CODE’s International Literacy Day Annual Donor Reception

An evening of thanks, milestones and the launch of Seeing is Believing 2017!

More than 50 of CODE’s most loyal supporters braved the humidity last week to attend CODE’s annual donor reception - held this year at the beautifully renovated allsaints community space in Sandy Hill. The reception date, Thursday September 8th, was very à propos as it marked the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day and the launch of the new Global Education Monitoring Report.

Scott Walter introducing CODE's Donor Reception

Scott Walter, CODE’s Executive Director, hosted the evening and paid special tribute to one of CODE’s most generous donors, William “Bill” Burt. Mr. Burt became involved with CODE in 2007 after taking part in its 2007 Seeing is Believing Tour to Ethiopia. Upon his return from that trip, Bill became a devoted and exceptionally generous CODE supporter. His first order of business? To help CODE get engaging books into the hands of young adults. In 2008, The Burt Award for African Literature was launched in Tanzania to recognise excellent, engaging and culturally relevant books. Burt Award programs for three more African countries soon followed. There are now Burt Award programs for Caribbean Literature and, most recently, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature.

Scott Walter with CODE's country partner dignitaries

Poor health prevented Mr. Burt from receiving the CODE Director’s Award but accepting it on his behalf were dignitaries from three countries in which the Burt Award program has made a tremendous impact -- namely Ms. Ukubi Hanfere Mohammed, First Secretary, public diplomacy of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Paul James Makelele from the Tanzanian High Commission, and Dr. Sulley Gariba –High Commissioner to Ghana.

Donor Reception introductions

Other attendees included CODE board member Rosamaria Durand, long-time CODE member and donor, Gwynneth Evans, and Afreenish Yusirah –CODE’s new CODE on Campus representative from Carleton University.

The event was also an opportunity for CODE to acknowledge 25 years of partnership with its UNESCO award-winning partners the Children’s Book Project of Tanzania and Associação Progresso of Mozambique.

Dr. Makelele addressing the audienceThe event concluded with the exciting announcement of CODE’s 2017 Seeing is Believing –Ghana tour. His Excellency, Dr. Sulley Gariba, High Commissioner to Ghana, personally extended an invitation to the audience promising participants a very warm welcome to his country. The tour, set to begin on February 15th 2017, will provide participants with the opportunity to visit children and teachers engaged in CODE’s programming in schools in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.


Monday, September 12, 2016



Fun with Tablets

“How can we get more tablets?”

Innovative librarian training improves access to reading materials and strengthens community engagement.

By Hila Olyan, CODE Director of International Programs

“How many people have used a tablet before?” asks the facilitator. One person raises their hand. “How many people have used a smart phone?” This time 6 hands go up.

There are 23 librarians around the table. It is the third day of librarian training in Addis Ababa. The librarians have come from across the country as part of CODE’s Reading Ethiopia / Beyond Access program.

The project is a joint effort by CODE, CODE-Ethiopia and IREX to pilot an improved set of services at community libraries. In particular, the project aims to improve access to supplementary reading materials in local languages; create opportunities for children, youth and their families to practice reading and writing; and strengthen parental and community engagement to support literacy.

The program has been ongoing in various iterations for more than 15 years but this time we’ve decided to get a little more innovative: we’re introducing technology (tablets) into the program to further increase literacy and support readers of all ages. Custom apps in Amharic and Afaan Oromo have been put on the tablets – and librarians are learning to use them for the first time.

To begin with the training is hard. Getting the hang of a touchscreen is a new experience for just about everyone. Desktop is a new term. Drag and drop is a new action. Uploading, downloading, USB cable – there are no shortage of new concepts.

Admittedly I start to worry. Perhaps we’ve been too optimistic.  Can we really teach the librarians all they’ll need to know before they head home? We’ve got two and half days to move from ‘never seen a tablet’ to ‘in-house tablet expert.’ It is clear the next few days will be busy.

We start with the basics

Turning it on is easy. Swiping right, that’s a little trickier.  There’s the volume and the back light. It takes practice but its clear the librarians can handle that too. Then we move onto the apps. To begin with there will be three that were custom made. One for beginning readers. A second which starts to look at word recognition. Then there is story app.

Now we’re having fun

Not only are the librarians able to navigate the apps (with our guidance), but it’s clear they are enjoying this. They are trying out the headsets, they are getting the hang of the camera (yes, there were selfies), but most importantly they are eager to explore all of the functions.

The day comes to an end. We send each librarian home for the evening.

