Why Volunteer? (To Gain Experience Working with Kids in Schools Before You Apply for Teacher Education Programs, Obviously!)

Let’s not pretend that everyone has altruistic motivations for volunteering.

I mean, of course we all want to do good things and help communities and help children build literacy skills (right?), but everyone’s time is precious. The kind folks at the Writers’ Exchange understand this and are flexible in helping to create a schedule that works for volunteers, especially the kind of volunteer that is going to university. I am very grateful for this.

When I walked through the doors of the Writers’ Exchange, I had no idea what was in store for me. All I knew was that I wanted to be a teacher and needed a jumping off point. What I received was so much more than an entrance into the world of teaching.

Within moments of my first day in the classroom for my first in-school project with the Writers’ Exchange, I started to develop strategies in classroom management, intervention, learning modifications and adaptations that are still very much a part of my teaching practice. A lot of my skills were developed on the fly, while under the guidance of the classroom teachers and WE staff. I knew that no matter the situation, the WE staff were there to encourage my own personal development, while still maintaining a level of independent learning. These would turn out to be very important skills in my future coursework in the SFU Professional Development Program (the PDP is SFU’s teaching program).

The PDP has not been easy. The more preparation you can bring to the table, the more manageable it becomes. I was with WE for four years and during that time, whether I realized this or not, the experience volunteering at WE has lessened the anxiety a new teacher feels when entering the world of the practicum and the module.

At the start of the PDP, the new student is thrown in with a bunch of strangers and asked to commit, learn and take chances together. They are expected to put all differences aside and work together to help build a community of educators that translates into a passion for real-life community building within the classroom. My time in various classrooms and settings with WE helped me to flourish in this area. Volunteering at WE helped to develop coherent interpersonal skills and to develop relationships with a diverse group of adults and children. I cannot imagine a better place for integration into the world of inclusivity. This inclusivity is at its core, what teaching is all about. I realize this is getting a bit wordy, but I’m an English teacher (sorry about any grammatical errors!).

For my short practicum, I used leadership and compassion to help guide personal learning in the English classroom. I used the lessons I learned from the Writers’ Exchange and directly applied them to my own practice. I do not know what my long practicum will look like, but I will soon find out. What I do know is that I am much better off by having my experiences at WE under my belt. The staff and the organization that is the Writers’ Exchange are special. They do important work within a diverse set of needs and skills. The people are humble, kind and funny. My only regret is that I couldn’t give them more of my time.

If you have any interest in becoming a teacher, VOLUNTEER!

If the above reasons aren’t enough to convince you to spend some time with WE, they write really good reference letters and they usually have snacks.

By Ryan Hoben


The Kids Share FREE Advice With You for #GivingTuesday!

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday the kids are giving you FREE advice! Here are the kids' answers to all your life questions: 

Do I have to accept my mom’s Facebook friend request?

  • You can if you want to but I think you should because she’s your mother and I bet she does a lot for you.
  • If I were you I would accept because otherwise she may think you’re hiding something and you shouldn’t keep secrets.

How do I get my boyfriend to work out with me?

  • If he doesn’t want to do it then just make him eat healthy. 
  • First of all, good for you for having a boyfriend and second, if you ask and he says no, tell him that you want him to do one simple thing for you. 
  • Ask him. If no, go by yourself

My best friend is mean and sometimes makes me feel bad, but I still like her. What should I do?

  • Tell your friend how you feel and say that she’s still super nice, but sometimes you feel hurt. If she doesn’t agree, find friends that surround you with kindness.
  • You should be honest with her and tell her how you feel. If she continues, she’s not really your friend.
  • Two options. One, tell her/him that you’re breaking up and find a new best friend or just tell them that you don’t like it.

 Where should I go on vacation, and what should I do to make some extra money so I can pay for the trip?

  • I’m not sure about the extra money part, but for the vacation part you can see rated places for vacation on Google.
  • Hawaii!! Put all your money in the bank and earn more.
  • Paris. Have a garage sale.
  • You can go to Quebec, it’s very cool and part of it is old fashioned. You could work as a cashier part time or make a computer game.

