Join the Summer Fun!

Do you love reading and writing and want to pass on your passion to the next generation? Want to do something active and super fun this summer that also benefits at-risk kids? Without consistent, positive support during summer months, inner-city kids can actually LOSE their literacy skills. By volunteering just a couple of hours a week, you can provide these kids with the support they need to maintain and even boost their literacy skills over the summer so that they can return to school on par with their peers.

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During July and August, mentors work one-on-one or in small groups with the kids (ages 6 to 13) to help them complete fun, creative literacy projects and make sure that all the kids leave each session knowing how awesome they are. As an enthusiastic, committed literacy mentor, you make it possible for us to fulfill our mission: get inner-city kids excited about reading and writing!

You must be able to commit to at least 2 hours/week for 7 weeks to be eligible to volunteer during July and August.

Programs run July 3 to September 1, 2017 and happen at sites across East Vancouver. Exact program locations and details will be confirmed in May.

Apply by June 2, 2017 to secure a position on our team of summer literacy mentors.

Writers’ Exchange Volunteer Showcase - Taylor Johnson

A Series by Mike, Writers’ Exchange Volunteer

Writers’ Exchange volunteers are kicking into high gear again, with an awesome array of spring programs just starting, each with a wonderful and wacky cast of kids. In the spirit of our Volunteer Showcase, the next volunteer we’d like to share with you is Taylor Johnson. Taylor volunteers every week with our after-school programs at Queen Alexandra Elementary. Outside of the Writers’ Exchange, he writes as much as humanly possible. He recently wrote and directed a short film and completed a text-based video game for a competition. He loves stories and will jump at any opportunity to tell one. 

He had this to say in response to a few questions:

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Why do you like volunteering with WE?

Volunteering for the Writers’ Exchange is such an amazing and energizing part of my week that I’m constantly looking forward to. It’s awesome to have a regular chunk of time where you can have fun, be silly, and help make a kid’s homework seem a little less scary. As a relatively new Vancouverite, I wanted to find a way to help out my new city and I can’t recommend WE enough.

Have you learned anything about yourself through Writers’ Exchange?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to embrace a bit of chaos during an activity. At first, I had a game plan that I was going to stick to no matter what, but I quickly found that shutting down ideas gets you nowhere. Once I saw what other volunteers were doing and let go of that rigidity, the amount of fun the kids had, and the amount of work that got done, went up and up.

What kinds of things have you and the kids done in the most recent after-school programs you’ve been volunteering with?

Most recently we’ve written epic tales of a siege-laden marshmallow castle, designed and flown high-tech paper airplanes, concocted 'eye spy' scenarios that baffled the most astute searchers, and solved the case of the mysterious jellybeans.

…and a fun fact about Taylor is:

When I was a kid, I used to memorize entire movies and recite them for my friends at recess. I’d take requests and try to get the character voices as close as I could!

 

Want to volunteer? Or check out our showcase of volunteer Amandine Clairo? We’ve got you covered with links below:

For info about volunteering: vancouverwe.com/volunteer

To see the amazing Amandine: vancouverwe.com/volunteer_showcase


Writers’ Exchange Volunteer Showcase

 

A Series by Mike, Writers’ Exchange Volunteer

A garden just around the corner from my home is the envy of every green thumb in the neighbourhood. I don’t know much about gardening. I would have imagined it difficult to sustain an environment that fosters so many different living things in a single space, had I not begun volunteering with Writers’ Exchange.

Writers’ Exchange not only brings together more kinds of volunteers, kids, and creativity than a jumbo Crayola set, but in doing so, it thrives. In celebration of the rich diversity of our programs, and the exceptional humans who make it happen, and only slightly to show up the neighbourhood prize garden, I’d like to showcase some of WE’s own colourful cast of carbon-based life forms.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll meet a few friendly faces who shared their thoughts on volunteering with Writers’ Exchange. 

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Amandine Clairo

Why do you volunteer?

