Learning Exchange opens on Downtown Eastside

Storefront spot to be a home base for UBC in community

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Building relationships between UBC and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside community is a key focus for UBC's new Learning Exchange, a storefront office at 121 Main Street.

"We're very excited about having a home base in the Downtown Eastside," says Margo Fryer, who directs the Learning Exchange. "Being in the neighbourhood will mean that we can learn more about what is happening there and how UBC might be able to contribute."

The leased office will provide a focal point for students, faculty and staff working in the area and a place for the local community to learn about UBC's resources. The Learning Exchange will also have two or three computers for the use of community members who want to access UBC's library and other Internet resources.

Other activities include the Trek 2000 volunteer program, one of the partnerships being developed by the Learning Exchange.

There are about 30 undergraduate students involved in the program. They started volunteer work in January with several different organizations in the area, including Seymour and Strathcona schools, YWCA Crabtree Corner, Triage, and the Ray-Cam Co-op Community Centre.

The students have been tutoring elementary school children, helping teenagers with homework after school, participating in recreational activities with area residents and helping agencies deliver their core services.

Fryer aims to increase the number of student volunteers and organizations participating in the program and hopes to have students' community volunteer work integrated into academic course work--a concept known as community service learning.

The Learning Exchange has also worked with UBC Housing to collect donations from students who left campus residences in April. More than 200 bags of clothes, shoes, and other items were distributed to five different Downtown Eastside organizations.

In addition, there are plans for a local dental clinic with UBC Dentistry students providing some of the care.

The Learning Exchange is part of the commitment to community outreach found in the university's vision statement.

It aims to offer UBC's resources and expertise to the Downtown Eastside community, to provide educational opportunities to
people who live and work in the neighbourhood, and to give UBC students first-hand volunteer experience in community organizations.

For more information on the Learning Exchange contact the UBC office at 604-822-0076.