Good evening, my name is Daniel Haines and I’m from Edmonton. I’m here today to tell you a bit about my literacy journey.
From the time we were little my brother and I were always getting into trouble. We were sent to a reform school and then a boy’s farm. If we had gone back home, I know that sooner or later I would have ended up in prison or even worse. Instead, my brother and I ran away to the States and we joined the circus. Yes, we really did join the circus!
That’s where I spent the next 12 years and it was one of the greatest adventures of my life. With the skills I learned from my circus days I was able to change careers fairly easily. In those days, you didn’t need a grade 12 diploma to get a job. I spent nearly 30 years in the sign business and I have coached, been the president of sports leagues and been on local and provincial boards.
Everyone just assumed that I could read and write and I was not going to tell them any different.
14 years ago my life had become unmanageable and I had considered suicide as a way out. For years I had struggled with an addiction. As I sat in the detox center, the councillor told me she was worried because I wasn’t taking part in the workshops. I admitted to her that I was embarrassed because I was a slow reader and couldn’t write but I knew if I was going to survive I needed to join a recovery program and to be successful I had to read better.
My wife encouraged me to give the P.A.L.S. – Project Adult Literacy Society, more commonly known as PALS, a try. I was paired up with a great tutor and I am still working with her. This One on One learning is just what I was looking for.
My first year at P.A.L.S., they talked me into taking some workshops at the Provincial Literacy Conference. I was nervous about going. I didn’t think I was smart enough. It really had an impact on me. I enjoyed it so much, and it was there I realized that I was not alone. I joined the Student for Students program at P.A.L.S. We have hosted many workshops for adult learners to take part in. They are designed to help in many ways – to be able to follow basic instructions, to work with others, and to build self-esteem and self-confidence.
Since then I have worked as a Student Director on the Literacy Alberta Board and been Alberta’s Learner Rep with the National Movement for Canadian Literacy. In 2008 I spoke before the Senate about Literacy. It was the first time adult learners had been invited to speak before a Senate committee. That year I won the COFL award in Alberta. It was a great honour.
In January 2014 I was awarded The Queen Elisabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.
Throughout my life I’ve been in many near death situations and each time I wondered why I had been spared. As goofy as it sounds, I now know why. Part of what makes us feel good about ourselves is feeling like we have a purpose for our lives – something that fulfills us. My recovery and my involvement with literacy have given me this. As I became more involved in the literacy community, I realized that there are so many adults like me that need help.
14 years ago, I was desperate. If these groups had not been around, I am positive I would not have made it through a recovery program. They literally saved my life. With the support of my family, and with the encouragement of the people I have met in the literacy community, I have accomplished more than I ever dreamed was possible.
If our message of improving our own literacy can reach others and help them to help themselves, then we all become a part of the solution. I really do believe that every person can make a difference.
Thank you for listening.