WE is a tremendously fulfilling part of my week. I get the privilege of spending time with this awesome group of kids to read, play and be creative together. I've been with the same classroom for the past two plus years [as part of the Writers’ Room after-school program at Queen Alexandra Elementary School], so I've been able to witness shy kids grow in confidence and bold kids grow in kindness as our group knits together and evolves. As kids age out of the classroom I get to know their younger siblings and friends, and I still run into my original crew on the playground, so I feel like a part of the larger community of the school. Spending time with kids reminds me to be honest, open and creative. 

What is one thing you would like people to know about you?

When I was little I thought that if I was made Ruler of The World, I would make everyone keep their household garbage in their yard for one year before it could be taken to a landfill. I'd make some amendments to that idea now, but I still agree with the root concept. I have always thought it's a strange and detached system to have our garbage just *magically* disappear. Changing consumer habits and industry standards to focus on less and more recyclable packaging (and just less consumption in general) are initiatives that get me jazzed.

 


SPRING into Volunteering!

Gearing up for our spring term, we’re putting cold snaps behind us—come April, we’ll shake the snow out of our systems and get our green on and head outside for many programs! If you haven’t had the chance to get involved with some of our delightful in-school and after-school programs, well, you just won the seasonal lottery: now’s your chance!

Wondering what you’ll get up to while volunteering this spring? Here’s an example of a fun after-school program from a past spring:

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In this program, the kids read a special story that we wrote for them where they were the main character. Unfortunately, their character was kidnapped while on a spy mission! Their arms and legs were tied (in the story). The only way the could free themselves was to get a “key” onto a toothpick using just their mouths (in real life). They also had to solve puzzles and carefully aim water balloons to escape their kidnappers. Once their mission was complete (and all keys were eaten), they wrote mission reports about their harrowing adventures. Volunteers helped the kids with every step of the process, from reading clues to writing stories, and volunteers got to eat the leftover sour keys!

And here’s a day when everything was BUBBLE themed! Bubble letters, bubble stories and, of course, bubbles.

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And here’s how stoked the kids are to work with you!

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Here’s everything you need to know about signing up to make this spring awesome—for the kids and yourself!

Dates and Details

Monday, February 27th is the deadline for new volunteers to apply for the spring term. Visit our volunteer page and complete the application form. Please note we require a police record check and two references.

All after-school programs run from April to mid-June. In-school programs will run for four weeks or so. To ensure that the kids get the best possible experience, volunteers must be able to commit to the full duration of these programs.

Confirmation of specific details for our programs with our partner schools and organizations is ongoing. After you’ve attended a volunteer orientation and we have confirmed our spring program list, you will receive an e-mail with all of the details.


How to Make Your 2017 Outrageously Nifty

By super-volunteer Mike J.

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The aliens have landed, and their mission is: fun!

 

If, in the New Year, you want to get involved in your community and have a positive impact and whole lotta fun, “Become a Literacy Mentor” should be your resolution of choice. Whether or not you’re into resolutions, we’re confident you’ll be surprised (and ebullient, proud, and inspired) by what you can achieve in just a few hours.

In-school programs are 1.5 hours a week and run for four to five weeks, and after-school programs run for 1.5 hours for 3 months. Most programs end with the kids’ stories published in a professionally designed and printed chapbook.

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Rainbow Moustache chapbook - perfect accoutrement for Movember

 

This New Year, the Writers’ Exchange makes no demands that you give up chocolate or hit the gym three times a week. Instead, it welcomes you to make good on that aspect of New Year’s resolutions many of us find attractive: to willfully bring meaning into your life. 

And it just so happens that Writers’ Exchange has some pretty mad skills when it comes to turning bold ideas into jaw-dropping reality, like that time when…

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The kids invented a Reality-Protection Button (don’t we all really need one of these sometimes?)

 

Or when the SlurpieTron helped us get out of an unreasonable homework assignment!

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Through support, encouragement, enthusiasm to the rafters, and understanding, volunteers create safe spaces for kids to explore creativity and build confidence in themselves. Each volunteer has their own reason for participating. Check out Sahiti’s inspiring comment:

"Self-expression through reading and writing is so meaningful to me because it provides the opportunity for kids to develop their own unique perspectives and to confidently shape their own opinions as they grow up."

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Feeling inspired? You too can share your passion for literacy with inner-city kids! Deadline to apply to be a Writers’ Exchange literacy mentor for the winter 2017 term is December 16th.

If you can contribute an hour or two a week, love kids, storytelling, art, writing, reading, being creative, or just being yourself, you already have everything you need. 

Don’t forget! December 16th!

Here are the after-school program details for the winter term:

881 E Hastings
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Cook and Bake Mondays, Grades 4 - 7

Terrific-Kid Tuesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Wacky-Kid Wednesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Challenge Thursdays, Grades 4 - 7

Queen Alexandra Elementary
1300 East Broadway
3:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Graphic Novel Club Mondays, Grades 4 - 7

Tremendous Tuesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Wordy Wednesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Weird Science Wednesdays, Grades 5 - 7

Thrilling Thursdays, Grades 4 - 7

 

And the in-school program details (more in-schools to be confirmed in the new year):

Tuesdays, January 24th - February 21st, 11am - 12:10pm


Now Accepting Submissions from Grown Ups!

***DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MONDAY, JANUARY 30!***

The Writers’ Exchange is accepting submissions from the adults in the WE universe of short stories, excerpts, poems, cool activities you completed yourself when volunteering with the kids—whatever writing form you wish—to be published in our special-edition Grown-Ups’ Book! With a maximum of 500 words, you can submit new or previously published writing on any topic. Submissions don’t need to be children’s stories, but we do ask that you keep pieces within the guidelines of what we deem appropriate content for the kids’ books (has to be appropriate for a grade 3 and a grandma to read). As with the kids’ books, all work will be edited for grammar and understanding prior to publication.

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Being part of the Writers’ Exchange community is about so much more than the awesome kids and good feelings. It’s about a love of literacy and soaking up those endless imaginations. It’s about sharing what you love with others. Now WE wants to give you an opportunity to share your imagination with the community.

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Send your writing in a Word document format to submissions@vancouverwe.com prior to January 23, 2017. MONDAY, JANUARY, 30 (extended deadline).

Happy writing!

Mira
Grown-Ups’ Book Publication Coordinator
submissions@vancouverwe.com

The fine print: In submitting a piece of writing or art, you are agreeing to grant the Writers' Exchange Society first North American serial rights for original work, and second or third serial rights for your previously published work (including work published on the internet), and also non-exclusive electronic rights to publish the piece on the internet (on the Writers' Exchange website and/or in an online version of the publication.) You retain all other rights to the work. You must be 18+ to give us permission to publish your work, so if you are a high school volunteer or donor, let us know and we’ll make sure we get your parents’ permission as well before we publish your work.


Reasons to Love Going Back to School with the Writers’ Exchange!

 

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Okay, summer is pretty great and all, but going back to school can be awesome too – especially if you’re a volunteer literacy mentor! Here are some reasons why:

1. You get to give back in a really big way, just by being you.

As a literacy mentor, you’ll provide support and stability to inner-city kids just by showing up and being yourself. Writers’ Exchange kids crave individualized attention, and a rapt audience for their awesome ideas, like the fish-eat-fish show at one kid’s pet shop.

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2. Wacky programs will keep you smiling all week.

When you volunteer with the fall programs, you’ll have an experience that’s out of this world! These egg-cellent kids craft spaceships to carry egg-stra terrestrial egg-lien invaders safely to Earth. The kids write a list of demands and predict if the egg-liens would arrive without being scrambled.

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3. We’ll help you get even awesomer.

We offer literacy mentors regular training opportunities that will help you develop practical skills for working with inner-city kids. But you can also look forward to developing a bunch of other super useful talents without even realizing it. During every shift, literacy mentors increase their creativity, confidence, public speaking abilities, organizational skills, and much more.

4. You get to be a part of a kid’s story.

You get to be a mentor, a role model, a source of support, and a friend. You get be a big part of a child’s story by helping them to develop literacy skills for life! And, if you stick around long enough, you may actually literally be featured in a kid’s written story, like Laura was.

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Well, that settles it. Summer is great but going back to school as a Writers’ Exchange volunteer is pretty fantastic.

