Always looking forward, not back: Nasib’s literacy journey


Nasib was born in the Fiji Islands. She was raised without electricity or other amenities on a farm as the eldest of five sisters and eight brothers. Her childhood was divided between caring for the needs of her younger siblings and working on the family farm, cutting and raking grass. Unfortunately, as she was so busy with activities at home, she did not have time to go to school, though she did have a strong personal desire to do so.

In the 1950s, Nasib was married and had her first child – a daughter, Premica. A second child – this time, a son – followed. After a remarriage and one more son, Nasib equally supported all of her children in their efforts to obtain the education that eluded her in her own youth. Premica married and immigrated to Canada in the 1970s; subsequently, she sponsored Nasib’s own immigration.

Once settled in Canada, Nasib encountered her very first chance at obtaining an education – a chance that she was not given in Fiji.  She successfully completed the BC Department of Education “Room Maid Course” and worked for more than a decade with an international hotel chain.

Though she did not learn in a formal educational environment, Nasib learned how to adapt quickly and continued to absorb useful skills in her workplace, such as spoken language and customer service. Guests could see that she took pride in her job, and unsurprisingly, she received numerous written recommendations from clients for her kindnesses and considerations and for extending herself beyond the requirements of her employment.

Despite success in her career, Nasib still had one dream – to be able to read, and to read well. To fulfil her dream, and to have more social contact and communication with others, she began to attend informal group learning sessions at a local meeting place: the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver.

One of the reasons for first attending the group session was to “get out of the house, meet and talk to people,” she recalls. In addition, she also began to swim and walk around her neighbourhood to keep active.

One thing that Nasib noticed was “lonely people, unhappy people.” Instead of walking on by, she knew it was up to her to act: “I go and talk to them – and they are happy.”

Nasib’s fondness for making people happy and her desire to learn are a perfect fit for community-based literacy programs. Currently, she is an enthusiastic participant in the Towers English Conversation group and continues to attend the Collingwood Neighbourhood House Literacy Reading Circle.

“I like that lots of people are coming to the [groups] – I like doing something more,” Nasib says. “Everyone there is very nice.”

Due to her many activities, she continues to become more articulate in speaking and comprehending the English language. Between attending the twice-weekly literacy groups and accessing the Raise-a-Reader Book Kiosk for basic materials, she is learning to read for the first time in any language.

To further complement her group learning, she began to meet once per week with a tutor, Valri, one year ago. Valri was recruited by the literacy program specifically to meet Nasib’s needs. They meet at the local library, and they read books together in order to improve Nasib’s reading skills. Unsurprisingly, her reading level has progressed substantially since beginning with children’s books in her private sessions.

“The tutor helped me a little more,” Nasib notes. “I found that [because] I can read now, I can start right.”

Nasib’s love for helping others shows in the community centre group, where she would eventually like to assist others who may also want to upgrade their reading skills.

“I’d like to help others with tutoring as well,” she notes.

When asked for advice for others who may be going through difficult times, she says that she “always looks forward, not back,” and when life seems bleak, she always “gets up and shakes the dust off [her] skirts and keeps going.” She is quick to relate this advice to those who wish to improve their reading skills, as she did.

Nasib’s determination and willingness to both learn from and share her experiences with others has resulted in the fulfilling of her dream – to be able to read the world around her and live a happy, inspirational life.

More Stories

Latest News