Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Although hustle and bustle are often indicators of a big heart at work, so too is the quiet voice. In fact, it is the quiet one, intent upon her task, who actually gets work done. It is the soft-spoken one who speaks the loudest, who stimulates others to do their best. Count Marilee Delombard of the Western Quebec Literacy Council among these leaders.
Marilee is retiring after twenty-five years as Executive Director. Marilee was in fact the hands-on worker-director, a real “Servant-Leader”. Hired as coordinator in 1992, Marilee oversaw the Council’s move from the school board offices in Aylmer to its own quarters in Shawville, first on Main Street and then Highway 148.
The Council blossomed under Ms Delombard (assisted by an able board and numerous volunteers); the Council won certification as an independent agency from the Quebec Ministry of Education, allowing specified funding. Marilee oversaw the creation of family literacy programming and “Reading Circles” – which have since encompassed the Creating & Learning Culture program.
Marilee’s management led to further services, notably the TREE group (Teamwork Raising Education and Equality) and a curling team! The “Reading Buddies” concept was launched in Campbell’s Bay. Marilee (with help from her partner) also
managed the modernization of – digitizing – much of the Council’s work. She helped create an impressive volunteers appreciation celebration in Low.
The Western Quebec Literacy Council – covering the entire region – is a volunteer organization offering free, private lessons to people who want to improve their reading, writing and math skills. They train volunteers as literacy tutors; the volunteer tutor meets with their student for a 1-2 hour lesson each week in their home community. The Council has a lending resource–library, publishes its own newsletter and is involved in public education and awareness activities.
While local literacy rates are considered normal, the need for upgrading and expansion of these skills is a major focus. This includes math. Each student is treated individually, and progresses at their own speed. This approach, well-known around the world, is the Laubach system.
The tasks and challenges Marilee handles are impressive. Tutors come in all sizes, ages, and from all walks of life, and they report this work as some of the most rewarding they’ve ever done.
“Literacy” is a catch-all concept. Almost half of Canadian adults report some difficulty with daily life reading and writing, while about 20% rank in the lowest ranges – which would give wealthy Canada a literacy rate of only about 80%. (Compared to Cuba, for example, with a UN-evaluated 100% literacy rate, proving that this goal can be attained, given the will, resources, and public encouragement.) Most of us, reading this, will sympathize with the need for improved literacy.
This is the world Marilee Delombard has managed since 1992, twenty-five years! And she has done it with her calm and measured approach, her quiet skills, her positive attitude and her heart-full ambitions to be of service. The notion of “servant-leaders” has become a touchstone in today’s money-hungry world, and no one – no one! – exemplifies the qualities of a servant-leader more than Marilee.
It is easy to pay lip service to quiet and self-confident leadership, rare to see it in action. We’ve all been fortunate to have Marilee showing us the way, and helping so many of our neighbours and co-citizens become more functional members of our society.
People retire every month, it seems, and we give them a nod or a watch.
If I may, this is a thank-you, Marilee, for your incredible help and leadership.
You have touched every single household in our community.