 Should I surprise my parents during the holidays and what should the surprise be?

  • I would surprise them with a pet they like.
  • Something they love very much.
  • You can get them a gift card and card saying thank you for everything they do for you.

My boyfriend wants to raise our future children in his hometown in Sweden, but I want to stay in Vancouver. We love each other very much, what should I do?

  • Try to make your last best moments in Vancouver, then go to Sweden!
  • Let the kids decide and visit both places year-round.
  • Ask him to stay in Vancouver, if he really wants to go, find out more about Sweden, see if you like it.

What do you do when you like someone and you want to hold their hand?

  • Tell them. I know it’s hard.
  • First, get to know them. Second, know them for a while. Third, wait for the right moment. Fourth, go in for the “hand-hold”.
  • Ask them, say it was a dare.

 I have a new boss at work and do not look forward to work anymore. What should I do?

  • Keep your job, look for better jobs. If you find a better job, do the better job. If you find no better jobs, keep your job. If you can’t choose, flip a coin.
  • Quit? Or give suggestions to your boss.
  • Find out more about your boss, see if they are really not your type. If they are mean you can quit or ignore them.

 A friend stopped talking to me and I don’t know why. Help!

  • Talk to them about what they’re interested in.
  • Just let them come back to you.
  • You can ask why. Maybe it’s just because they have no time.

 What kind of pet (other than a cat or dog) is really fun to have?

  • I recommend having a turtle! They’re really graceful and quiet.
  • Parrot, turtle or fishes
  • A hamster (guinea pigs and rabbits are good too)!

 How do you tell your best friend/roommate that she’s super messy and needs to clean (she gets upset easily).

  • Motivate her and give her a treat that she likes a lot if she cleans her mess.
  • Tell her you should have a clean-up day.
  • You don’t.

 I’m almost 64. Should I retire and relax or retire and start my own company?

  • You should retire if you’re feeling tired from work. Or, if you retire and want a hobby, the company could be your hobby.
  • Try relaxing. You have worked for many years.
  • Go skydiving.

How do I decide if I’m ready to have a baby?

  • Well, if you have a spouse, tell them the truth. Remember to ask if they are ready for one.
  • Ask your friends that have children for advice.
  • Babysit a lot of ages. If it is hard, maybe not. IF you don’t have a baby you might be lonely in the future.
  • Start with a dog.

 How can I spend less time on my iPhone?

  • Woah, that’s a hard one. Why don’t you download that app that limits your app time? Or set a limit on your phone so when the time ends, you can’t use it.

 My Instagram looks lo-res. What do I do?

  • Well, my sis downloaded this app that makes everything cuter! Go get one! Or you should send a complaint message to Instagram.

 Should I rent or buy a home? Where?

  • First of all, if you have the money, BUY A HOUSE! It may be a bit more expensive but think. The money you spend on the house will be A LOT cheaper for the rest of your life.

How do I get my two kids to get along better?

  • Find something they have in common.
  • Trap them in a room together with lots of oxygen in the room and keep them in there until they pretend to get along in front of you so that you don’t get a headache.
  • Get them to do one thing together the other person likes.

What tricks should I teach my dog?

  • To get its leash.
  • To sit and stand.

 What kind of dog should I get?

  • Pug
  • Golden Retriever
  • I would recommend a Corgis because they are very cute.
  • Go to a website that shows you different kinds. Then go to a pet store and make your decision (I bet this will totally be a breeze).

What book should I recommend to my book club?

  • Molly Moon Saves the World
  • Silver Wing
  • Find a bookstore and then ask the manager where the best joke books are. Then pick one (or choose ‘em all).

 What’s the best type of cheese?

  • Parmesan
  • Spray cheese
  • Swiss cheese

How can I meet new friends?

