One of my 2016 New Year’s resolutions was to start with “Yes.” Happily, every so often an opportunity comes around that makes saying “Yes!” the only logical response.
The Law Society of Manitoba’s annual Lawyers for Literacy event is just such an opportunity. Each year for the past 5 years, lawyers and Law Society staff have signed on to spend the better part of a Saturday reading to children at West Broadway Youth Outreach (“WBYO”). As well as reading to kids, participating lawyers raise pledges to support the work of WBYO and donate books and toys for use in the organization’s programming.
WBYO is a grassroots organization focused on improving educational outcomes for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families in Winnipeg’s core. Their mission is to “provide a safe, fun and caring environment where children are provided opportunities to learn and grow. Free structured programming and positive role models instill a sense of accountability, teach life skills, encourage positive behaviour and support children towards achieving their infinite potential.” Who could argue with that?
The benefits of this initiative are pretty obvious. Children get access to new books and are read to. Lawyers leave their comfort zones to step into a challenged community and make a difference. Money is raised to support literacy and learning activities. All who participate, whether as readers or listeners, have a fun day and make a few new connections. And that doesn’t include the many benefits of reading itself.
Over the past 5 years, Lawyers for Literacy has raised more than $60,000 for WBYO, which runs pretty much on a shoestring budget of approximately $80,000 per year. I’m already looking forward to my reading shift and will soon be pestering friends and colleagues for their pledges. If you’re interested in getting involved or want to support this truly worthwhile project, all the details are available here. This is the kind of initiative that begs to be copied and reproduced all over the country. Doubtless there’s a similar organization in your neighbourhood that would love to have you come out to read and support their work.