The UBC Learning Exchange Celebrates Two Years of Productive Partnerships!

Two years ago, the Learning Exchange established its storefront at 121 Main Street, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Since then we have been working to develop learning-focused partnerships between people from UBC and people in inner-city communities as a way of strengthening the social fabric of our region. This report briefly summarizes what has been accomplished in the past year and outlines some of what is being planned for the future.

Trek Volunteer Program

Volunteer Community Service

The Trek program is well on its way towards this year’s goal of having 150 to 200 UBC students engaged in volunteer community service with our 25 partner organizations. The program’s on-campus profile has been raised through our “Scratch Beneath the Surface” promotional material and our links with student groups on campus such as the Equity Ambassadors, AMS Volunteer Services, and the Let’s Talk About Science program. Students volunteer in a variety of settings (e.g., schools, community centres, and social service and health agencies). This year the program has expanded its focus on inner city schools. We now have partnerships with eight east Vancouver elementary schools that have UBC students helping with tutoring, sports, arts projects, and other activities.

Chapman Awards

A fund created through a generous gift from Dr. Lloyd and Mrs. Kay Chapman allowed us to give distinguished service awards to ten students who were nominated for their outstanding volunteer contributions. In addition, four student-led summer projects were supported: a youth photography project at Britannia Community Centre; a volunteer program facilitation project at Triage; a tap dance program at Ray-Cam Community Centre; and a gardening and mural project at Strathcona Elementary School.

Spring Break Project

In February, twenty students from UBC and the University of Guelph took part in a week-long community service project at Strathcona Community Gardens. This combination of service and learning was so successful that we are planning another exchange with the University of Guelph during spring break this year as well as four community service projects in east Vancouver.

Trek Community Leadership Network

This new network of nine “Trek leaders” will provide peer support to students in the Trek program while receiving training and hands-on opportunities designed to develop leadership skills.

Community Service Learning

The Learning Exchange is working with other units on campus to develop UBC’s use of “community service learning” as a model for experiential learning. This model integrates community service with academic course work. Real-life experiences in the community are linked to academic content through processes that encourage critical reflection such as journal writing and small group discussion. In June, UBC will be hosting the third annual meeting of Canadian universities who are building this innovative learning approach into their curricula.

Education Programs

Computer Access and Instruction

Access to computers and the Internet is provided free to local residents weekday afternoons at the Learning Exchange. An average of 125-150 patrons use the computer resources each week. Individual instruction and support on how to use computers is available during drop-in times. In addition, small group workshops on the basics of computer use are offered. In the past year approximately 50 people who live or work in the Downtown Eastside and surrounding areas have participated in these workshops, including a group of Chinese seniors and the First Nations caucus from Community Directions, a coalition of local residents and organizations working to build the neighbourhood’s capacity to address the critical issues it faces. The public Internet access at the Learning Exchange is partially funded by Industry Canada’s urban CAP program.

Access to the UBC Library

All the on-line resources of the UBC library are accessible to the public through our Internet sites. Journal articles and other documents can be delivered on request and library books can be ordered and used at the Learning Exchange. This year, our partnership with the UBC library has enabled us to have a library student available three afternoons a week to help patrons learn how to use these resources effectively. We are also working with the Vancouver Public Library to enhance public use of library resources generally, e.g., VPL specialists have provided instruction in our “101” courses.

“101” Courses

The “101” courses are designed to provide university-level educational experiences to those who would not otherwise be able to afford such opportunities. Each class generally consists of 25 to 30 participants from a wide variety of backgrounds.

This fall, with the generous support of HSBC, and in partnership with the UBC Faculty of Commerce and its graduate students, we launched Entrepreneurship 101. This course gives an overview of the essential workings of business from the marketplace to organizational behaviour.

For the second year, we are sponsoring Music Appreciation 101, in partnership with UBC’s School of Music. This course introduces students to a variety of musical genres through lectures, tutorials, and attendance at concerts.

The Learning Exchange also provided support to the UBC Faculty of Science in its third year of offering Science 101, a summer course that introduces students to a variety of topics in science, including physics, earthquakes, and global climate change.

Planning for a “101” course in community advocacy is underway.

Free Community Concerts

In partnership with Savage God Theatre, the Learning Exchange produced two performances of I Love the DTES, a show that showcased twenty performers from the Downtown Eastside, accompanied by UBC musicians. The performances at UBC at Robson Square and at the UBC Main Library revealed the hidden face of the Downtown Eastside from multiple viewpoints. A concert featuring performers from the UBC School of Music will be held later this year at the St. James parish hall.

Hampton Place Opportunity Bursary

A recent donation from residents of Hampton Place at UBC will enable us to provide bursaries for UBC Continuing Studies courses to graduates of the 101 courses.

Other Highlights

We have upgraded our website to make it more appealing and to enable on-line applications for the Trek volunteer program. The Trek program now has a home base on campus-on the second floor of the Cecil Green Coach House. Our third annual clothing drive collected more than 400 bags of clothing and household goods which were distributed to non-profit organizations in the downtown area, especially agencies serving children, youth, and women.

Much of the growth in the Learning Exchange over the past year has been made possible by a grant from the Kahanoff Foundation. We are very grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have contributed so much to our efforts.