Spring Gillard

UBC Learning Exchange Celebrates 15 Years

storefront-smallThe UBC Learning Exchange has been part of the downtown eastside community for fifteen years. I’ve been working there for two months now as the peer-led English conversation program coordinator. This campus is a community-driven place of learning, where people can make connections, share their gifts, skills and ideas, and in the process build capacity for social change. Through the month of October, in concert with our many partners, we are celebrating with a feast of events. For those of you working in social and environmental sustainability, you may be interested in the Coffee Cup Revolution on Monday, October 6th in Victory Square or perhaps the World Poetry Film Festival on Saturday, October 25th. You can view the full program here.

Doors Wide Open

Woodwards-31It was one of those great fall days today when I could open the doors wide and let a fresh perspective blow into my life. I was even inspired to clean. Coincidentally, a friend sent me this cool event this morning called Doors Open Vancouver coming up on Saturday, October 4. You can get an insider look at civic, cultural and historic buildings that may not normally be fully open to the public. Buildings include the Vancouver Police Department Mounted Unit in Stanley Park, the Scotia Bank Dance Centre, the National Works Yard, The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Woodwards building and many more.

Back to School

2014-2015_Scandal-4As soon as the weather shifts, I get that back to school feeling and begin to crave routine. I am moving out of carefree summer mode into my winter schedule. I’ll spend more time at the gym than on the bike now and I’m already back to weekly yoga. As for entertainment, the Vancouver Film Festival starts this week and I’ll take in my first play of the season this weekend at my favourite community theatre – United Players. The play is well suited to the season: School for Scandal.

Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery

artgallreyI’m discovering beautiful buildings and learning about many groups working for change on the downtown eastside. This gorgeous building belongs to the Vancouver Native Housing Society. The Society transformed the old Pender Hotel into an Aboriginal artist live/work studio complex that includes a large production space and a Fair Trade art gallery at street level. In June of 2012, the residential side of the building was opened. The Skwachays Lodge and Residence provides 24 units of supportive housing for artists and 18 hotel rooms for both tourists and medical stay guests.

Grousing About Grouse

grousesunsetMy Dad was in town for his 83rd birthday last weekend. He is always treating us and not one to let us celebrate him. But this birthday was different. He had been wanting to have dinner at Grouse Mountain for a long time, and we finally had our chance. The weather was picture perfect.

When we arrived at the gondola area that would carry us up the mountain, we weren’t sure where to go. There wasn’t any signage directing us, at least not that we could see. Half our party was still at the car gathering kids and bags. We went into one of the buildings and joined the queue. I couldn’t see the Skyride ticket prices there either, only ski lift tickets. When I got to the counter, I told the woman staff person that I wanted six tickets, one was for a four year old child. When she told me the total, I gasped. It was $44 per adult. I don’t want season tickets, I quipped. All the activities are included, she said. Oh, like the grizzly bears? I asked. Yes, and everything else. Okay, I said.

Meanwhile, the other half of our party, thinking we’d gone ahead, had just taken off in the gondola. They’d gone to the ticket booth where you can pay just before you step aboard. No line up there we learned later. We also heard afterwards that my brother was banging on the window trying to get my Dad’s attention as he took a photo of the gondola leaving. We spent a few frantic moments searching for them and finally reached them by cell when they got to the

Once we arrived, we put our names in at the Bistro restaurant and went for a stroll to take in all the activities. The grizzly bears were nowhere in sight, much to the disappointment of my nephew. The lumberjack show wasn’t on. The Eye of the Wind wasn’t operating (a ride up the wind turbine). The zip lines cost extra and so did the chair lift. Walking around appeared to be the only activity that was included in our peak experience; fortunately the views were breathtaking.

We headed back to the restaurant only to find that they were so understaffed on this perfect late summer evening that the seating with the best views was roped off. We waited a long time beyond our 7pm booking. Fortunately, we were finally seated on the patio and had a wonderful waitress who helped to make the evening memorable for us. When we got chilly, she moved us inside to a booth with a killer view.

The ride back down was worth the price of admission. It was a crystal clear night and the lights of the city glittered beneath us as we descended. My Dad said it was the best birthday he’s ever had. So yes, it was worth it, but likely a once in a lifetime event at those prices.