  • At the movie theatre before the movie in the food line. Say hi to them and make some conversation about your day then ask if they want to do something sometime then ask for their number.
  • Ask someone, “’wanna be friends?”

I live in Vancouver, how can I meet a boyfriend (I’ve tried online dating)?

  • Go to the park?
  • If you have a friend, tell him you’re doing a date night.

If this #GivingTuesday the kids' advice has helped you tackle your life dilemmas, consider making a donation to the Writers' Exchange or signing up to be a volunteer mentor

Your gift will give inner-city kids the opportunity to get excited about reading, writing and their own potential! 


Writers' Exchange Volunteer Showcase - Matt Perzow

Next up in our volunteer spotlight is the super-committed Matt. Many current mentors might know Matt from his extensive involvement with WE’s summer-time programs and after-school programs at our home base on Hastings Street. We feel so fortunate to have had his help with so many programs over the past two years! Matt is currently volunteering in Israel, and upon his return, he will continue studying psychology at UBC with the intention of specializing in Child Psychology. He shares much more about himself and his vast experience with WE below.


Why do you like volunteering with WE?

 I like volunteering with Writers’ Exchange because it gives me a sense of purpose and consistently provides interactions that are to be lived and enjoyed in the moment, as well as fostering relationships that develop meaning over time. The kids are simultaneously hilarious, creative, brilliant, provocative, challenging, and loving.  

How is Writers' Exchange important to you?

Writers’ Exchange is a place wherein play and learning are intertwined and paramount. I consider this to be pretty unusual, at least in my life. My bonds with the kids pay immediate dividends, particularly with the kids who I have seen grow up over the two years I have volunteered. Working so closely with the kids over the years has taught me some of human nature and the healing power of love, reciprocity, and openness. The courage shown by the kids in dealing with difficult social situations and learning new skills is admirable and is a standard that I try to work toward in my own life.   

What was it like getting started volunteering with Writers' Exchange?

I was nervous at first, as I had never worked with kids before. I quickly grew accustomed to the organization thanks to the welcoming staff, and when I saw that the kids looked forward to my arrival, I warmed up.

Has anything about volunteering for Writers' Exchange surprised you?

The impact of the kids on my life outside of my time at Writers’ Exchange.

A fun fact about you.

Public speaking is one of my favourite activities.


Want to become one of Writers' Exchange awesome Literacy Mentors? Check out: vancouverwe.com/volunteer

Writers' Exchange Volunteer Showcase - Christina Singh

We are happy to introduce the super-fun and super-hilarious Christina! For more than two years, Christina has volunteered with our after-school programs (at BOTH locations), in addition to helping out with WE’s awesome summer programs. This summer, she joined our field-trip program and adventured all over the Lower Mainland (the brave kids and literacy mentors even went up to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola!).




How is Writers’ Exchange important to you?

Writers’ Exchange is an amazing place, where kids can come in and truly let their stresses of life go, as well as their creative minds. As an aspiring inner city–school psychologist, after-school/in-school initiatives like Writers’ Exchange are so important to me, and others, as this organization provides an awesome look into how inner-city programs can benefit a community and an array of kids!

What was it like getting started volunteering with Writers’ Exchange?

Getting started with Writers’ Exchange was pretty smooth sailing. The volunteer orientation was super positive and enjoyable. Then, I found that introducing myself to the kids and being super open-minded and friendly eventually led the kids to feel comfortable around me. This was followed by my consistent attendance for the first few months (and onwards), which, in-turn, benefited the kids with a reliable mentor.

What have been your favourite programs and ways of interacting with the kids?

I’ve always loved adventures and art, and within Writers’ Exchange, I’ve been able to experience these interests together, with amazing students! Whether it be going on cool adventures around Greater Vancouver, making alternate superhero identities or building our own secret societies, seeing how these kids have an endless supply of imagination has me feeling so awe-inspired by the programs and the kids’ talent.

Have you learned anything about yourself through Writers’ Exchange?

I have most certainly learned the art of patience! Patience is key when it comes to working with kids. It’s always interesting spending your week surrounded by adults, and some days even stuck in mundane adult conversations. But then you get to Writers’ Exchange, you hear the kids’ hilarious, free-spirited and outrageous commentary, and it really does put your own life on hold. Every time I go to Writers’ Exchange, I am reminded not to take life so seriously. Writers’ Exchange kind of lets you time-travel back to when you were a kid, which really puts things into perspective and lets me carry on a free-spirited, light-hearted and forever-curious mindset!


Want to become one of Writers' Exchange awesome Literacy Mentors? Check out: vancouverwe.com/volunteer

Superkids Seeking Marvelous Mentors

Fall is on the horizon and you’re lamenting that your summer adventures are coming to an end? Fear not!

At the Writers’ Exchange, our fall session is filled with kid crusaders gearing up for their next great escapade, and they need volunteer Literacy Mentors to help them along the way!

superhero kid

Writers’ Exchange Literacy Mentors help inner-city elementary-school kids have a blast through reading, writing, and much more! With quests and crafts concocted by our creative staff, your weekly volunteer shift will be spent supporting crazy-fun adventures both on and off the page.

superhero volunteer literacy mentor

Sound like your kind of quest but have a busy schedule? There are a couple of ways to make being a super sidekick work for you! 

  • After-school (flying above and beyond!): Monday to Friday, from 3 to 5 pm. Hang out with and support kids during creatively crafted reading, writing and homework projects.
  • In-school (for the hero on the go!): Support a small group of kids in their classroom as they create a publication from scratch! Each program runs for 1.5 hours, once a week, for 4 to 5 weeks.

We ask that you make a commitment to a full term of either our in-school or after-school programs for the same day, time, and location each week. This consistency ensures that mentors and kids get a chance to get to know each other and build trust. Our kids have so much fun when they can look forward to which mentors they get to hang out with each week, and you'll make great connections, too!

At the Writers’ Exchange, we give kids a safe space to be silly, learn, and just be kids. Spending just a couple hours of your week flexing your literary muscles can make a huge difference for kids who are thrilled to hang out with marvelous mentors like you. 

So join us on our adventure, use your superpowers for good, and help make this fall fun for our fresh crop of superkids.

Apply now to volunteer!

Deadline to volunteer in the fall term: September 8, 2017

reading with kids

On Volunteering, the Writers’ Exchange and Community

By Mike Johnston, Writers' Exchange volunteer


Mike and the Writers' Exchange staff team

Many times in my life I have inadvertently let myself down by entertaining the fantasy of an idea at the expense of the reality of who I am and what I am like as a human. Others, too, I have let down by way of my too-late discovery that what I thought would be a great idea, something I could commit to long term, was not for me. Projects, jobs, relationships, friendships. All have suffered from me not knowing what I wanted. 

I thought, for example, I wanted to be a journalist in Beijing and pursue education there. This was an ideal I zealously attempted to realise for the better part of a year, in the face of waning health, and dwindling interests and social activity outside of work and study. Predictably, enthusiasm for this far-fetched life of mine ended. I wanted something else—and I wanted to trust that I really wanted it.

Trite as they sound, words that guided the recovery and new directions of my life as I transitioned from Beijing to Vancouver—my home base before I had departed on that wayward misadventure—were “love,” “friendship,” and “community.”

“Community” was keenly pertinent. I have led a fortunate life involving a lot of moving around; quickly establishing oneself in unfamiliar territory is de rigeur for my family. Consequently, community, beyond a fast and loose association, has always been an abstract concept. Understand, then, in light of the many failures of my fancies, my hesitant desire to prioritise that which I felt I’d never deeply experienced for myself: community.

From the spring of 2015, when I knew with certainty I would renege on my future in China, to January of 2016, when I finally began living again in Vancouver, notions of what meaning I would create for myself and with others changed wildly and incessantly. I had no point of reference. There were times I thought “having a community” might be akin to doing a part-time job with cool coworkers, or that community was defined by those people exclusively with whom one might record an album. The only thought that stuck was that community meant caring for people in some way.