Early the next morning we meet at the National Archives and Library Agency. It’s clear everyone has been practicing. It’s not clear that anyone has slept.

Every librarian has their tablet in hand. All of them have figured out the cameras and plan to take a video of the library to show their communities back home.

“Have you been trying the apps?” I ask one of the women.

“Of course.” She smiles. “I stayed up late practicing."

“What did you think?” I follow up.

“How can we get more tablets?” she asks, “I think they will be very popular.”





CODE takes special pleasure in wishing all a happy International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day Celebrating 50 years!Fifty years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8th International Literacy Day (ILD) to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.

We’re proud to say CODE recognized that literacy mattered almost a decade before it became a UNESCO initiative - starting off as donated books program in a church basement and evolving into one of Canada’s leading literacy-focused international development organization.

Much of our success can be attributed to the strong partnerships we have developed over the years. We're particularly proud of the 25 years working alongside two UNESCO-award winning partners: Associação Progresso in Mozambique and The Children’s Book Project in Tanzania.

While reading this please take a moment to reflect on how literacy enhances your life. Together we can make sure every child in the world can learn to read & write.


Reading the Past, Writing the Future
#InternationalLiteracyDay #LiteracyDay #50ILD


Thursday, September 8, 2016



Back to school - every parent’s wish

Parents around the world share a common and unwavering truth; a wish for what is best for their children.

Hawa and her mom walking to schoolAs schools open this month, parents in Liberia, as with all of our partner countries, will hope to see their children attend school. However, in a country that emerged from two civil wars back-to-back and most recently survived an Ebola crisis, the need for educating children has never been more important.

As Hawa makes her way to her first day of kindergarten with her mother, it is an exceptionally meaningful moment. Her mother left school in grade 4 never to return. She can barely read and write. She has greater hope for her daughter.

And, given that girls continue to face greater challenges, her teacher, as with all others in our programs, will learn how to improve gender equality. Another critical element that will improve Hawa’s chances for success.

Shoes That Fit book coverCODE will be there with her along the way. As we continue to work with our partners, such as the We-Care Foundation in Liberia, we will ensure that Hawa’s teacher will receive important training. She will learn how to focus more on her students in how she teaches reading and writing.

But as we focus on helping teachers to become better, we also know that they require essential tools, such as books. Books that will excite Hawa and her friends and inspire their learning.

Imagine how important it is for a child’s learning to open a book and see pictures that look like their reality. That tell stories that they can relate to with words that have meaning for them. And in many of CODE’s programs, books that are written in a child’s own language.

Your gift today can help place culturally reflective books into the hands of young children like Hawa; many of whom have never held a book before. You can help create the excitement to learn.

Last year alone, with your help, we were able to help train more than 2,800 teachers and librarians, help provide reading materials to over 1,300 schools, libraries and community centres, and inject over 400,000 books into learning environments in 15 countries around the world. That is impressive!

As this school year begins, I hope you will join me in helping children like Hawa and her teacher get off to a great start – in spite of so many other challenges they face. We hope that as she learns to read and write that, maybe, she will bring her newfound knowledge and abilities home and read to her mother, making her proud.

Allen LeBlanc
Director, Fund Development & Marketing



Wednesday, August 31, 2016



Investing in Teenage Girls through a book

Today marks World Population Day, created by the United Nations World Population Fund. This day was created to bring attention to world population issues. This year’s theme is focused on the importance of investing in teenage girls globally. Teenage girls, specifically in vulnerable communities, are often marginalized due to their gender and their age. In countries such as Kenya, they are faced with difficult circumstances, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) which can lead to gender based violence, decreased health, lack of education, poverty and low self-worth.

The 2015 first prize winning title of CODE’s Burt Award for African Literature in Kenya, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre tells the story of a young teenage girl's fight to escape from her community’s strong cultural norms: FGM and child marriage. Christopher Okemwa, the author, shares his thoughts:

Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre book cover“I wrote the novella, "Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre", with an aim of empowering the girl-child and to give her the tools with which to change the community’s mindset about her place in society. In the novella, my narrative struggles desperately and eventually succeeds –just as girls do in our community – to enable her to beat all odds and cultural circumstances that surround her. With legislative systems having failed or are unwilling to curb this heinous act, I give her the voice, the effort, and the determination to stop this heinous act herself. The novella simply tells women to stand up and fight for their rights themselves. It is them, and maybe, some descent men, who can reinforce the women’s rights.

