Oct 10, 2018

Youth Wellness - Year Two Begins!

Soccer and basketball!
Soccer and basketball!

The “International Kids Club” began its second academic year on September 17th, and is off to an exciting start. While we remain focussed on meeting the academic and wellness needs of middle school students from international backgrounds, several new developments and changes to the program are underway, including new partners, new classes and new kids!

Through a new partnership with the African Community Center (ACC), we are now hosting the “International CITY” after school program for high school students in our center. International CITY runs simultaneously with our program for middle school students, and shares common areas and resources. This new partnership has strengthened both programs, making more classes and resources available to all students, and has given our middle school students better access to youth mentors and tutors. In addition, many students in our middle school program have older siblings who attend ACC’s program, allowing siblings to be in the same space after school and travel home safely together.

New interns and volunteers from Myanmar (Burma), Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and various parts of the US have joined our team. Through a new partnership with Denver University Graduate School of Social Work, we have offered internships to two MSW candidates, who are developing and implementing a social-emotional learning curriculum. We are still building our volunteer base with the goal of expanding our tutoring program to ensure every young person in our program has the individual attention and academic support they need to succeed in school.

New classes and activities this semester include a weekly art workshop provided by Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, outdoor sports, social and emotional learning workshops and Hip Hop and African dance classes. Through our partnership with ACC, our students also have access to music therapy classes.

Our 15-seater van was stolen over the summer, and although it was recovered several weeks later, it is damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced. Without a van or bus, our ability to pick and drop kids and go on field trips is limited, and we are currently working to raise additional funds and find a new van as quickly as possible.

We are grateful to have secured two more years of support from the Colorado Health Foundation, which will allow us to hire a Youth Program Manager (currently in recruitment) and continue to build a dynamic, enriching and lasting program.

 

New friends
New friends
Making art at the Denver Art Museum!
Making art at the Denver Art Museum!
Making music!
Making music!
Art class with DAVA!
Art class with DAVA!
Sketching at the Denver Art Museum
Sketching at the Denver Art Museum
Sep 6, 2018

First Progress Update!

Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos

Since opening in October 2017, the Village Exchange Center has hit the ground running and developed into a thriving cultural and resource hub in the heart of North Aurora, one of Colorado’s most diverse and international neighborhoods. With help from our GlobalGiving community and others, we have grown to serve some 600 people a week through classes, programs, food pantries and cultural activities, with an additional 200 to 1500 people attending our center each month for special events, including cultural festivals, concerts, town halls, community awareness events and celebrations. All of our programs and services are open to the community at large and aim to create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to interact, exchange and learn about one another.

Through our Natural Helpers Program, implemented jointly with the City of Aurora, over 80 community leaders have been provided training in cultural understanding, service leadership, systems of care and other topics. In June, we launched the first youth cohort of the program, called the “Natural Leaders”, through which we worked with the City of Aurora, local elected officials, the Aurora Branch of the NAACP and the African Leadership Group to provide leadership training and academic support to 12 talented and promising high school juniors and seniors from international backgrounds.

Our “International Kids Club” afterschool program provides tutoring, homework help, mentorship, field trips and dance, music and karate classes to kids in middle school. The families of the children in our youth program come from some 13 countries, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mexico, Nepal, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria and Tanzania, as well as from the local hosting community.

We partnered with Write Our World to launch our first summer camp this year for kids in elementary and middle school. Over the course of the three-week camp, kids wrote, illustrated, narrated and translated their own bilingual e-books about their lives and the issues that matter most to them. The books are available in an online library. Art, dance, swimming and sports classes were also offered.

As a collaborative and collocated space, we are also home to 10 resident non-profit organizations who provide wrap-around support to the community through ESL classes, citizenship classes, community navigation and case management, financial management support, tax assistance, entrepreneurial programs, after school support, food assistance, health education, and community mobilization around issues such as voter registration, civic engagement, affordable housing and safety. Our resident partners have grown to include Project Worthmore, Focus Points, Restoration Project International, Drive Project Colorado, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Colorado Ethiopian Community, the Bhutanese Community of Colorado, Aurora Interfaith Community Services, Rock Consumer Services, and KETO Community Radio Station.

