Team dynamics

Chapman Story Awards

The Chapman Story Award is an annual story competition open to current and recent participants of the Trek and Reading Week programs. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated meaningful learning and contribution to our local community.

Students who have taken part in the Trek or Reading Week programs for the past year are eligible for prizes of up to $500. Funding is generously provided by an endowment from Kay and Lloyd Chapman.

Apply for the 2017 cycle!

2016 winners

First Place

Margaret Miland, 3rd year, UBC Learning Exchange (Trek)

The moment when marker and paper met as I created my first graphic recording during the UBC Learning Exchange Open House was when all of my passions converged. It was a point of extreme clarity in my TREK experience that spilled over into my personal life, changing my perspective on who I am as a person. I transferred to UBC hoping to reignite my sense of creativity that had slowly been exhausted. Knowing that the best way to do this was to surround myself with endless possibilities, I not only decided to say “yes,” but to also question how my assets could benefit my new community. Little did I know that I would be helped with my personal journey just as much as my presence in my TREK placement ended up impacting the lives of the patrons who spend time at the Learning Exchange.

I will never forget what Student Learning Coordinator, Katie Forman, told me on my tour of the Learning Exchange: This was a place where the staff’s presence is merely to facilitate the engagement of every person who walks through the door and recognize the assets they bring to this community. For most people who visit the Downtown Eastside it is seen as “a rough neighborhood in Vancouver” and a place to avoid. Instead of a red flag that would call for deviation, I was intrigued and began to wonder why there was such an extreme difference in atmosphere among Vancouver neighborhoods. What I found was a culturally rich, unique, and close-knit community. Although my initial work at the Learning Exchange was to create new lesson plans for learners, I found most of my time being spent soaking up life stories and opinions of the residents of the Downtown Eastside. As time went on, I discovered firsthand what it was like to experience a true learning exchange.

On the day of the open house, I was asked to try my hand at graphically recording a session on apps that can help ESL learners. Seeing the listeners make connections based on the presentation and my drawings, I was encouraged to record other events throughout the day. I discovered that my skills as a connector, listener, artist, and encourager were allowing the patrons to engage more freely. My graphic recordings were helpful for those who did not speak fluently because they included key words, and the pictures proved to be universally understood. By the end of the day I had been approached by so many people asking about this newfound skill and if I could teach them. I now have the opportunity to do so through the Learning Exchange’s conference this May.

As my time as a TREK student volunteer was coming to a close, there was a mutual effort to find ways for me to remain connected to the Learning Exchange. Finding the space as much of a centre for the patrons as it was for me to feel at home with myself, I ended up accepting a summer work learn position at the Learning Exchange as a drop-in assistant. Words cannot describe how it feels as a new member to Vancouver to be so readily accepted by such a unique community as the Learning Exchange.

I am so proud to have participated in the TREK program and to have learned so much about myself through the whole process. My experience at UBC has a more guided path and my goal of understanding the diversity present in Vancouver that is not always present on campus was met one-hundred times over. 

Second Place

Flora Xiao Meng Zhu, 4th year, Dr. Peter Centre for HIV and AIDS (Trek)

“Thank you for the bird.”

I looked up from behind the white counter from where I stood; it took me a second to realize he was talking about the roast chicken leg we served for lunch. “You’re welcome,” I said briefly as I turned around, grabbed two 150mL containers of 2% milk and replaced the ones that the attendees took for lunch. Lined with rows of concentrated juice, milk and dessert, the countertop was more crowded than Metrotown on Boxing Day.  And despite our best efforts to maintain a somewhat orderly fashion along the dessert and drinks line, between the bustling attendees and our four hands, we were not successful.

“Can I have a chai tea?”

“Can I have an orange juice?”

“We are out of coffee!”

“Of course,” I said as I pried a bag of chai tea out of its box, pressed the juice dispenser to shoot out orange liquid into a plastic cup and took hold of the now empty 42-cup coffee dispensing urn. “Just one minute, let me just change this” and heaved over a 10lb urn of freshly brewed coffee to the attendees.

Every Sunday for the past five months, I volunteered at the Dr. Peter’s Centre for HIV/AIDS and helped them prepare and serve food to the participants that come by. As a community, the attendees, the volunteers and the workers are the ones who drive me to be excited about this cause. They are the ones that give this program hope and make me feel alive.

No matter rain or shine, I look forward to helping out at the Centre. Although not intellectually stimulating, handing out desserts, lining up drinks and emptying out coffee grinds have become emotionally and spiritually uplifting tasks for me. Personally, there is no one moment that makes me feel more involved with the Centre because every moment that I am there, I feel like I am contributing to this intricate web of social balance.

There are many misconceptions regarding homelessness, drug abuse and people suffering from HIV/AIDS.  There is a belief that the ugliness of these under-privileged individuals’ issues are self-brought and contagious; a fear that the mistakes that these people made will rub off against us if we spend too much time with them. A fear that their bad habits and their lives’ adversities will plague us with the infection of misfortune, and a fear that their unpleasantness will destroy our pleasantness in the perfect life that we have sculpted for ourselves. When unfortunately, there is blackout towards the hidden systemic issues within our society. A blanket of secrecy and chasm of issues feed and mask this epidemic and we only graze the surface of it by being afraid.

I used to think I was a big hypocrite. After I finished my shift, on my way to the bus stop, I would see several homeless men asking for change, and more often than not, I would pass them without giving them a second glance. But as my time with the Centre progressed, my attitude towards these men evolved. And now as I pass them on the street, I see them as colourful human beings, full of stories and experiences, and hope to sit down and talk with them one day.

