Working at the Learning Exchange

As an intern at the UBC Learning Exchange, I’ve been very appreciative of the time and opportunity I’ve had to chat and interact with some of the many patrons from around the neighbourhood accessing the space; a space wherein, truly no day is the same.

Specifically, I’ve enjoyed developing a political discussion group with community members who frequently enter the space during drop-in afternoon hours. Its basis has been to foster a place for patrons to voice their opinions where they do not usually have a platform to. It’s been an experience, recognizing my own mistakes in what it takes to conceive of community and trust in this regard. I’ve wanted to make sure I could differentiate from the many attempts that are, though well-meaning, often exploitive of community members and residents of the Downtown Eastside. The neighbourhood itself, albeit facing gentrification and so many other struggles, is a great lesson in the paradigm of community.

An important task of mine has been to help out and be there on support during Drop-in afternoon hours. These afternoons have been nothing short of a blast. Busy and hectic, they contrast the formulaic forms of traditional learning and engagement. Coffee, computers, life discussion, and a myriad of anecdotes help to make the afternoons memorable. This is the time when anyone in the community can come into the Exchange to access the space and use computers, with assistance available should they need it. It is an attempt to bridge the digital divide that creates systemic barriers for individuals without any connections to computer education. Because the space is also used as a tool to seek company with other community members, I can see why it is upheld as a safer space for many patrons.

I believe that I’m fortunate to be have been given the chance to work with people in having discussions around current affairs and reaching out to other organizations around the neighbourhood. It seems to me that my time working at the UBC Learning Exchange will heighten my capacities for both community activism and civic engagement. And of course it has demonstrated a great introduction into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and endeavors to cultivate solidarity with its residents.

~ Tania Ehret

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