UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 04 | Feb.
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
says Jennifer Mills. "You see that it's not the bad stereotypes but
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
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
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
the Learning Exchange office at (604) 408-5164, e-mail
at email@example.com 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.