In partnership with other local non-profits, we recently hosted a Community Bike Rodeo (bike safety event) with Lutheran Family Services, a driving class for Afghan Women with the African Community Center, an event for persons with temporary protective status with the El Salvadorian Consulate and two large cultural Festivals with the Bhutanese Community of Colorado, among other events. We are looking forward to hosting the Day of the Dead Celebration with the Mexican Consulate in early November.

We have expanded quickly and are very excited by the momentum and support we have received from our community. In order to allow for increased capacity, respond to community needs and improve the quality of our space, we recently launched a capital fundraising campaign, through which we will renovate our large indoor spaces, upgrade plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, create an early childhood education center, construct a commercial kitchen, add office and classroom space and build outdoor play areas.

Shrimad Bhagwat Pooja with Bhutanese Community
Shrimad Bhagwat Pooja with Bhutanese Community
Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos
Natural Helpers Training
Natural Helpers Training
Natural Helpers Graduation
Natural Helpers Graduation
Making ebooks at Summer Camp!
Making ebooks at Summer Camp!
Jul 10, 2018

Youth Wellness - Year One!

Creating eBooks with Write Our World
Creating eBooks with Write Our World

The Village Exchange Center (VEC) Youth Wellness Program completed its first academic year on May 24th, 2018. Renamed the “International Kids Club” by youth participants, the program has developed into a thriving afterschool program, serving up to 30 young people per day, four days a week, and aiming to meet the wellness and academic needs of children from diverse and international backgrounds.

Although the program initially targeted middle school students, (due to the lack of safe and affordable after school programming for this age group in North Aurora), VEC soon identified a significant demand among local elementary school students and their families for after school support as well. As such, the program was expanded to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, and additional volunteers and tutors were brought on board.

VEC’s after school program provides healthy snacks, wellness and social enrichment workshops, tutoring and homework support, STEM workshops, karate classes, dance classes, drumming workshops, cooking workshops, and field trips. While the program maintains a health and wellness focus, it became clear mid-year that many students required additional academic support and the allotted time for homework, reading and structured learning activities was increased. Our base of regular volunteers also grew throughout the year, allowing for more one-on-one interactions, mentorship and support. A new dance teacher specializing in Bollywood dance co-developed routines with participants and led a group of our students in their first public performance at a local Cinco de Mayo festival.

During winter and spring breaks, daytime alternative programming was also provided at VEC in partnership with Aurora Youth Options, another youth-supporting organization. Field trips in 2017-2018 included trips to the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, rock-climbing classes at an indoor climbing gym, swimming at a local recreation center and roller-skating. VEC staff and volunteers also provided daily transportation home for kids whose parents work late hours.

In June 2018 we held a summer camp jointly with Write Our World, a non-profit that works with young people from international backgrounds to write and publish their own bilingual ebooks in an online library. Over the course of the three-week program, kids wrote, illustrated and narrated their own books, while also taking sports, dance and art classes. Some 20 young people participated in the summer camp, and the ebooks published covered topics from personal family histories to discussions around culture and identity.

The families of the children in our youth programs come from some 13 countries, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mexico, Nepal, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria and Tanzania, as well as from the local hosting community. The program values and activities were developed with input from children and their families and are built around the importance of community engagement, healthy relationship building and respect for one another. We are especially pleased that outreach conducted with families has also led to parents’ and relatives’ participation in other programs and services offered at VEC, including English and citizenship classes, health workshops and food pantry services.

Based on end of year feedback received from participants, parents and teachers, VEC plans to further strengthen academic enrichment activities in 2018 by adding more STEM-related workshops and by working with local schools and teachers to provide supplemental learning activities that directly support what is being taught in the classroom. At the request of youth participants, VEC will also add Hip Hop dance, outdoor sports and new field trips during the 2018-2019 school year.

Creating eBooks with Write Our World
Creating eBooks with Write Our World
Best Friends!
Best Friends!
Indoor Rock Climbing!
Indoor Rock Climbing!
Indoor Rock Climbing!
Indoor Rock Climbing!
Water balloon toss!
Water balloon toss!
 
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