So much more than teaching kids to read and write
The Writers’ Exchange is a community that supports under-resourced kids and youth to build their confidence and get excited about reading, writing and their own potential!
Every day, at eight different sites across Vancouver, there’s magic happening for kids – kids from working poor families who need support with reading and writing to make school, and their lives, easier. And to fulfill their full potential.
Established in Vancouver in 2011, The Writers’ Exchange meets a critical need to provide a safe and welcoming place for inner city kids to discover how much fun reading and writing can be, and to provide nourishing food to hungry kids. The program supports 120 kids a week and 650 in a year.
“Outside school, these kids don’t have a place where they can feel safe and belong. Their parents are working multiple jobs, day and evening, and they can’t get homework support at home,” says Managing Director Anna Forst.
Even if there are grandparents at home, many of them don’t speak English and family members could have a low literacy rate themselves, adds Anna.
While other children in Vancouver have access to a wide range of programs that build skills and confidence, working poor families can’t afford those for their children. The Writers’ Exchange has been dynamic in responding when kids are at risk.
“We had a group of Grade 7 kids who were hanging out a gas station because there was nothing else for them to do, so we created a program for them,” says Anna.
When dedicated volunteers start working with the kids who come to The Writers’ Exchange, real magic starts to happen. The mentors take their cues from the kids – what interests them, what they find exciting. The stories start to flow out of that.
“We see amazing transformation in kids who wouldn’t even pick up a pencil or a book. They had almost given up,” says Anna.
The Writers’ Exchange is not only a safe and inspiring place for kids – it’s a place where they can get food. Many of them live in families facing serious food insecurity, coming from homes where there is nothing to eat in kitchen cupboards.
“A lot of kids will come because they’re hungry. And kids cannot learn and play if they’re hungry,” says Anna.
CLICK support has gone to providing the food at The Writers’ Exchange sites. While it’s called a snack, children and youth are fed a nutritious array of proteins such as cheese and different veggies and fruits. “For many of the kids it’s their primary meal of the day,” says Anna.
Anna stresses that ongoing support from a grassroots foundation like CLICK means The Writers’ Exchange can plan programs in a sustainable way and focus on how best of support kids – kids who can learn, not feel hunger and believe in themselves and their future.