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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 04 | Feb. 22, 2001

Exchange matches volunteers to need in Downtown Eastside

Students work in schools and social agencies

by Andy Poon staff writer

Volunteering in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside helps debunk many of the stereotypes previously held about people and issues in this community and in some cases may help students with choosing their careers, say those involved in UBC's Learning Exchange student volunteer program.

"Working as a volunteer in the area really lets you see the human aspects more," says Jennifer Mills. "You see that it's not the bad stereotypes but that people in the Downtown Eastside are just like you and me."

Mills, a third-year Science student, volunteers four to six hours a week working alongside the area's residents in a hot lunch program and handling administrative work at the Quest Outreach Society. The organization also helps distribute food to food banks and other agencies which provide meal services.

Mills joined the Learning Exchange Trek 2000 volunteer program at its inception in January 2000. Since then, the program has grown from 30 student volunteers to its current complement of 50.

Margo Fryer, director of the Learning Exchange, hopes to increase these ranks even more with a volunteer recruitment drive from Feb. 26-March 9.

Among the things that students can volunteer to do are to work with elementary school students in literacy training, help teenagers with their homework, or work at shelters for people with mental health issues.

Those who wish to join the program this September are asked to submit their resumes and a cover letter to the Learning Exchange office. They will receive orientation on the member organizations that participate in the program during a two-and-a-half-hour, on-campus evening session on March 21.

Workshops and training sessions covering topics such as listening skills, cross-cultural communications and empathy will follow to help prepare the volunteers for their work in the community.

Some of the organizations that students can volunteer for are Seymour and Strathcona elementary schools, YWCA Crabtree Corner, Triage, and the Ray-Cam Co-operative Community Centre.

"It's a great opportunity for students to get some real-life experience related to social issues and to broaden their life experience," says Fryer.

Some students say that experiences gained in the Downtown Eastside have helped them when considering career choices.

"The volunteer work gives them a sense of what career paths they may wish to take. For example, some have said that they want to enter law to do advocacy work," says Fryer.

The Learning Exchange is part of UBC's commitment to community outreach found in Trek 2000, the university's vision document.

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

Mills, a Quesnel native, initially joined the volunteer program to "see more of Vancouver and to become more exposed" to different viewpoints and to help out. She plans to continue her participation in the program for a third session this fall and encourages fellow students to volunteer.

"It is definitely a good thing for people to do if they can find the time."

For more information on the Learning Exchange or to become a volunteer, contact the Learning Exchange office at (604) 408-5164, e-mail Sue Sorrell at ssorrell@interchange.ubc.ca or visit www.learningexchange.ubc.ca.

Applications must be submitted by March 16 via e-mail or to the Trek 2000 Volunteer Program, Learning Exchange, 121 Main St., Vancouver, B.C. V6A 2S5.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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