Fall after-school programs run September 19th to December 15th. In our after-school programs, kids complete fun reading and writing projects with literacy mentors.

You must be able to commit to the same 2 hours/week for the full fall term to be eligible to volunteer after-school. Programs include Survival Mondays (how to survive a zombie attack), Graphic Novel Club Mondays, Secret-Societies Thursdays (kids create their own ancient societies), and so many other wacky programs! Here are all the details:

881 E Hastings
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Survival Mondays, Grades 4 - 7

Terrific-Kid Tuesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Wacky-Kid Wednesdays, Grades 1 - 3

Secret Societies Thursdays, Grades 4 - 7

Queen Alexandra Elementary
1300 East Broadway
3:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Graphic Novel Club Mondays, Grades 4 - 7

Tremendous Tuesdays
Grades 1 - 3

Wordy Wednesdays
Grades 1 - 3

Thrilling Thursdays
Grades 4 - 7

Game Club Thursdays
Grades 4 - 7

 

Fall in-school programs will run from October to December. Literacy mentors support students and teachers with publishing projects tailored for their classes. Each program culminates in a professionally printed publication for each student (and mentor!) to take home.

You must be able to commit to one full in-school program during the fall term to be eligible to volunteer in schools. Programs run 1.5 hours/week between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. for 4 - 5 weeks in different schools in East Van. Full program details will be confirmed by the end of September. For now, two of six programs have been confirmed:

Thursdays, Oct. 6th - Nov 3rd, 11am - 12:10pm

Mondays, Oct. 17th - Nov 21st, 9:40am - 10:50am

Applications for after-school programs have closed, but you can still apply to volunteer in-school. Deadline for in-school applications is Sept. 30th.

See if you’re eligible to volunteer, and sign up here! 

 


Secret Photo Club!

Secret Photo Club is not like Fight Club. You can talk about Secret Photo Club. But the photos taken during this summer's Secret Photo Club were secrets until the very end of the program because the kids used disposable cameras to take the pics. 

With a different theme each week, the kids took photos around the neighbourhood and then wrote about what they photographed, thanks to the help of their amazing volunteer mentors.
The film was developed and photos were printed thanks to our friends at The Lab, who VERY generously donated all of the developing AND put all of the kids' cameras back together, as the kids had worked hard to design their cameras and wanted them back, to use as fake cameras. The secrets were all worth it, as the kids were BLOWN AWAY by their photos—the photos that THEY had taken. And they LOVED seeing the negatives. (Favourite kid quote, while looking at herself in the negatives: "Why is my hair all white? AM I AN OLD WOMAN???")
The kids combined their photos and writing into personalized photo books of their summer adventures, which (they say) they'll treasure forever.
If this sounds like a lot of fun to you, consider volunteering for fall programs, where kids can only do fun literacy activities like this because of support from awesome volunteer mentors! 

2015/16 Volunteer of the Year!

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Not only is she an amazingly talented and successful writer, but Stacey Matson is the 2015/16 Writers' Exchange Volunteer of the Year! (Much fanfare).

Stacy has been reliably and consistently volunteering for AGES with in-school, after-school and summer programs. Thursdays at 881 are always a blast because we know Stacey will be there, and we learned so much about Winter Animals at the Florence Nightingale in-school program with her help. On top of all of that, Stacey was the voice of Writers' Exchange, being interviewed on Roundhouse Radio, telling the masses all about volunteering with WE and why it’s so awesome, fun and important. You can find that interview here.

Photo by Joe Sales
You’d think that with how generous Stacey is when sharing her time with the Writers' Exchange, she would be totally booked. With all this going on, Stacey has also published two successful and award-winning young adult novels (A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius and Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius), with a third, Notes from the ----- Life of a Total Genius, arriving later this fall! 

Thanks, Stacey, for everything you do for us and the kids!


Welcome to our new blog!

We've been tinkering with this new website for ages and we're excited to share it with you now! This new site is fancy and links up with our database, which will make everything more efficient and organized, and, ultimately, lead to better programs for the kids!

We didn't migrate ALL of the content over from our old blog. Just our fave pieces. So that's what you see below! Enjoy the past posts and look forward to the new ones!


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