Published on Tue, 08/29/2017 by ABC Life Literacy Canada

Pacific Training Centre for the Blind named Winner of the Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award

Victoria, BC, program awarded $20,000 as Top Winner

“This year’s winners represent the spirit of diversity, inclusivity and community that we hope to foster in the adult literacy field” - Mack Rogers, Executive Director, ABC Life Literacy Canada

(Toronto, ON – August 29, 2017) ABC Life Literacy Canada (ABC) is proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award (LIA). The LIA recognizes organizations that develop and implement innovative adult literacy and essential skills programs in communities across Canada. This year, the award will be bestowed on one top winner and four honourable mention winners.

This year’s winning programs address the needs of underserved populations and empower learners by helping them improve their literacy skills, gain valuable experience and expertise and build strong ties to their communities. Winning programs demonstrate a significant impact on the lives of their clients, enabling learners to use the skills they have developed to affect positive change in their lives and the lives of those around them.

“This year’s winners represent the spirit of diversity, inclusivity and community that we hope to foster in the adult literacy field,” said Mack Rogers, Executive Director of ABC Life Literacy Canada. “We are thankful to our partner Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life for helping us highlight these innovative initiatives and the important work they do in their communities.”

“We congratulate the 2017 Literacy Innovation Award recipients,” said Debbie Down, Manager, Community Relations with Great-West Life. “The winners represent an impressive field of programs that are helping underserved populations make improvements in their lives by giving them the skills and training that they need.”

TOP WINNER, receiving $20,000
Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, Victoria BC
Program: Blind People in Charge

Blind People in Charge serves blind, deaf-blind and low-vision adults in Greater Victoria and has expanded to serve students from across the country, housing out-of-town students during their training with Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB). It is the only program of its kind in Western Canada that uses an empowering, problem-solving model of instruction, where blind people are the teachers, planners, directors and administrators. Instructors teach non-visual independence and literacy skills, such as Braille, adaptive technology, cane travel, and cooking. The essential and life skills developed through the program allow learners to improve their living conditions and quality of life, as well as find gainful employment.

Although Braille is the official system of reading and writing for the blind, it is not being taught to most blind children or to adults who lose their vision, which has led to a literacy crisis among blind people. The inability to read Braille serves as a barrier to employment and independence. As a result of the training they received at PTCB, students have gone on to lead more independent lives, acquire paid employment and one student started their own business.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS, receiving $5,000 each

Calgary Immigrant Women's Association, Calgary AB
Program: Food Service Industry Program

The Food Service Industry Program was developed to meet the needs of immigrant women with low literacy skills, limited educational backgrounds and little to no work experience in their home countries. Participants in the program earn three certifications during their training that prepare them for a career in the food services industry and even provide participants with a competitive advantage in the hiring and advancement process. During its first three years, the program served 151 learners with another 15 enrolled in the most recent period and an average of 60 learners every year. The program was developed in partnership with five industry partners and 32 different employers have hired graduates in the past year alone. The 90-day program culminates with one-on-one coaching and job search support for alumnae.

Literacy Alliance of West Nipissing, Sturgeon Falls ON
Program: GED Boot-Camp

The GED Boot-Camp program has been running since 2014, serving learners that wish to write the high school equivalency test. The GED Boot-Camp Team works with learners to develop an individualized learning path, with the completion of the 2-day intensive exam as the goal. Facilitators also work with learners to reframe failure as a learning opportunity and a source of motivation. Prior to this program, there were no GED testing centres in the community. Combining both soft and hard skills, the GED Boot-Camp program prepares participants for the rigour of the exam as well as the workplace environment. An important partnership exists between the participant and their mentor; the learner’s buy-in is key and builds confidence. Exam-day attendance for this program is an impressive 99% with the average graduation rate at 75%. This program has seen graduates go on to apprenticeships, post-secondary education and employment.

MetroWorks Employment Association, Halifax NS
Program: Stone Hearth Bakery

Stone Hearth Bakery is a food services social enterprise that has been in operation since 1982. The work-based training program guides participants through the bakery business from early mornings spent preparing the dough, right through to transporting the final product to stores, restaurants and hotels across the city. The program provides valuable, hands-on, industry-relevant training with embedded soft skills and a focus on employability. The program recently expanded to include a café and a canteen, thereby offering further training opportunities for individuals experiencing very low rates of labour force participation in the community. To date, the 300-day long program has helped 2,275 learners. Working closely with local and province-wide businesses, Stone Hearth Bakery is able to provide high-quality products to a variety of retailers, both large and small.

WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Vancouver BC
Program: WISH Learning Centre

The WISH Learning Centre, which has been in operation for 18 years, offers accessible programming to women involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade. The program spans a range of literacies, including creative activities, numeracy, computer literacy, interpersonal and job-readiness skills. WISH’s programming was developed in response to the results of a series of in-depth research studies into the needs of the particularly vulnerable population it serves. Open access to learning can be an integral part of a woman’s harm reduction strategy to reduce their work in the sex trade. In 2016 the WISH Learning Centre had 24 core learners working with Capilano University faculty to develop a learning plan and work to meet their educational goals.

On Thursday, October 12, ABC will host a webinar by LIA top winner, Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, to showcase Blind People in Charge as a model for best practices in the literacy and essential skills sector. The 2017 Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award will be presented that evening as part of ABC’s Life Literacy Night. The Dr. Alan Middleton Workplace Literacy and Learning Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in workplace literacy and essential skills, will also be presented at Life Literacy Night.


About ABC Life Literacy Canada

ABC Life Literacy Canada is a non-profit organization that inspires Canadians to increase their literacy and essential skills. We mobilize business, government and communities to support lifelong learning and achieve our goals through leadership in programs, communications and partnerships. We envision a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life. For the latest news and information on adult literacy please visit, follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook page.

About Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life

Great-West Life, together with London Life and Canada Life, offers a broad portfolio of financial and benefit plan solutions, and serves the financial security needs of more than 13 million people across Canada.

As an Imagine Caring Company, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life donate a minimum of one per cent of average pre-tax profits to non-profit, charitable and community organizations each year.

For more information, please contact:

Ana Oliveira
Director of Marketing, Communications and Development
ABC Life Literacy Canada
416-218-0010 ext. 121

Tim Oracheski
Director, Media and Public Relations
Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life