CODE, you help make all of this happen. Please help rewrite the story for global literacy, one pencil, one book, one teacher and one student at a time.
“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 Hila Olyan, CODE’s Director of International Programs
I look around the room. Here I am in Kumasi Ghana with a dozen primary and middle school teachers and their trainers. We are here as part of Reading Ghana, an Asanko Gold and CODE co-funded project implemented by CODE together with the Ghana Book Trust, (CODE’s partner since 1990), in support of literacy in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
The workshop participants are part of the second cohort of teachers to be trained as part of the project. They are practicing strategies for teaching reading and writing in their classrooms.
I watch them practice. The idea is to promote learner-centered, participatory approaches to teaching. And so, in the spirit of participation, the teachers are taking turns practicing the approaches as the remainder of the group pretends to be students – participating in the lesson, asking questions, sometimes even given the teacher at the front a little bit of a hard time.
It’s easy to forget that the workshop participants are in fact teachers and not students themselves. I look around the room again. They are a young bunch. Bridget, the sole woman in the group, is just 25. She earned her teaching diploma last year and has just begun teaching grade 4.
“I know things, and I want kids to know things. Education is important.”
–Bridget, Ghanaian Teacher
I ask her what it’s like to be the only woman in the group. She smiles. She is used to it. At her school, there are 17 teachers. Just five are women. Women aren’t frequently assigned to the remote areas like the one where she works. It’s dangerous, it’s far, the conditions are difficult. I ask her why she teaches there. Again, she shrugs, “I know things, and I want kids to know things. Education is important.” We talk some more. Even Bridget admits that while she is satisfied with her work and school, she is not sure how long she will want to stay in a remote place or in a profession which doesn’t pay too well and isn’t often revered by the community.
I ask her what she thinks of the workshop. “It's good. I like it.” She goes on to say that it brings together teachers from different schools but in similar situations. They talk, they form a community of practice. They relate to each other and learn from each other. “I feel like I am part of something,” she says.
Will the training be enough to keep Bridget teaching? It’s hard to say. But it has already made an impact. I watch how excited she is, and how excited her peers are. I am confident they will give these new strategies a try in their classrooms. (Our experience with the first cohort tells us they will). I am also confident that we are beginning to build a sense of professionalism among the teachers. They see themselves not as ‘just the teacher’ but as people who will shape the opportunities and the futures of the children in their classrooms. They begin to see what is possible – from their peers, from their trainers (each of whom has made a career in education), from the changes they will see in the students.
I told Bridget that what she is doing is important. “You’re a role model, you know, to girls in your classroom. They don’t have many opportunities to see a strong, educated woman. You can inspire them. You can teach them. You can make a difference.” I say it because I believe it. Bridget is making a difference. Reading Ghana is making a difference.
Hila Olyan is CODE’s Director of International Programs
Your donation today will be matched, making your gift go twice as far!
I met Aisha* on a recent trip to Sierra Leone. And I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that she and I had something very special in common. Like Aisha, I fell in love with books the first time I walked into a library.
My library was in Kigali, Rwanda, where I was born and raised. I was 12, and I had never seen anything like it. I found myself swept away by the magic of all those shelves lined with books that were just waiting for me to read. And even though we didn’t have a lot of money, my mother bought me a library membership.
Aisha was 12, too. But her library was in Freetown, a city in Sierra Leone that was settled by Black Nova Scotians who had fled slavery. And on this special day, Aisha’s library was full of Canadian Navy personnel. They had come to build shelves and read with the children. The room was alive with laughter and excitement. Aisha was excited, too. And I could tell that this would be a day she’d never forget.
I’ll never forget it, either. It was a moment that made me proud to call Canada home. Watching these caring Canadian servicewomen and men build the library of Aisha’s dreams made me cherish just how much the gift of books had changed the course of my own life. I wish you could have been there to see this love in action when members of our Canadian Navy arrived at Aberdeen Municipal School in Freetown. Before they arrived, I didn’t expect more than a dozen or so to come. So you can imagine my surprise when two busloads of servicewomen and men showed up, eager to share their own love of books with children in Freetown. I had never seen anything like it. They enthusiastically installed new shelving in the library, and could not wait to read with the children. Some even brought their own favourite storybooks to share.
You can share this amazing gift with children all over the world this holiday season by making a donation to CODE. And thanks to a generous Canadian CODE donor, your gift today will be matched – dollar for dollar – up to $100,000!
If you believe in the power of books to connect, inspire, teach, and transform, donate today and share the gift of books with children around the world!
For the love of books,
Willy Rangira, Senior Program Manager
*Aisha’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
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.
“I want my legacy to inspire future generations to achieve their highest potential and through CODE I know that will be possible.” -Gwynneth Evans
Communication is at the heart of all our relationships. And human beings are fortunate to have many and varied ways to communicate and connect with one another. Communication allows us to tell our stories.
The possibility of fostering relationships and the joy and pleasure of reading have prompted me to leave funds to CODE in my Will.
Having witnessed and taken part in the transfer of knowledge and skills since the late 60s in sub-Saharan Africa, I can speak personally of the transformation of individuals and communities when they are given the opportunity to read and write. I still remember my first weeks of teaching in Uganda and our need to find common ground, in order to learn from one another.
As we attempt collectively to address very urgent questions for our planet and our world, it is important that young people are engaged and recognize that they, too, can make a difference in reaching the goals and plans of future generations. Books and the joy of learning are fundamental to our future. Communication brings us together and stimulates learning and our imaginations.
This LEAVE A LEGACY™ month, I encourage you to think about what you want your legacy to be.