Today was the start of my second year as volunteer tutor/facilitator at a local literacy centre for Adults. I admit that it felt a bit scary to walk in and face a new group of anxious and willing students, each individual always standing out from the others. As adult students they bring with them the stories and experiences which have been their lives for decades, and I commend them for their courage in facing such a challenge.
What I wasn't prepared for today was seeing familiar faces, the returning students. Kudos to them! Their goals are varied, some hoping only to write out a grocery list, others wanting to read bedtime stories to their children, almost all of them hoping for -and in need of- employment at the end of this road.
One man stood out. I hid my surprise (and joy) at seeing "M". I thought I'd never see him again after witnessing his departure from our school in December 2006. Thoughts of him have often since been with me, this man who had been forced to serve in Saddam's army, too young to realize his childhood was gone forever. It took several years to succeed in his escape and find his way across the ocean, where he yearns for his mother's face and voice and love, hoping he will some day be able to return to his home. He yearns, also, for God's forgiveness, the first words written on his list of wishes. He lives a shell-shock existence.
His neighbours don't appreciate the rooster he keeps in his appartment, the one who wakes him for prayer every morning. He needs something to remember home by, his religion, his culture, his essence... And so I smile at knowing M has a rooster for company, although I must admit that I am glad I am not his neighbour.
What M also possesses is a love of words. Poetry, to be specific. It's where he finds his solace. And when his search for words overwhelms him, I show him an itty-bitty picture frame and remind him he need only fill IT up. I've yet to make him understand that it all happens one word at a time...for all of us...but a new school year begins!
For facts on Literacy statistics in Manitoba, go to: