PACE Fund reduces barriers to learning

Adults often face barriers to learning due to financial hardship. They may not have money for bus fare to attend a class. Or they can’t afford to buy books or pay for babysitting. They may be going to class hungry.

PACE (Pacific Association of Continuing Education) promotes equity, diversity and inclusion in literacy programs by removing barriers to participation and creating a supportive and inclusive environment for learning.

The PACE Community Access Fund provides financial assistance to adults in community-based adult learning programs. Programs use the funds to support their students with short-term needs. Supports for transportation, childcare, books or other costs can make the difference between attending and not attending their literacy/Adult Basic Education (ABE) program.

“The purpose is to help remove barriers by providing financial resources with few strings attached to fill gaps more formal funding channels do not meet,” said Gail Hanney, Director, Fund Development at Decoda Literacy Solutions.

Literacy programs apply for grants on behalf of learners. The money can be used to support one or more learners, or all the participants in a program. For example, programs may use the funds to provide a bowl of soup to a class in a community where there is a high level of food insecurity.

The PACE Community Access Fund is held at Vancouver Foundation. Decoda Literacy administers the grant application process, distributes the funds to eligible community-based adult learning programs, collects findings and provides a final report.

“The number of people facing barriers to learning is significantly increasing due to the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic situation,” says Gail.

Decoda is extremely grateful to those who provide additional financial support to PACE …  with special thanks to B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and GMR Foundation.

To donate, contact Gail Hanney at or call 604-681-4199 ext. 404.


PACE Stories

These stories about PACE fund recipients demonstrate the impact these supports have on their learning and lives.

Childcare makes opportunities

“A learner came from Mexico with her daughter to start a new life in Canada. She has been working on improving her English with a virtual tutor in the Family Literacy Outreach program for the past two years. She was then able to register for LINC (an in-person adult literacy program) because she was able to secure a childcare spot for her daughter with PACE support.” –Vancouver

“The impact of having childminding through PACE made it possible for Khadija to improve her own literacy skills. It was also an opportunity for her children to experience playing outside of their restricted living space and with another caregiver other than their mother. Khadija was thrilled to have had this opportunity and she now feels she can have more learning opportunities.” –Kootenays


Transportation and food supports

“Homeless for over 10 years, a learner moved back to her home community to take part in a Community Cooks Helper program. She successfully completed her program and wanted to enroll in the Professional Cook Level 1 program. The PACE bursary provided bus fare to get to and from class, snacks for when she was in class, and the costs of her BCID needed to set up a bank account. She has since frequented the CALP program to work on an application for sponsorship, application for a dorm on campus, upgrading her math and learning basic computer skills.”

“In all of her years of living on the streets, this was the first time in such a very long time that she felt seen, heard, respected and supported. This bursary was a game changer for her and she is very thankful.” Gitanyow

“Hanan was unable to speak a single English word before she joined Project Literacy. Her embarrassment kept her at home and prevented her from being involved in Canadian society. She was even afraid to go shopping. Hanan’s main goal was to be able to understand what others were saying to her, to speak simple sentences, and to improve her reading skills so that she could read to her children. With support from PACE, Hanan was able to travel back and forth to Project Literacy to attend her tutoring sessions and improve her English skills.” –Kelowna

“A learner was struggling with a health condition that made it imperative that he eat nutritious food. But, with a very tight budget, he was caught in a cycle of unemployment and ailing health. With funds from PACE, we were able to provide him with food and literacy packs filled with culturally appropriate food, traditional recipes that could be prepared easily and beginner word searches. The recipes gave him the opportunity to practice his reading and math skills in a way that was meaningful to him and met an immediate need. The word searches gave him an activity that would help him with letter recognition and increasing his vocabulary. He looks healthier, and more importantly is feeling stronger and is back to looking for employment.” –Kitimat

“The PACE bursary provided the opportunity to help support a few of the newly arrived Ukrainian learners attending conversation groups. Bus transportation to and from the facilities, writing materials, pens/pencils, etc., made it easier for them to attend classes and conversation/tutoring sessions. Grocery cards were also supplied for them with printed materials to help them make healthy choices at the grocery store. Coffee cards were provided to those who wanted to connect in the community. Some of our learners purchased books for reading and studying.” –Langley

“We helped a learner study for their learner’s driving test. PACE funds paid for the test fees, and we supported the learner further by making the test appointment, taking them to the testing centre and providing moral support and encouragement. They passed the test on the second try. With this success, we encouraged the learner to continue with lessons, but this time to focus on reading. They are now working twice a week with two different volunteer tutors and are seeing rapid progression through their lessons. The initial support using PACE funds led to a successful outcome, which in turn opened the doors to further learning and growth. We are grateful for these funds for outcomes such as this!” –Cowichan


Traveling tutor

“A learner was in a serious car accident and sustained injuries that affected her mobility. She also lost her transportation in the accident. Thanks to PACE funding, a tutor was able to continue working with her at home twice a week throughout a long recovery. She continued with her studies, and, in fact, surpassed the goals she was working to achieve.” –Barriere


Celebrating learning success

Haida Gwaii Literacy uses PACE funding to provide three $100 bursaries to outstanding learners who have worked hard at achieving their personal goals.

“I thought it would be a challenge to work on my own as I struggle with understanding my online course materials. I am so glad Literacy Haida Gwaii provided a tutor who could work with me on a one-to-one basis. The tutor broke down the course materials and explained them to me in a more comprehensible level. Adult education should be honoured and Literacy Haida Gwaii acknowledges this. Thank you for awarding this bursary to me and thank you for supporting me.” –Learner, Haida Gwaii

“After working with a tutor for several months, and upgrading certifications, a learner got a new job.  She was able to buy several work-appropriate outfits thanks to the PACE bursary. She said it made a huge difference for her sense of self-esteem to arrive for her interview and her first few days feeling like she looked professional.” –Duncan


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