When I moved back, I got the chance to try out my ideas. Owing to an interest in psychology and the then-thought that I might enjoy being a professional counsellor for seniors (and owing as well to my partner’s observations that in fashion and leisure preferences, I resemble a man in his mid 70s rather than mid 20s), a tentative first step in concretising my notions of, and commitment to, community was volunteering in a seniors’ live-in care home. It scratched an itch for a few short months, and I had a pleasant experience, if vague, of being “out there in the community.” Yet, I felt something missing. I knew partly that this missing factor was a sense of engagement in light of my very few responsibilities at the care home. In reflection, I take from this that my personal sense of community did not yet include the concept of impact—my concept of community as an association of folks who like each other lacked a core element: for what purpose does a community exist? It is that element, which varies according to the character of any community in question, that makes a community durable, and distinguishes it from concepts like “neighbourhood” or “social network.”

At the time, I didn’t have such clear ideas; I didn’t know quite what I was looking for; nevertheless, I trusted my instinct to strive for more. As it happened, while searching for meaning in life, I was also seeking cool experiences to complement my intended application to grad school. In what I now recall as a happenstance flourished with volcanic fireworks, the singing of angels, gold-spun god rays illuminating the screen of my computer, and a singular experience of transcendence, I discovered that Writers’ Exchange was a thing. Also, that I’d missed the deadline for volunteer applications by a week. I applied anyway; I really liked the look of what I saw. A very responsive, accommodating, and enthusiastic Volunteer Manager, Sarah-Jane, guided me through the application and orientation, and within a few weeks, I was on my way to my first in-school programme. 

I was indeed nervous. When was the last time I’d been inside a school? Hallways, lockers, the Office—what had seemed for giants through the distant fog of my childhood eyes now looked miniature, illusively smaller than the actual size. My nerves compelled me to humour as I stood in a classroom where so many eyes watched and I felt a stranger. Dad-jokes to the rescue. It wasn’t so much that iconic “first”—first laugh, smile, or in my case, groan—that opened me to the wonder of Writers’ Exchange, but the continuity, over time. As the kids and I became more familiar, recognition, friendship, collaboration, and a bounty of mortifyingly bad puns germinated over time, one week to the next. This changed my understanding of what role WE volunteers play in the kids’ lives, and more generally what impact people can have in each other’s lives.

I had approached our programmes thinking mechanically that the bulk of my actions were in some way supposed to output literacy. More than once, the program team, Jen and Haley, helpfully reminded me that good spelling and grammar were not to be my main concern. This definitely confused me in the beginning: What’s more important to literacy, after all, than knowing properly how to read and write? I wondered about that throughout days when emotions ran high, or the kids hadn’t slept, or were fighting with friends—I tried to be patient and to listen. Sometimes, no matter what I did, I could not connect with them and asked a programmer or teacher for help. And as I experienced the full human display of ups and downs, and saw kids trying in spite of the hurdles that faced them, my preconception of what it meant to support literacy drastically changed.

The change hit home while working with one of the first kids I’d connected with as a volunteer on her final piece of writing for the year. We faced a familiar situation for many at WE: she had brilliant ideas, which seemingly nothing could entice her to write down (there are many reasons that kids experience this dichotomy, I learned, and it does no favours to make assumptions). So for this final writing, she was the storyteller and I the humble scribe, and a great and terrifying tale she told. We laughed, we problem-solved, struggled, agreed, consulted Jen, and finally came to a conclusion that, in slightly different ways and in many ways the same, made us proud. What had not occurred to me before was that being a friend, or being a role model, or just being present, were valuable ways of supporting literacy.

Literacy is a skill, and skills are meaningless in absence of the people who do them, and people, especially kids, are dynamic and complex and affected by their environments and have so many things to learn, as well as ways of learning. At Writers’ Exchange I was a friend, hopefully a good role model, and present in the lives of so many different kids. I got to be a part of Writers’ Exchange’s terrifically supportive space, to be a part of a safe environment in which kids could explore, invent(, vent!), or just hang out. I got to meet other volunteers, all of whom brought (and keep bringing) grace, empathy, and patience to their relationships with the kids. I was supported by the tireless staff—Sarah-Jane, Sarah, Jen, Haley, Taylor, and Julie. All these people helped me realise that literacy, and in fact many a meaningful, collaborative project, takes place in an ecosystem of interconnected people, all with strengths and hurdles, good days and bad.

When I realised what Writers’ Exchange was to me, I fell madly in love with it — I signed up for every possible programme I could, and even that wasn’t enough; I needed to tell the world about this amazing group, and did so through WE outreach campaigns, and waxing euphoric to friends and family. My deep well of love for Writers’ Exchange came from yet another understanding: the above-mentioned ecosystem, all these folks and their personalities and situations and the connections between them spirited by creative energy, social support, and the joy of children—wasn’t that what you would call a community?

Writers’ Exchange Volunteer Showcase - Jane Conroy

Bringing the sunshine to our next spotlight is volunteer extraordinaire Jane. Current volunteers might know Jane from her frequent presence at our home base or her moderating role for many of our peer-support nights. Jane recently moved to Vancouver from England, and we're thrilled that Jane's been with us for a long while now. We're happy to share her thoughts on volunteering. Check it out!



What was it like getting started volunteering with Writers' Exchange?

It was scary for me starting to volunteer at WE, as I hadn't had any experiences with kids in Canada. It took them a little while to get used to my English phrases. They often asked me to repeat things again, thinking some of the words I use are funny. We laughed about them together.

What have been your favourite programs?

One of my favourite experiences has been when the pets came to visit. Especially the chickens! I enjoy the hands-on activities like cooking. It gave the kids an incentive to do some writing before they cooked.

How is Writers' Exchange important to you?

It has become more important to me as the months have gone by. I have got to know the children and realize that volunteering with them and being there each week makes a positive difference.

Any memorable connections with the kids?

We were talking about football—or should I say “soccer”—one time, and I'm familiar with the game. I replied to a comment from one of the children, who then said, "Hey, she knows about soccer. That's awesome." All the years of watching soccer paid off!

Help Us Re-Build Our Literacy Centre!

Inspired already? Donate now!

You may have heard that we were desperately looking for a new home. The rising rents in the Downtown Eastside meant we couldn't afford to stay in our current space and we might have to move away from the kids' we've been supporting with free, fun literacy programs for the past four years.

Finally, and thankfully, our landlord said we could stay in our building—with reduced rent—if we move upstairs. This is GREAT NEWS, but it means we have to create a beautiful new space, where the kids feel just as comfortable and safe and creative as they do in our current space. So we're trying to raise $20,000 to help finance the move/renovation by July 1.

Check out our Indiegogo campaign for more info and to contribute: https://igg.me/at/WEhome

(Thanks in advance for your super generosity!)

Escape TO Writers' Exchange!



Summer’s a time when we escape from our daily life—we pick up and go camping in the woods, disconnect from technologies, lay on a beach, road trip to far-away lands. But you don’t have to leave the city to escape it all this summer! A short shift volunteering with the Writers’ Exchange kids can leave you refreshed and rejuvenated! 

Things volunteering at the Writers’ Exchange can help you escape from in the summer time:

  • Work
    • Working in summer can be the worst… FOMO hits an all-time high as you imagine everyone else out there enjoying those glorious sun-swept days… At WE, you escape the drudgery of work, escape FOMO and even have statistically 245.78% more fun than all those poor folks who don’t volunteer with WE.
  • Sunburns
    • WE has wicked summer programs, amazingly creative kids and sunscreen.
  • The disappointment of it actually being a rainy Vancouver summer! How awful would it actually be if, after all this rain, we have a sunless summer? Do the best to prepare for the worst: Volunteer at WE, where the sun shines 24/7/365.
  • Technology
    • You don’t need a getaway from cell-service range to unplug from technology. At WE, you won’t check your phone at all since you’ll be so engaged with the kids and the fun activities!
  • Not meeting goals
    • Many folks set goals for summer, to lose weight or learn a skill or do more yoga… but it’s always easier to set goals than reach them. WE can give you projects/goals you can reach, and help you make them happen, for example:
      • Make awesome, illustrated stories, and celebrate with the kids at their very own book launch.
      • Make and decorate a time machine, a treasure chest, a bug hut, a marshmallow castle, or an obstacle course.
      • See more of your city: explore Vancouver through the goofy perspectives of kids. Fun bus rides? Check. Playing games? Check. Learning about farming/science/mountains/art? Check!
  • Routine
    • What better way of celebrating all the diverse activities, sights and sounds of summer by switching up your quotidian and trying something new? May we suggest WE, where no day, program, nor kid is the same, save for being universally awesome?
  • Boredom/Lack of stimulation/Social isolation
    • Summer: AKA when all your friends go back home, and all your classes end and you find yourself with nothing to do. Until now: WE personally guarantees your volunteer experience will contain zero dull moments.


Whatever your summer escape looks like, Writers’ Exchange would love to have you as creative, supportive literacy mentors with your coolest new friends: the Kids of Writers’ Exchange. Apply by June 2nd!


Our schedule is yet to be fully confirmed, but here is a taste of what our programming will look like this year (programs run from July 4th to August 25th and volunteers are asked to commit to one program/week):

Mondays: 9:45 - 11am in the Grandview and Renfrew neighbourhoods, 12:30 - 2:30pm in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood

Tuesdays: 10am - 12pm and 1 - 3pm at 881 E Hastings

Wednesdays: 9:30am - 3:30pm, Mysterious Summer Adventures

Thursdays: 10am - 12pm @ 881 E Hastings, 12:45 - 2:45pm in the Grandview neighbourhood

Fridays: 10am - 12pm in the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood



Writers’ Exchange Volunteer Showcase - Jennifer Westoby

Exams are over (a collective sigh of relief is breathed) and there are ever-more snazzy volunteers to highlight. If you haven't seen our previous volunteer spotlights, you're missing out on some seriously joyful folks, so take a gander here and here. Adding to our rainbow roster of awesome, this week we're showing off our very own Jennifer Westoby! Jennifer regularly volunteers with our in-school programs. Outside of Writers’ Exchange, she is a social worker who works with a number of organizations, including the BC Council for Families.




Can you tell us a bit about how Writers' Exchange fits into your life?

Volunteering with WE fits easily into my life, as I can do it during the day when my kids are at school. [WE in-school program] shifts are flexible and short-term, so I can work, be a mom, and still volunteer!  I love working with the kids and helping them to discover their abilities to share ideas through the written word.  Seeing the kids smile when we come and when they see their [own work published in] books is always a treat. 


WE is an amazing program--so positive, fun, AND successful.  Proof that an organization can be encouraging, enthusiastic, and effective--we need more of this in the world!


What fun things have you done in the programs you’ve been volunteering in, recently?

I loved learning about Aboriginal culture in an in-school program we did at the Aboriginal Focus School. It was fun to help some of the kids connect more with their heritage.  And of course, the latest book we are doing on body noises at Grandview has been full of interesting sounds, laughter and learning!


Has anything about volunteering for Writers' Exchange surprised you?

I'm not sure if it is a surprise but more of a reminder that volunteering is a two-way street.  I learn a lot from the kids and other volunteers I work with about different ways to support kids and encourage them to feel good about themselves.  This helps me not just in my work but as a parent!


What is one thing you'd like to share about yourself?

Hmm.  Let's see... I play hockey.  I only learned to play (and skate, really) a few years ago, at the age of 44.  I feel that is a good example of how we always can learn new things, no matter how old we are.  


A big thanks to Jennifer for sharing a snapshot of her life and volunteer experience with us!