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



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: 



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



An Email from Lucy

Internet access and even electricity are hard to come by in the remote places where CODE works. That’s why we were so delighted to receive this email from a teacher involved in one of our programs in Ghana.

Good morning,

I am Lucy, a teacher in Ghana, an assistant coordinator, and a lead trainer for the Reading Ghana program.

I chose to be a teacher after winning the Best Teacher award at a private school where I taught before going to Teacher Training School. The children were so dear to my heart and I taught them with all passion. Parents, teachers and pupils liked me very much due to how I handle children in classroom, helping them to write using my own style and songs.

I was able to organize the children in church for choreography, drama, bible quiz and teaching those who have problems in some topics in primary education. All of this threw more light on my capabilities, so I chose to go to Teacher Training College to help Ghanaian children at large. Before then, I thought I was to become a nurse, but I realized it was just their uniform that was enticing me.

CODE and the Ghana Book Trust are adding more value to teachers and pupils in Ghana. We can boast of new interactive strategies that have removed boredom and decreased absenteeism in Ghanaian children. It has also helped teachers in our communities to know that there is no such thing as a “dull child” when given equal opportunities.

These strategies help the pupils to interact freely with teachers, preparing them for debate and how to talk in public. It has raised the confidence level of teachers and allows them to be posted to any grade level in primary school and junior high school. Also, the teaching and learning materials which we supply to teachers have improved their way of teaching.

To crown it all, the Teacher Training College has agreed to add these strategies to their syllabus, since they have been part of the training and saw how effective it was.

Long live CODE! Long live the Ghanaian Book Trust!

Thank you.


Help teachers like Lucy to inspire a generation.


More about Reading CODE and Reading Ghana.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016



Gender Equality & Literacy International Women’s Day 2016

For International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, we sat down with CODE’s Gender Specialist Heloísa Modesto to discuss girls, boys and literacy.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016



Shelagh Rogers: CBC Host, University Chancellor & CODE Volunteer

Shelagh Rogers has hosted the awards ceremony for CODE's Burt Award for First Nations Métis and Inuit Literature three years in a row. To mark International Volunteer Day on December 5th, we asked Shelagh what inspires her to volunteer for CODE year after year:

Shelagh Rogers and Monique Gray Smith"The Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Metis literature is an award like no other on the literary landscape of Canada. Not only are Indigenous authors honoured, so are young Indigenous readers. The books are chosen with an eye to young readers being able to recognize themselves in the stories.

The generous founder of the award, William Burt, started reading the Hardy Boys books as a ten year old. He identified with the two teenaged boys who solved mysteries. He identified with them. He saw himself in them. He could join them as they worked on their cases. Mr. Burt wanted to ensure that young Indigenous readers could have that same kind of experience: seeing yourself in a story. Imagining what is possible. Understanding a life that is not your own.

I am honoured to be involved with The Burt Awards because of this generous premise. It all comes down to a sense of belonging. If you share a story with me, a bit of you stays with me and vice versa. Because when we share a story with someone, a part of us belongs to another. I love the power that stories have.

Also, I am very excited to support Indigenous writers in Canada. What a fertile time this is! The Burt Awards also celebrate the authors and do so much to get them out into communities and schools so that the readers can rub elbows with them and ask them questions face to face. What a great gift.

It is a pleasure to be affiliated with these awards. They help to create community and to foster a lifelong love of reading and stories. And it’s so much fun, fun of the most profound kind. It is always deeply moving and I thank Mr. Burt for his vision and his generosity."

Friday, December 4, 2015



On War, Stories, and Giving Back

"My work as an illustrator is so meaningful to me. Drawing stories in the dirt allowed me to escape during a very difficult time in my country’s history. Now I hope the books I’ve illustrated not only get children interested in reading, but also provide adventure and joy."

-Chase Walker, Children’s Book Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Photographer

I grew up in Liberia while my country was at war.

My sister and I attended school, afraid that we would have to suddenly flee, never knowing if the conflict would force our school to close.

Many did. And now, almost an entire generation is illiterate.

Drawing in the Dirt

Sitting under a tree, I would draw stories in the dirt. This was my way of bringing my ideas to life and expressing myself.

I would draw to escape my reality – much like reading a book – but there were no books around. There was nothing to do but wait for the war to stop and for the situation to improve.

Working as an Illustrator

Thanks to your support, I had the chance to work with CODE. I discovered from those stories that I drew in the dirt that I had a natural talent as a children’s book illustrator. My career has continued to evolve, and now I’m also working as a graphic designer and photographer!

When I met CODE's Liberian partner, the WE-CARE Foundation, I was given the opportunity to illustrate four books with vibrant images that reflect Liberian culture.

Seeing the first copies of the finished books was amazing. My little sister was so proud of me and what I had accomplished that she brought them to school one day, bragging about them to her friends.

My Turn to Give Back

When I have the chance to do something that gives back – I take it. So I was delighted when I was asked to travel to neighbouring Sierra Leone with CODE to help local illustrators create books just like the ones I worked on.

It was wonderful to see how eager and talented the illustrators were. They saw the books I worked on and said ‘if you can do this, so can we!’ It was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done.

Your Support of CODE

Your support will help CODE’s partners like the WE-CARE Foundation develop and distribute books to children like my sister. She is just one example of a child who learned to read through CODE’s support of classrooms and community libraries. But there is more to do.

This holiday season there are thousands of children who still don’t have access to books – some have never seen, let alone held a book in their hands.

When you give, you’re sharing the gift of opportunity and empowerment by providing books to children around the world, helping them learn to read and inspiring them to read to learn.


I hope you’ll join me in your support of CODE - creating locally produced books for children in Africa is so important and will help provide an escape for children in very difficult situations.

About the Author

Chase Walker

Chase Walker is a Liberian photojournalist, political cartoonist, and graphics editor for FrontPageAfrica-the award winning Liberian online newspaper. He is also a former refugee, having fled the fighting in Liberia in 2003.

Chase credits working with CODE to illustrate books for Liberian youth for jump starting his career. He is now a journalism fellow with New Narratives, a Liberian based organization that aims to support and encourage journalists in Liberia, and has recently been an Exchange Visitor at the prestigious Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University (USA).


Tuesday, November 17, 2015