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!

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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 summerHow 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

 

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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.

 

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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!


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


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

 

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.

 


2015/16 Annual Report

You know what was awesome? Last year!

Check out HOW awesome it really was—with fun infographics and LOTS OF MONSTERS—in our 2015/16 Annual Report!

Click on the cover below to read the whole thing!

 

 


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.


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