Additionally, I am trying to tell the world, especially the anti-FGM campaigners and the donors, that FGM is not just a cut; there is much more to it. There is the trauma, the teasing as you grow up, the fear instilled in one since she is a baby, the horror foretold before hand—all of which contribute to the girl-child’s low-self-esteem, self-doubt and negative personality.” 

Clearly, it is through books like Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre that communities can be exposed to the harsh reality that teenage girls must endure. Let World Population Day be the start of educating the world on the struggles that teenage girls face, the dangers of these traditions and the importance of education.

When a girl learns to read and write she learns about her rights and gains access to services


Monday, July 11, 2016



My Experience at the International Assistance Review Consultation

International Assistance Review Youth Consultations June 2016As a member of Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” Speakers Bureau, I was invited to attend the International Assistance Review (IAR) consultations for youth hosted by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in Ottawa on June 28, 2016.
Natasha Harris-Harb,
CODE Summer Student Intern

A bit of background

With the new 2030 United Nations' Sustainable Development Agenda, the Government of Canada has decided it is time to renew its international assistance policies. As part of this process, GAC has been hosting IAR consultations across the country.

The goal of these consultations is to consult with Canadians by engaging them in discussions around “establish(ing) an international assistance policy and funding framework that will be focused on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people, and supporting fragile states, while advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development” (Global Affairs Canada). Canada is approaching these new policies and programs with a focus on women and girls and by implementing its actions through a feminist lens by using an intersectional and inclusive approach.

Global Affairs Canada is focusing on 6 themes as part of the IAR in the development of the new policy, which are defined in its Discussion Paper.

The latest consultation on June 28th was focused on gathering the opinions of youth, and I was fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to participate in this critical discussion!

A glimpse into the event

What an inspiring afternoon full of motivated youth, innovative ideas and important discussion!

The day started with excitement in the air as youth in fields ranging from international development to human rights gathered while being welcomed by the Parliamentary Secretary, Karina Gould, and GAC staff. The Parliamentary Secretary stressed the importance of youth engagement and challenged us to question policies and to push the boundaries of the current international development discussion. By the end of the day, I believe that this “challenge” was met!

We were put into breakout groups where different groups discussed various thematic topics and developed suggestions. I was in the break out group for “Health and Rights of Women and Children”. Let me tell you, when you have a table full of young, passionate individuals with different backgrounds, the discussion is full of intersectional and nuanced opinions. The ideas of community engagement with all stakeholders and focusing on the root causes of problems were common themes throughout the discussion. Due to my time at CODE, I was able to approach the theme of “Health and Rights of Women and Children” through an educational perspective, and I believe that it allowed me to effectively contribute to the group. I expressed the idea of how impactful quality education and culturally relevant teaching materials are in positively affecting issues such as poverty, child marriage, and health by using CODE as an example. Education truly is the root subject that has the power to make strides in advancing the SDGs.

Minister Bibeau speaking at IAR During our discussion, the Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie) joined us at our table! I got the chance to have some one on one time with her where we discussed the importance of engaging youth through opportunities such as forums and co-op programs. 

Next, all of the groups gathered to share their ideas with the Minister and the Secretary General. Each of the groups' suggestions impressed them both! The Minister said she was inspired by the way that we stressed the importance of taking an intersectional approach, and that she hopes that the government and the NGOs will practice this approach in future policies/ projects.

All in all, I am very inspired and thankful that I got the opportunity to be a part of this group of youth, and for the fact that our input was valued by such distinguished individuals. I know that I'll continue to learn about and champion international assistance, specifically with a focus on education throughout and beyond my remaining time at CODE! I believe that CODE embodies all that was discussed at this consultation and will continue to positively impact communities through the power of education.

My challenge to you

I encourage you to express your thoughts and ideas on how Canada should contribute to international assistance on the world stage by submitting a written comment via the international assistance review consultation website, which is accepting submissions until July 31st.

I will leave you with some words from two fellow youth who were at the consultation:

"It's humbling to know that the government considers the views of Canadians and Canadian youth equally.” -Kassandra Neranjan, student at the University of Toronto

"Being surrounded by people my age so knowledgable, innovative and committed global citizens was truly inspiring." -Allison McDonald, student at the University of Ottawa

#CanadaDev, #SDG4, #Education2030

Natasha Harris-Harb is a University of Ottawa student - majoring in International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women Studies, CODE Summer Intern and education advocate 24/7!