When people think about making the world a better place, often times they don’t think of the small changes they can make in their community. Philanthropic involvement does not necessarily mean something big, sometimes it starts with a small shift in mindset and perspective. Sometimes it is simply seeing a chicken as a bird. 

Diane Keyes, 1st year, YWCA Crabtree Corner (Trek)

I still remember the first time East Hastings and I met. It was a classic Vancouver afternoon where you couldn’t make out one cloud from the next – the entire sky was a solid mass of white. I can’t recall where we were going or where we were coming from, but what I do remember were the streets. I was sitting in the car with my mother driving down East Hastings. It was fall and I was probably about nine years old. ‘Roll up your window,’ my mother told me as she locked the doors, ‘and look outside.’ I turned my head to the right. There were throngs of people milling about; several were crossing the street seemingly ignorant of the moving cars and buses, others sat slumped against the walls of the tall buildings, while others still waved their arms wildly in the air, talking loudly. I remember most of them wearing old oversized hooded coats coloured in beige, grey, or black. Now, whether it was just the greyness of the day or the reality I saw before me which made me see the scene so colourlessly, I do not know. What I do know, though, is the shock, fear, and confusion I felt. ‘This is the kind of life that some people live,’ my mother said to me, ‘it’s very different.’ And so East Hastings was tucked away in the back of my mind and labelled with bright neon signs exclaiming ‘danger – do not enter.’ It was with this memory in mind that I nervously sat on the bus one sunny Saturday morning in early winter headed straight to the heart of the Downtown Eastside. I was on my way to Crabtree Corner.

One of the anthropology courses I’m taking this term is An Introduction to Contemporary Social Problems and looks at the connection between capitalism (or free market society) and addiction. It explains how capitalism, because of the values that it holds of individualism, competition, and exponential growth, undermines some fundamental human psychosocial needs, which include the need for community, sense of belonging, life-purpose, and meaning. The Theory of Dislocation by Bruce K. Alexander outlines this and shows how, when people are unable to meet these needs, they develop addictions which are essentially adaptive substitutes for these needs. Coincidentally, the Vancouver Downtown Eastside stood as a case study for this theory – the neighbourhood where I would complete my TREK placement. Throughout our studies we debunking several myths which cloud the concept of addiction, including the one that people who are addicted are weak of character and moral and that addiction was their choice.

What was extremely powerful was witnessing how, each time I went down East Hastings after another week of class, something in me had shifted. There was a sense of opening and felt as though I could literally see more, and not only that, but what I saw was colourful. Things are no longer grey, black, and beige, for there is a certain colourfulness that emerges when you finally understand the reason behind why things are the way they are, and there is a beauty to this. This is what my class has given me, and what I realize education is for. Education is so that we may be able to look at world around us and no longer simply see, but understand. To reach this, however, we must go out and meet the world, which is why I believe academic education is not enough on its own, and why programs like TREK are essential.

Third Place

Sharon Shamuyarira, 1st year, 411 Seniors and Pianos on the Street (Reading Week)

As a first year Zimbabwean student studying Commerce at UBC, I have learnt the importance of making whatever you do authentically yours, by letting it echo your values. However, this is only possible when you build connections that foster openness, that is, when you feel at home.

I had been in Canada for nearly five months and a part of me still didn’t feel in “sync” with the local community. It’s hard to describe, but easy to realize when you feel out of place. Taking part in the Reading Week Project was my final attempt to try and immerse myself in the culture. I felt lost but hopeful, isolated but surrounded. Naturally, I felt no need to hold back on these emotions as I wrote a letter to my future self at the kick-off event.  I had been assigned to 411 Seniors in partnership with Pianos on the Street, our main task was to design and paint a piano in three days.  Having played in an orchestra, I have always been a fan of classical music so I was thrilled to be part of a creative music project. Nonetheless, my biggest worry was whether I would add any real artistic value to it.

I remember the first brainstorming “session”, nearly twenty minutes into it, we barely had anything concrete. A part of me wondered if the whole idea of the project wasn’t rather far-fetched.  From flags, to tiny musical instruments, to First Nation quotes, the ideas kept coming while the clock kept ticking.  

I looked at the paper with all the suggestions and it hit me then: Diversity was the key. We had all come to UBC from diverse backgrounds, the seniors had distinct narratives, and music had the unique nature of bringing us all together. So the old cliché “Unity in diversity” resonated with us. We divided the piano in to different parts, numbering them one through seven. Each of us volunteered to be responsible for a specific part. Whitney and I were responsible for the back of the piano, she suggested we have different quotes painted by all the volunteers and the seniors depicting what music meant to them. As I write this, I remember how excited I was to come up with a sketch. All my fears of my non-existent creative prowess had disappeared.  I had written in the letter with some incredible foresight, “This is what I find exciting, you do not know what lies ahead.”

Those words were further reiterated when I met one of the 411 seniors. She had recently relocated from South Africa and was thrilled to meet a friend from a neighbouring country. We talked about being back home drinking rooibos tea and giggled at funny Canadian expressions like “yeah, yeah, yeah”, talking to her made me realize we had been experiencing similar internal conflicts. Eventually she demonstrated the power of vulnerability when she shared how she had recently lost her husband.  Visiting Canada, to her was an opportunity to heal and start living again. I asked her to sign one of the postcards I had designed on the back of the piano , and  though adamant at first, after some arm twisting she eventually signed “Music powers emotions”.

Her words still resonate with me. Being part of the Reading Week Project allowed me to feel something I had not felt since I left home. I had embarked on a three-day journey with all these strangers, and together, we had committed to representing each of our stories on that piano.  Most of all, being there felt natural, it felt like home.

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