Alternative Reading Week to focus on Winnipeg

Hoping to highlight societal issues currently facing Winnipeg, Alternative Reading Week Winnipeg will take place from February 21-24, 2012.

Previously, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) and Student Life would send students to El Salvador for a longer period of time to engage with a community and work side-by-side on a development project.

According to Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, students cannot travel to El Salvador this year due to the flooding that has made the area unsafe.

“UMSU and Student Life are partnering on [Alternative Reading Week Winnipeg], a new program to ensure that U of M students still have an opportunity to participate in a service learning program,” said Tapp.

Tapp mentioned that this program is similar to an international exchange; students will have an opportunity to travel to local Winnipeg agencies and volunteer organizations. The objective of this experience is to raise awareness of some of the concerns and issues right here in Winnipeg.

“This project takes a different approach to service learning but will highlight some of the inadequacies in our own back yard,” she explained.

“The campus community does a lot to support international concerns, which is fantastic, and it is time for us to also show the importance of supporting our local communities,” said Tapp.

Allison Birch, student program coordinator of Student Life at U of M, said the goal of this new service learning program is for students to learn more about social justice issues, and the actions that can be taken locally to help make a stronger community.

“Students will learn and experience local Winnipeg agencies and contribute back to the university community as a result of their experience,” she said.

She noted the students involved in this program will be led through a daily reflection session after their day-long experience with local agencies, to help deepen their understanding of the community initiatives at large and engage the participants in how they can help make a positive impact in their communities.
“The idea is to give students a broad perspective of the social justice issues in Winnipeg,” said Birch.

“They can share the knowledge they have learnt, become more passionate, and engage other students in different learning activities,” she said.

The program will have 40 students participating, and the deadline to submit the application form is January 13, 2012.

Birch encouraged students to visit the Student Life website,, or stop by the office at 225 University Centre for more information.