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KCR: Volunteers impact locally and globally

These columns are contributed by the KCR Community Resources

This week we meet Antonia De Boer, the Executive Director of Niteo Africa Society, which was founded by current Board Chair Karine Veldhoen in 2009 to support young readers in Uganda to develop the critical literacy skills needed for a bright and hopeful future. While fully volunteer-led for many years, Niteo has now brought on Antonia as the full-time ED of the organization. Antonia is a passionate problem solver, energized by collaborative conversation and wholehearted action. With a master’s degree in Cross Cultural Studies and non-profit experience, Antonia believes in Niteo’s strategic model of international partnership, addressing the complex challenges of global poverty and injustice through local-global relationship and cooperation.

“We collect gently used children’s books from both individuals and over 20 SD23 school libraries to fill a Sea-Can and ship to partner grassroots organizations in Uganda to supply community and school libraries,” explains Antonia. “To date we have shipped 275 tons of books to Uganda and have worked with partners to establish 12 literacy centres across Uganda.”

“In January 2022 we launched a local Family Reading Program for newcomer families in Kelowna in partnership with Okanagan Regional Libraries,” continues Antonia. “We are very excited to be resuming this program for the 2022-23 school year.”

The program is for both parents and their school aged children (younger siblings are welcome to attend as well) and focuses on learning through relationship and play. The best way for children to increase their literacy skills is to increase the amount they read. And simply put, students read more when they enjoy it! Niteo has a team of incredible volunteer Reading Mentors who provide 1:1 support for both children and parents during the weekly program sessions but is looking for more volunteers to join this team.

“We could not do the work we do without volunteers! Volunteers build relationships with the families that participate in our Family Reading Program and play a crucial role in encouraging and supporting them.,” says Antonia enthusiastically. “There is always a lot of excitement when children spot their Reading Mentor in the room!”

“Volunteer Reading Mentors in our Family Reading Program are asked to make a weekly 2-hour (5-7pm) commitment on Tuesdays or Wednesdays for 10 weeks/semester,” adds Antonia. “Volunteers for our Family Reading Program, Fall Semester will need to apply by September 16th.”

The society is also looking for “Book Wranglers” who sign up for book sorting and packing shifts that work with their schedules, a typical book packing shift is 2 hours (Saturdays, 9-11am, or week nights, 5-7pm). Another way to support the organization is to help with graphic design, website and fundraising.

“NITEO volunteers will find themselves belonging to a community that is supportive and a lot of fun! Volunteers often share how much they enjoyed learning about other cultures through the relationships built during our Family Reading Program,” concludes Antonia. “Volunteers gain the opportunity to practice their communication and problem-solving skills and also learn more about themselves. A university student volunteer in our program and realized how much he enjoyed working with children and upon graduating pursued a career as a Behavioural Interventionist. Another volunteer shared: ‘I wasn’t expecting how much joy it would give me to see someone recite their ABC’s for the first time! Such a gratifying and beautiful experience!’”

Volunteers can apply online at: https://www.niteo.org/volunteer or go to the VolunteerConnector (www.kcr.ca) or Do Some Good (www.dosomegood.ca). To learn more about Niteo Africa Society go to www.niteo.org or check out their socials @niteoafrica. You can email Antonia directly at executivedirector@niteo.org.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at dorothee@kcr.ca.

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