The UBC Learning Exchange aims to strengthen the social fabric of the Vancouver region by building relationships between people from UBC and people from inner city neighbourhoods. The Learning Exchange Trek Program gives students, staff, faculty, and alumni the opportunity to learn about community issues through firsthand volunteer work in community organizations. Learning Exchange Educational Programs provide a variety of opportunities for “learning exchanges” among diverse groups and individuals. This brief report highlights the activities of the Learning Exchange over the past year.
Last year, almost 650 students volunteered in 35 community organizations. This represents 100% growth in the number of students compared to the previous year. About half of these students volunteered in Vancouver schools — acting as tutors, leading sports and recreational activities, and taking part in special projects. The remaining students worked in community centres, hospices, women’s centres, shelters, and other health and social service agencies. The Trek Leadership Network had 12 students acting as peer leaders. About 100 Trek students were varsity athletes who volunteered in the schools and brought inner city children to UBC for sports clinics and varsity games.
As the Trek Program grows each year, so does its focus on strengthening the learning outcomes for students by using an experiential education approach called Community Service-Learning (CSL). This approach combines intentionally-designed volunteer service in the community with classroom learning. Structured reflection activities such as journal writing and small group dialogue link students’ community experiences with their academic learning. Last year, the Trek Program worked with faculty members to incorporate CSL into 12 courses at UBC. About 25% of students in the Trek Program were involved as part of a course last year. The courses with a CSL component included courses in Biology, Fine Arts, English, Human Ecology, Health Promotion, Sociology, Community Planning, and Visual Art.
Reading Week Community Service Projects
In February, almost 200 UBC students took part in 17 different community projects. Projects included the painting of a mural with a health and wellness theme in a school lunchroom, the creation of a school playground that facilitates the learning of math skills, clean-up and planting at the UBC Farm, creation of rooftop gardens at a Downtown Eastside residence for seniors and people with mental health problems, and instruction in computer skills for people with HIV/AIDS. These projects were organized in partnership with Student Services and various Trek partner community organizations. Staff and faculty from 14 different units across campus acted as project leaders. Students took part in more than 40 educational workshops facilitated by community resource people and faculty members.
Chapman Service Awards
Last year, nine individual students in the Trek Program were recognized for their outstanding contributions as community volunteers through awards made possible by a generous endowment established by Dr. Lloyd and Mrs. Kay Chapman. In addition, eight students received awards to undertake summer projects in partnership with a community organization. The summer projects supported this year included: a computer training project at the Dr. Peter Centre based on a Reading Week project; the development of a grassroots social enterprise at YWCA Crabtree Corner; an ESL pilot project at the Learning Exchange storefront; and four projects in inner city schools.
Staff, Faculty, and Alumni Participation
This year we organized a pilot project to get UBC Young Alumni involved in community service, and received funding from the Campus Sustainability Disbursement Fund to pilot an initiative that will get staff and faculty involved in Trek partner organizations.
The Learning Exchange storefront at 121 Main Street in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) serves as the hub for our free educational programs. In addition to the programs highlighted below, we offered a variety of lectures, seminars, and workshops this year, including sessions featuring faculty from UBC and other post-secondary institutions as well as a series of lectures given by a DTES resident.
Computer Training and Resources
The computer drop-in has been operating at full capacity for the past year, with 30 to 50 residents of the DTES and other inner city neighbourhoods using the free computer resources each afternoon. With support from HSBC Bank Canada, we have expanded our computer training and now offer more frequent workshops and tutorials in both basic and advanced computer skills.
Business Education and Development Pilot
The Learning Exchange collaborated with BCIT to develop a new model for building business capacity in inner city areas. Three teams of BCIT business students were matched with three Strathcona area businesses in order to provide advice and expertise designed to make the businesses more successful. The evaluation of the pilot showed that students and businesses benefited significantly from their engagement. BCIT is taking the lead in organizing the next stage in the expansion of the program. The pilot was partially funded by Western Economic Diversification.
Peer Mentoring Pilot
In partnership with UBC’s Women’s Resources Centre and the Sheway Project, the Learning Exchange developed and pilot-tested a program for “graduates” of Sheway — women with substance use issues who had used the health and other services of Sheway during the time they were pregnant or had children under 18 months of age. The program, which came to be known as Helping Yourself, Helping Others, ran for 12 weeks and developed skills in areas such as interpersonal communication, goal-setting, cross-cultural sensitivity, and conflict resolution. The pilot was funded by the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development, Women’s Resources Centre Society, the Learning Exchange, and TELUS.
The Learning Exchange also piloted an ESL program that was developed by a graduate student in UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning in consultation with regular patrons of the Learning Exchange drop-in. With support from a Chapman summer project award, the student organized a pilot project over the summer that trained and supported 19 Learning Exchange patrons who facilitated more than 200 free English conversation tutorials for local immigrants. The project was in such demand and was so successful that an ongoing ESL program based on the pilot is being developed.
Music Appreciation 101
For the third year, the Learning Exchange partnered with UBC’s School of Music to offer this free, university-level course that gives an overview of the world of classical music and provides access to a variety of concerts. Five of the Music Appreciation 101 classes were held at the Vancouver Public Library downtown and opened to the public, with approximately 200 people attending each class. In addition, four free concerts were organized by the Learning Exchange and various community partners.
Since the initiation of the Trek Program five years ago and the opening of the storefront four years ago, the Learning Exchange has depended on partnerships with community organizations and units within UBC for our success. Funding from various donors has also been vitally important. We are grateful to the Chapman family, the Kahanoff Foundation, HSBC Bank Canada, Industry Canada, Western Economic Diversification, TELUS, and the residents of Hampton Place for their support. For more information, visit www.learningexchange.ubc.ca.
- UBC Learning Exchange Annual Update (2004) (PDF format)