Located in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, the Writers’ Exchange was founded by Jennifer MacLeod and Sarah Maitland, and provides a safe space for children to have fun while practicing reading and writing skills.
Dedicated to offering free youth literacy programs in the city’s most vulnerable neighbourhood, the non-profit society launched in 2011 at Queen Alexandra Elementary School. It expanded in 2012, offering after-school sessions and summer camps at a new East Hastings Street location as well as classroom support at Queen Alexandra and 10 inner-city schools. For children who struggle with homework or with worries at home, the Writers’ Exchange is an oasis where outside-the-box thinking is encouraged and supported. It’s a place where children feel safe, can relax and, and as Jennifer puts it, “have crazy adventures” — just like the characters in their favourite stories.
A Passion for Literacy
It all started when Jennifer and Sarah noticed that some students couldn’t read a play together.
As a former magazine editor, Jennifer was always passionate about kids’ literacy. The Writer’s Exchange is a naturally lit, eclectic space with antique typewriters and stylish computers, tables with sheets of white paper, art supplies and, of course, shelves upon shelves of books. Jennifer encounters dozens of original stories on a daily basis and she publishes them so the children can see how great their work is. Thanks to design and printing support from friends, sponsors and donors, they are able to publish slim, brightly coloured books. Jennifer explains that some children might not have books at home. Volunteers and staff host a launch complete with a microphone and an audience of parents, teachers and friends who are invited to the event.
For children who struggle with homework or with worries at home, the Writers’ Exchange is a neighbourhood oasis where outside-the-box thinking is encouraged and supported. Moreover, inside it is a place where children are made to feel special, creative and inspired.
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