The UBC Learning Exchange operates the Trek Volunteer Program and a number of community-based Educational Programs. These programs, and the partnerships on which they are based, aim to strengthen the social fabric of the Vancouver region. This brief report presents the highlights of our activities over the past year.
Volunteer Community Service
Last academic year (02-03) 300 UBC students volunteered through the Trek program in 30 different community organizations in the Downtown Eastside and other areas of Vancouver. These students tutor children in academic subjects, lead sports and recreational activities for children and youth, socialize with residents of hospices and shelters, and more. This number of participating students and organizations represents a tenfold increase since the program’s inception three years ago.
The Trek program uses a peer-to-peer model to orient and support students. Experienced students lead the one-day orientation for new volunteers. Twelve student leaders provide support to networks of volunteers while receiving training and hands-on opportunities to develop leadership skills. Students apply to the program through the Learning Exchange website. Recent upgrades to the website will enable us to better track students’ participation in the program.
“I’m Going to UBC”
A partnership with the UBC Department of Athletics brought 150 students from three inner city elementary schools to UBC for sports camps and varsity games last year. This year, groups of 50 students from seven elementary schools will take part in this program.
Reading Week Projects
Almost 40 UBC students took part in four community service projects in February 2003: three in Vancouver and one in Guelph, Ontario. Students helped renovate a youth drop-in centre, painted office space at a transition house, painted a mural in an elementary school, and improved a community garden. Various staff and faculty from UBC were involved in organizing the projects and ensuring that the educational objectives of the projects were achieved.
Distinguished service awards were given to recognize the outstanding contributions of eleven student volunteers. In addition, seven student-led summer projects were supported, including a youth math camp at a community centre, a bereavement resources assessment project, a series of urban gardening workshops, and the development of a volunteer training and support program at an agency that serves Downtown Eastside women and children.
Community Service Learning
The Learning Exchange is working with other units on campus to develop UBC’s use of this model for experiential learning where community service is integrated with academic content. This model enables students to see how their course work is related to real-life problems. The Learning Exchange hosted a national meeting in June attended by 10 universities from across Canada. This meeting resulted in the creation of a national working group to build momentum for community service learning in Canada.
Computer Access and Instruction
The use of the computer resources at the Learning Exchange storefront at 121 Main Street continues to grow. Every weekday afternoon, about 50 local residents search the Internet, do e-mail, word process resumes and letters, do desktop publishing, and access the on-line resources of the UBC Library. Morning workshops in basic computer skills are provided to small groups.
Several 101 courses were offered in 02-03. These courses provide educational experiences at the level of introductory university courses. These courses are free to low-income participants and include a meal before each class and bus fare to and from each class. Each course typically has 20 to 30 participants.
This past year, the Learning Exchange sponsored Music Appreciation 101 in partnership with UBC’s School of Music. Several of the classes were held at the Vancouver Public Library downtown and opened to the general public. Up to 200 people attended each of these classes.
We piloted Entrepreneurship 101 sponsored by HSBC Bank Canada, in partnership with the Sauder School of Business. This year, the course is being redesigned to become a more comprehensive model for business education and development that will be integrated with other economic development initiatives in the Downtown Eastside.
We also piloted a Self-Advocacy 101 course. This course was designed to teach advocacy skills as well as provide basic information about key topics such as immigration, mental health law, landlord-tenant relationships, welfare law, and child protection.
The Learning Exchange provided support for Science 101, a summer-time course in the basic sciences.
The Learning Exchange offered a series of lectures on the Greek gods, a lecture series on the differences between Canadian and U.S. society, and a film series on Cyclists in Cinema. These evening events were led by volunteer faculty from UBC and other local post-secondary institutions.
We continue to sponsor free music concerts. In April, in partnership with the Indonesian Consulate, we hosted a Gamelan concert at Robson Square featuring three different Gamelan ensembles. The concert was a standing-room-only success. In June we sponsored a performance of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals at an east-side elementary school. More than 500 children from several schools enjoyed the performance.
In June we hosted a number of educational events featuring John McKnight, a well-known authority on asset-based community development.
None of these activities would have been possible without the active participation of an increasingly wide network of partners. Many of these partners are within the university; many are in the Downtown Eastside and other areas of Vancouver; some are outside the Vancouver region. The Learning Exchange is very grateful for the support of these partners, especially those who have provided funding, including Dr. Lloyd and Mrs. Kay Chapman, the Kahanoff Foundation, HSBC Bank Canada, Industry Canada, and Staples Business Depot.
- UBC Learning Exchange 2003 Annual Update (PDF Format)