This description of Usha Tamba Dhar's work was prepared when Usha Tamba Dhar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
Usha Tamba Dhar is introducing new perspectives to the field of literacy education in Canada by providing local organizations with effective tools, trainings, and microfinancing to engage youth in their own literacy education. Tamba is addressing the shockingly high illiteracy rates in Canada, creating an easy to use, culturally appropriate, and spreadable set of methods to combat illiteracy. Tamba takes a unique approach to policy change in this area, by seeking recognition of literacy as a civil right.
The New Idea
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


I am committed to building on the Excellence in Literacy Foundation's 25-year history of remarkable resilience. In order to support our students in achieving their brightest futures possible, we have delivered proven, effective programs to young people who are marginalized, criminalized, and racialized. We are leveraging our strengths and recognizing the essential role we play in the broader vision of breaking the cycle of poverty in Canada. In the past three years, 185 community programs and over 26, 000 children and youth have been supported through the ELF. Our direct program delivery has produced 200% increases in literacy skills and 0% dropout rates among our student population. The ELF offers a low-cost, highly effective solution to ending Canadian poverty. Applying literacy as a tool for youth leadership, empowerment, and critical success skills, we break this damaging cycle. We are not a response-based organization, our mission is to prevent, and eventually end, the causes of this pervasive social issue.
I plan on continuing my work in our directly-delivered Sage Youth programs inOttawa, and in our work across the country.  Local participants are homeless, newcomer refugees; homeless and street-involved youth; and children with exceptionalities.  The Sage Youth model forms the foundation for the ELF’s national programs that deliver highly effective literacy and life skills materials; community builder training and mentoring; and micro-funding to organizations ready to increase their impact on literacy and poverty-reduction. 
In the coming months, I will be working with the ELF to expand our nationalefforts.My goals will be to focus on prevention results; organizational renewal andresiliency; and celebrating our upcoming Silver Anniversary.

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