VTT Detroit 2014

VTT Update 14-3-2014

ArrivalThe end of the first week and so it is perhaps time to share with District 9550 Rotarians our work here in Detroit. Please note, that this is a personal report and does not reflect the districts (D9550 and D6440) nor any other persons’ views; it is simply the personal ramblings and perceptions of a VTT member.

This is the fifth day we have been working in Detroit. The program is now set and we are developing the target workshops and preparing the resources. Training starts early next week. Just a reminder of the situation here: Detroit supposedly has an adult illiteracy rate approaching 49%. Whatever the statistics, it is evident that the community suffers from decades of poor public education and that in itself provides our own country with a valuable lesson. With the collapse of major industries here, coupled with a host of other problems, the city has gone into a rapid decline (1.8 million people to approximately 700,000). The challenge is to attract new industries to an area where the general workforce is limited in its ability to engage with modern work requirements. Our team’s role is to provide some support to local community organisations, in both preparing future community leaders focusing on volunteer tutor development and in strategic planning at the delivery level within communities.

Detroit suburbThe challenge for many Rotarians is the idea that Vocational Training Teams are not just working in ‘third world’ countries. Traditionally Rotary has a wealth of programs that focus on providing water, health and education enhancements to third world countries. This provides significant benefit to the communities we target while also making ourselves (Rotarians) feel good about ourselves and our endeavours to provide a better life and meet the needs of people. We don’t get into arguments about whether it is that country’s government responsibility or whether the country’s ‘elite’ should do more. Yet there is an intellectual challenge in getting round this traditional perspective of Rotary assistance when VTT’s may work in first world countries dealing with problems that impact on people’s lives. For some reason we immediately perceive that it is someone else’s responsibility. The challenges for us as Rotarians is get over our own prejudices and stereotypical views, and just focus on meeting the needs of people who require assistance. It is hard to change your personal perspective on aid/assistance – stated from my own experience – but VTTs do provide the opportunities to work across many communities in need and that, in the final instance, is what is important.

The images below provide an idea of our location and even the weather (today is expected to go to -4oC with a wind chill factor of around -20oC). This is a prolonged cold – much greater than normal – and a local mental health issue is the increasing depression levels of the population! Somehow the Australian team can empathize with that…ProLitercy officeProLitercy office environment

The building shown (with the For Sale sign) was donated (deeds and all) to ProLiteracy on Thursday at a ceremony here at the centre. It is where we are based during this project. The building was once the second largest branch of Comerica Bank in Michigan. It remains fully set up so our workshops take place in the customer section of the main body, 3 centimetre security Perspex sheets provide the dividers for small group work areas (teller boxes) and there remains a vault with hundreds of security deposit boxes. Proliteracy has only been in the building for approximately two weeks and so things still require a lot of work but this provides a solid asset base for that group to continue its work.team in its work area

The location is a depressed section of Detroit though probably about 80% of the homes are still occupied. In some areas whole suburbs may have only a few homes occupied while the remainder stand vacant and slowly fall into ruin.

Proliteracy appears to be making some progress in meeting the need of adult illiteracy since our last visit. It has solid support from the broader business community (hence the donation of a building), there are limited government funds but a solid revenue stream from philanthropic contributions (e.g. the local casino provided some of the furniture – used – for the new building). It is certainly not wealthy and each year is a struggle, but its work is well regarded by the broader community and the people it serves. Our day starts with around 7:30am and finishes well into the evening.


VTT 2014 News 20-3-2014

It has been a hectic time here as the team endeavours to develop training programs to suit the needs of the target organisations. The team has completed the following:

• Prepared a draft three day training program for volunteers. The program is currently in pilot delivery with ongoing refinements occurring as we trial the content and process. Our test subjects are 12 experienced tutors being prepared for roles as workshop leaders (i.e. to train volunteers as tutors). We are currently starting the second day of delivery in the pilot phase. The resources developed for this training program consist of:Pilot trial of Tutor Training Workshop – Day One

o 88 page volunteer work manual
o 190 page workshop leader guide
o Supporting PowerPoints
o AV media and handouts/worksheets

• Delivered three full day workshops as part of a professional development program for tutors
• Conducted a series of meetings with clients, tutors and organisation representatives to identify need and parameters of program delivery.
• Commenced work on developing a second training program directed at assisting parents and partners build literacy skills within the home. This program is to be a full day.

Our days are long – starting before 7:00 am and ending with close of office at 5:00pm, then some independent evening work to complete, edit or prepare for the next day. The few days we have had off have provided us with an opportunity to simply relax, e.g. weekend before last we went into Windsor (Canada) where Janet Kelly (President, Rotary Club of Windsor 1918) hosted the full team for the weekend – we slept, did some informal planning and went out to dinner).

This trip is not focused on working with the clients of the community organisations, but rather building the capacity of the community organisations to be self-sustaining in terms of training and development. Our goals are to:

1. Have four training teams established to continue tutor training in a structured and pedagogically sound manner.
2. Provide a comprehensive tutor training packages for the identified areas that are fully resourced, e.g. volunteer manuals, instructor guides, PowerPoints, AV materials and worksheets.
3. Increase the capacity of individual tutors and workshop leaders to address emerging needs within their organisations.

In terms of Rotary activities, we have:

• Visited the Rotary Club of Grosse Point AM for breakfast
• Attended the weekly meetings of the host club, Rotary Club of Detroit; we also provided a formal address to the club yesterday on the economic and social impacts of illiteracy and Rotary’s role in this area;
• We will attend and present at the morning meeting of the Rotary Club of Dearborn which is a fund raiser for the literacy organisation we are working with on 28 March.

This trip has been different from the initial VTT activity in 2011. The client organisations are more focused on sustainability and have followed through with the feedback from the initial visit. In broad terms, the program is targeting the capacity of the client organisations to deliver services. The project’s outputs are clear and specific. There is also a better understanding from the local Rotary Clubs that this is a ‘work project’ rather than a ‘GSE style visit’.

Pro Literacy Detroit2