The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy Elk Valley (CBAL) will be starting the New Year in an accessible office and learning space with exciting programs and outreach. In October of this year, CBAL started moving into a new ground floor office space at the back of #402 Highway 3, Fernie. CBAL’s goal is to allow complete independence in their space for wheelchair users but more accommodations are still needed for this. Community Literacy Coordinator Chrisy Hill has been consulting with Canadian Adaptive Network (CAN) to ensure this is done appropriately.
The new space was far more expensive than past locations and CBAL owned very little office furniture. Luckily, the collaborative spirit of the Elk Valley came through and along with the coordinator’s passion for accessibility, they now have their bases covered. Local residents pitched in and donated items such as area rugs, cupboards, shelving, and more. The rent cost was also reduced by sharing the space with the Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS).
One of the best features of the new CBAL location, according to settlement worker Patty Villasenor, is the dedicated childcare room. Thanks to funding from Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), CBAL hosts four English Language classes per week. One class is a Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) preparation class to help newcomers to Canada prepare for their citizenship language assessment. On Tuesday evenings, Villasenor teaches an advanced English Language class. Twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays), CBAL provides free childcare for the English Language students in the dedicated space. Fernie Alpine Resort understood the value of this service and through their Summit Fund donated $500 to buy items required for the room – such as bookshelves, bilingual teaching calendar, multilingual books, toys, and more.
Although CBAL has been around for years, there is still sometimes confusion as to what exactly they do. “First of all, we are not the same as Columbia Basin Trust (CBT)” explains CBAL facilitator Laura Vaughan “they are one of our many funders, but we are not the same entity. Our focus is on making fun and accessible programs and learning is a byproduct of that fun.”
CBAL provides a multitude of services in the Elk Valley, all of which are free. Their goal is to support and promote literacy in all its forms. They offer one-to-one tutoring with volunteers trained to work with adults. “Literacy is a vague sometimes intimidating word” explains Community Literacy Coordinator Chrisy Hill. “Essentially, we help adults learn whatever they need to learn to function their best”.
They also provide a variety of free programs within the community which help parents and caregivers in their efforts to support the very early stages of literacy in their babies and toddlers. Watch for Baby Goose, Nanny Network, Sparwood Kindergym, Block Builders, and Love 2 Learn starting in January.
CBAL works with local schools to provide programs for parents to learn how to support their child’s school career. In the New Year, parents of grade one students should watch for Come Read with Me in Elkford. Parents of kindergarten students should watch for PALS – Parents As Literacy Supporters in Fernie and Sparwood.
CBAL aims to provide learning environments that are fun and “non-school like”. Their financial and math literacy program, Cooking on a Budget, will begin in January. The Fernie Women’s Resource Centre has kindly donated kitchen space for CBAL to run this program. In this program participants enjoy preparing and eating a meal together while gaining kitchen math, budgeting, and money saving skills throughout the process.
If you would like to make a donation, or would like more information on any programs or services please contact the Community Literacy Coordinator, Chrisy Hill ; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)946-7257. Program news and schedules are also available on their Facebook page and website, cbal.org