Mickela Panday is one of the most recognisable figures in our national community. Despite our mutual affiliation with the T&T Guardian newspaper, she and I have never met.
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Partners add value in kind
For far too long, putting money into a charity has been seen as a one-off, finite venture. Because the impact of a non-profit initiative cannot be quantified to arrive at a bottom line, finding long-term partners is a challenge.
Alta has been lucky to find partners determined to improve literacy, who have come up with creative ways to become involved in long-term giving.
In 2008, the Information Management Department at British Gas (BG) made a unique gesture of partnership with an offer to provide training to Alta students and tutors in basic computer literacy including how to surf the internet and use MS Word.
The training sessions, spearheaded by Nicole Young, have continued each year since then at BG’s offices in Port-of-Spain, the top floor being converted into a computer lab for 40 Alta students and tutors. More than 20 of BG’s staff give up two consecutive Saturdays to give one-on-one help so participants get the most of the sessions.
Five years after their first training session, BG followed up their initial partnership by donating 15 new computers to Alta. Nine computers at Alta Belmont, four at the San Fernando office and two at the Arima office were placed in computer labs which students use to access the internet and practise their growing literacy skills.
Today, BG covers the Internet service for the computer lab at Belmont where students browse the Internet and tutors are introduced to Alta’s online database to access their students’ history.
Alta’s move into information and communication technology (ICT) for volunteers and students has not ended. Thanks to the foundation set by BG, many more partnerships are being formed with the aim of keeping the power of the written word in the hands of the newly literate, using technology. One case in point is the 2010 partnership between IBM and Alta where we were granted access to special voice-recognition reading software called “Reading Companion.”
Students attending Alta’s Reading Circles now use this software to practise reading fluency and it has given a new opportunity to Alta volunteers who are unable to commit to teaching for more than two hours each week. These guides take users through the online library of books and offer support and technical input. It is an easy transition for young volunteers or former Alta tutors.
At a time when all this technology could be cause for concern to an NGO, Intercept Security has stepped in to provide monitoring and security equipment at our Belmont offices for the past three years. Without their services Alta’s staff, tutors and students could not work well into the late hours of the evening, using equipment so graciously provided by donors and partners.
While Alta has a new electronic-based capacity, paper continues to be our staple. TSL DocuCentre supplies Alta’s offices with high-performance used copier/printers to produce a range of materials from workbooks for students to flyers for recruiting new volunteer tutors.
These partnerships may not make the headlines or even a press photo like a cheque donation, but meeting the real needs of an organisation championing literacy is a most welcome support.
Thank you to our partners.
Want to partner with us? Alta is looking for volunteers for the 2014/2015 academic year. Become an Alta volunteer tutor, a Reading Circle guide or assist students with the Reading Companion software on the computer. Volunteers are unpaid. Call 624-ALTA (2582) to set up an interview or visit www.alta-tt.org to get more information.
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