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Moving Forward with Hope and Gratitude

As CanLearn approaches our 42nd birthday on February 14th, we reflect on what we have accomplished and overcome in the past year. One of our greatest learnings in 2020 was that a world of opportunity and support surrounded us despite facing many challenges. With 41 + years of history, it means that we have developed many partnerships and supporters, thousands of satisfied learners and clients and brilliant and dedicated staff and board. We knew we were going to get through the challenges of 2020 – it was just a matter of how.

CanLearn Staff rallied when the pandemic hit, continuing what we could, how we could and where we could. Within days of the lockdown being declared in March, our literacy programs were offered online, primarily so we could connect, communicate public health orders and how to stay safe. Within a couple of weeks, we set up funded (thanks FCSS!) family consultations for behaviour and learning-mostly around at-home learning. CanLearn families struggled with completing schoolwork, worry and stress about the pandemic and the ensuing behaviour, impacting relationships. What a great feeling to be able to listen to concerns and to be able to offer needed help and expertise, and to have families report that CanLearn helped turn things around.

Embracing Technology. Each week, we are becoming more proficient with Zoom, Doxy, Teams, YouTube storytime or what have you. As much as we would prefer to be in-person, we have come to see the value of online offerings. They remove other barriers like physical accessibility, childcare in some cases, transportation and the weather. The shift to online put CanLearn staff into the role of learners. With many humbling and a few bumbling moments along the way, our transition to online made all of us realize how our clients feel when they are learning things for the first time. As we look ahead, we know that this blended learning and service delivery model will be our future and that innovation and change will continue to be a big part of our work.

We learned to embrace change and persevere just like our learners and clients. We all faced a great of change in every aspect of our lives. For example, relaunching our office in mid-June meant we had to buy PPE’s, set up a plexiglass protective barrier and create new safety protocols. At times it was overwhelming, so we spent more time communicating and meeting (albeit online). Through these connections, we learned a great deal about resiliency, which is not about remaining strong, or working ourselves until we drop. Resiliency is really about replenishing ourselves to continue to do what is hard. We talked about getting outside, baking, creating, connecting, and practicing gratitude and excellent self-care. I am so thankful for the brilliant people I work with and all they taught me this year. All of us are so thankful for our inspiring learners and clients – they were the reason we were able to push past the hard stuff.

Mental Health Programming and Services. While we have been working quietly in mental health for 41 years, based upon a tsunami of community need and a call to action by the Psychology Association of Alberta, we decided to embrace our mental health role more fully from here. CanLearn has opened up more access to our counselling services and offers new group programming in this area. Please stay tuned for next week’s blog, which will be dedicated to our mental health services. Our services continue to be directed towards our niche of literacy, learning and attention.

Our Founder. In late 2019 we celebrated our founder, Dr. Neil Hutton. We learned about the dedication, energy and experience that he and the founding group of staff and partners used to pull CanLearn together. This inspiration and our commitment to carrying on this legacy as a staff and board were fresh in our minds when the pandemic hit. We were able to channel this strength of purpose into determination to get through. Tragically, we lost our founder, Dr. Neil Hutton, in late December 2020. We send out our deepest sympathies to his family and friends. What a remarkable man, and what an incredible legacy. We were deeply touched when the Hutton Family directed gifts in Neil’s memory to CanLearn. Thank you to everyone who contributed. We will use the donated funds to help families in the greatest need to access our clinical services.

Funders, Donors and Sponsors. This year, more than ever, it feels like we are in partnership with our funders, donors and sponsors. The flexibility, forethought, and funding types available feel like the community has our back. Partnerships are essential, and together we are much stronger.

CanLearn’s theme for 2020 was Staying Strong and Moving Forward, and we did just that. Folks, we made it! So onto 2021, our theme is Moving Forward with Hope and Gratitude. Please join us this year.