Monday, July 4, 2016
Blog Category: 



Consultations on Canada’s international assistance review

Consultations on Canada’s international assistance review

On May 18, 2016, Global Affairs Canada launched a review and public consultations process focused on renewing Canada’s international assistance policy, programming and funding framework.

The primary objective of the review is to determine how best to orient Canada’s international assistance on helping the poorest and most vulnerable populations, and supporting fragile states. The review will consider both the “what” of our international assistance, and the “how” of our approach, including ways to enable greater innovation and effectiveness in our policies, mechanisms and partnerships. The review will result in a set of evidence-based recommendations to Government, informing both Canada’s approach to international assistance and our international implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

All Canadians are invited to participate in this review from May to July 2016.

READ: Canada should make education a core theme in aid policy

For more information on Canada’s international assistance review visit:




World Book and Copyright Day 2016

April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day -- the mission is to promote books, reading and the diversity of cultural expressions, especially among young people, as one of the crucial elements for a prosperous society.

The year 2016 is special, marking the 400th anniversary of the death of two exceptional writers: William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. The legacy of these two great men goes beyond literature and inspires entire generations to think about important society issues that are nowadays still on the agenda.

In order to encourage literacy, reading and the dialogue between different cultures, UNESCO is looking forward to bring out a universal dimension to this internationally celebrated day. An interactive map highlights events organized by librarians, booksellers, publishers and associations around the world: https://wbcd2016.crowdmap.com

World Book and Copyright DayCelebrate World #BookDay and share your ideas and actions with all!

Visit www.unesco.org/new/en/wbcd and spread the news around you!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Blog Category: 



Volunteer Voices: Charlie Temple

"I've met so many great people at CODE gatherings who have been able to share their talents and resources in the service of others. Some are retired officials from the Canadian government or UNESCO. Some are business executives. Some manage not-for-profit organizations. Some have built up nest eggs and want to use their funds to do some good.

Me? I'm just a guy who is fascinated by Africa, loves to teach reading and helping others do it, and enjoys writing children's books and helping others do that, too. I know all of us are grateful to CODE for the chance to use a talent or resource that might contribute to something bigger than ourselves.

Just recently I rode out across the dusty landscape of the Kongwa region in Tanzania with Pilli, Marcus, and Ramadhan from the Children's Book Project. At last we reached the most remote primary school I had ever seen.

As Ramadhan and I huddled in the back of a second grade classroom, we were soon in awe of an energetic teacher who led his students in chanting a lovely chorus. But I had to laugh when Ramadhan translated. It was an ode to CODE! The children were singing and dancing a thank you note to CODE for providing books, supporting their library, and giving their teacher new ideas for ways to teach them.

The gratitude was sincere. CODE really had done wonderful things for this school. And those kids? Lively, smart, energetic, motivated, cheerful. Any of them could be the next Kofi Anan, Wangari Matthai, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Madela.

And all of them can be happy citizens, loving mothers and fathers, peaceful citizens who love learning and value justice. Bring on the books! Keep going, CODE! What a privilege it is to be doing this work with you."

Charles (Charlie) Temple is a professor at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY.


Thursday, April 14, 2016



Volunteer Voices: Angela Ward

"Volunteering with CODE as a member of the Reading Kenya team is a life-enhancing challenge for me; all my professional experience has been as an educator, beginning as a primary teacher working with indigenous children, and closing my career as a university professor. Reading Kenya draws on all my academic, professional and personal interests.

As an academic, I am concerned that teachers with whom I work, whatever their backgrounds, are respected and encouraged. CODE always carries out its projects with cultural sensitivity, and builds local capacity in literacy teaching.

As a professional, I choose materials and approaches that incorporate local knowledge.  CODE provides books in the languages spoken by the teachers and children who are in schools served by their projects. In Reading Kenya, we have developed close professional and personal ties with the Kenyan academics on our team.

As a mother and grandmother, I dream of a world where all children have access to written materials, to educated and caring teachers, and to a healthy environment. CODE takes a holistic approach to education and adapts to the physical contexts of schooling. The education of girls is a priority.

I am proud to be a volunteer with Reading Kenya because people within CODE, including volunteers, have high ideals that support literacy for children and teachers in regions where there is a high need for improved access to materials and professional education for teachers. I am grateful for this opportunity to continue my work as a teacher educator, and to interact with enthusiastic Kenyan teachers and students."

Angela Ward is ‎Professor Emerita at University of Saskatchewan. Her research focuses on language in cross-cultural contexts; indigenous education; education for social justice and teacher education.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016