Beach Furniture

beachartThis wonderful beach furniture was created by Hugo Franca of Brazil. It’s part of the Vancouver Biennale, a public art exhibition that takes place every two years and includes sculpture, media and performance works by established and emerging artists from around the world. The functional sculptures are located at Spanish Banks. See some great pictures and more detail on the art here.

Citizen Scientists

bamfieldThe David Suzuki Foundation is looking for volunteers to help with monitoring the radioactivity in the water on our BC coastline. We aren’t hearing about this potential in the news too much, but it is still a grave concern. Details below. Photo: Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

Become a citizen scientist and test the (Fukushima) waters in your community

Concerned about the health of our oceans? Why not become a citizen scientist in a project to monitor low-level radioactivity arriving on Canada’s West Coast from Japan’s 2011 tsunami and Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster?

Volunteers are being recruited now to collect monthly seawater samples from 14 locations between Victoria and Haida Gwaii. The David Suzuki Foundation is helping the InFORM network find volunteers for the three-year commitment in Port Renfrew, Bamfield, Tofino/Ucluelet, Nootka Island/Tahsis, Winter Harbour, Port Hardy, Bella Bella, Hartley Bay, Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii, Salt Spring Island, Powell River/Sunshine Coast, Vancouver and Victoria.

You’ll be helping fill an information and monitoring gap that’s left many people concerned. Local groups of citizen scientists will be trained to collect 24-litre seawater samples for radioisotope analysis and recording of properties like seawater temperature and salinity. Results will be communicated as widely as possible. The project is built on the model. While radioactivity levels measured have been low, it’s important to monitor seawater because radioactive isotopes continue to be released from Fukushima.

Learn more and apply before September 30, 2014.

Quelling the Violence Within

nitobeThis thought for the day comes from Eknath Easwaran, Sept 7th entry. He describes the only real route to peace.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.  – Martin Luther King

All of us can play an important part in the conquest of violence. We can do this by throwing our full weight behind peaceful, effective programs for eliminating the situations from which violence arises. But just as importantly, we need to do everything we can to remove every trace of hostility in ourselves.

The violence that is flaring up on our streets and in many corners of the world is the inevitable expression of the hostility in our hearts. Hostility is like an infectious disease. Whenever we indulge in a violent act or even in hostile words, we are passing this disease on to those around us. When we quarrel at home, it is not just a domestic problem; we are contributing to turmoil everywhere.

A teacher of meditation in ancient India, Patanjali, wrote that in the presence of a man or woman in whom all hostility has died, others cannot be hostile. In the presence of a man or woman in whom all fear has died, no one can be afraid. This is the power released in true nonviolence, as we can see in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Because all hostility had died in his heart, he was a profound force for peace. – Eknath Easwaran

Park It



Love this annual event that transforms parking spaces into parklets. The one day happening takes place all over the world. This local temporary park initiative is put on by the Vancouver Public Space Network (VSPN). Details below.

Park(ing) Day is an annual celebration that takes place around the globe. It invites participants to creatively re-imagine metered parking spaces as… parks, mini gathering places, theatres, dance floors, landscape installations, art stations, you name it! It’s a challenge that’s been producing some excellent results since it was first started (in good ‘ol San Fran) back in 2005.

2014 will mark the 7th year that the VPSN has held a Park(ing) Day event in Vancouver, and this year, as always, we’re looking for volunteer assistance to make it a success.

The event takes place on Friday, Sept. 19. For more information contact Aateka Shashank at aateka [at] vancouverpublicspace [dot] ca.

Make Change

The United Way is sponsoring an innovative changemaker training program for non-profit groups. Deadline to apply is October 10th. Info below.

Are you a changemaker and want to help strengthen your organization’s capacity to advance social change? Organizations applying to attend this training program must be from the non-profit sector, active in the areas of social or health-related services and interested in affecting public policy change in those areas. Enrollment is open to organizations from all regions of the province.

This program is specifically designed to help non-profit leaders and their organizations increase their knowledge of the public policy process and their capacity to influence it. Monthly two-day sessions will be delivered over a six month period; from January to June 2015. A dedicated and very experienced cohort, the opportunity for shared learning as part of a small cohort of 25 sector leaders and an applied learning approach with a manageable course calendar make this a unique capacity building opportunity.

United Way starts accepting applications on Aug 13, 2014 and the deadline to apply is Oct 10, 2014. For more information please visit the program webpage. To obtain an application form, please contact Yves Trudel at: