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Canada's Global University
The University of British Columbia
2004 / 05 Annual Report
towards 2010
Think Global: Raising the Bar at UBCThe Year in ReviewDefining - and Modeling - Global CitizenshipRecruiting Allies in a More Civil SocietyA Sustainable UBC - A Sustainable University TownInvesting in a New Generation - a New UBCDonors & EndowmentFinancial HighlightsSocial HighlightsEnvironmental HighlightsLeadershipContact / FeedbackPDF Version

Recruiting Allies in a More Civil Society

From its earliest days, the overarching goal of the UBC Learning Exchange has always been to enhance civil society. The Exchange exists to build capacity, connection and community. It aspires to help both students and Learning Exchange inner city patrons become conscientious conspirators in pursuit of the common good -- to help them fulfill their full potential as true global citizens.

Marisol Peterson
Planning graduate student Marisol Petersen has put inner city residents and new Canadians together in a true demonstration of global citizenship.

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Those being the aims, there can be few better exemplars than Marisol Petersen, a Master's candidate in the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, and a font of energy, optimism and goodwill at the Learning Exchange storefront in what has been called Canada's poorest neighbourhood.

Inspired by a call from Learning Exchange Director Margo Fryer to incorporate the goals of global citizenship into her own studies, Petersen began a Community Service Learning project in 2004, looking for ways to make use of the energy and expertise of Learning Exchange patrons.

As a former teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL), Petersen soon realized the opportunity. The residents of the Downtown Eastside are overwhelmingly fluent in English, a skill that is enormously valuable to Vancouver's large population of immigrants and refugees -- many of whom are isolated by the language barrier and unable to afford expensive conversational English classes. Petersen designed a program in which Learning Exchange patrons could become facilitators in ESL conversation groups -- a proposal that earned a Learning Exchange Chapman Summer Project award in the spring of 2004.

The pilot project was an immediate success, well staffed by eager patrons and oversubscribed by ESL participants. During the fall, Petersen prepared a proposal to take the program full time, which was made possible when HSBC Bank Canada and the Vancouver Foundation stepped forward with funding.

A final, perfect piece fell into place early this year when UBC's English Language Institute agreed to provide instruction to the ESL facilitators. Four days a week, Downtown Eastside residents preside over ESL discussion groups, and one day a week they travel to UBC to improve their own skills. "We empower the facilitators by demonstrating that their knowledge and contribution is a value to society and we empower immigrants and refugees by giving them the opportunity to develop their English skills," Petersen says.

On a personal level, Petersen says, "It's been amazing. I have a real feeling of accomplishment, of having made a difference in people's lives." She is currently writing a Masters thesis based on her work.

The program has also helped show the true potential of the Learning Exchange, says Margo Fryer. It shows that UBC can do much more than deliver volunteer energy to the inner city. "We can play a role as a catalyst in the community, really helping to build a civil society."

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