Langley, BC-Over the course of one week, students from Trinity Western University conducted the first ever survey which asked over 200 individuals in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, ranging from residents to businesses, what they thought about the potential impact of the 2010 Winter Olympics on their neighborhood. The students were participating in an anthropology course entitled "Sustainable Urban Development," taught by Professor Claudia Launhardt.
The survey, entitled, "Survey on Volunteer Engagement and the Impact of the 2010 Winter Olympics on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside" asked nine questions ranging from potential employment and volunteer opportunities during the games to benefits for Downtown Eastside residents and improved housing.
It also asked candidly if residents felt that VANOC was trying to improve conditions and sustainability in the community or if new initiatives such as purchasing more SRO's (Single Residency Occupancies), the re-opening of Riverview Hospital and keeping the safe injection site open, were a way to protect tourism and give a nice impression of Vancouver. Additionally the survey asked for input and suggestions on what VANOC could do to include residents and business owners in the Games.
"The results of the survey were very surprising," says, Launhardt. "Firstly, the majority of Downtown Eastside residents do not oppose the Olympics but instead are quite open to the games unlike what the general assumption has been. The second thing is that they want to contribute to the event. While they are not interested in volunteering, which is understandable considering their financial struggles, they are however interested in putting the skills they do have to work on various projects, ranging from garbage and recycling collection to food services."
Kevin Terpstra, a recent graduate of TWU in religious studies and who also took part in the course says, "I was surprised by the humanity of the Downtown Eastside, the radical honesty of the community and an openness to brokenness that these residents have. He goes on to say, "For the most part, they (people in the downtown eastside) were okay with the Olympics but they feel neglected. While they are excited about the event they recognize that no one really cares about them as individuals and they can see through the fake attempts governments and groups have made."
Launhardt, an expert on the homeless in Vancouver, was originally approached by VANOC and asked how the Olympics might involve Downtown Eastside residents. She suggested that before a government body came up with ideas, they should first consult the residents and ask what they had in mind. Later, after plans changed, Launhardt decided to continue on with the survey knowing the potential the results would have for both the Downtown Eastside residents and VANOC.
This is the second time the TWU professor has taken her students into the Downtown Eastside. Last fall her anthropology class researched and submitted a proposal to Mayor Sam Sullivan which gave suggestions for reducing public disorder in Canada's worst postal code.
Says Launhardt, "This survey was done as a pure academic field exercise for our students - a kind of term paper. The students learned the key elements of anthropological field research, participant observation and the tools to put a survey together."
The group submitted their findings to Dave Rudberg, General Manager of Olympic and Paralympics Operations with the City of Vancouver and VANOC. The results of the survey will be discussed on September 27th when officials, including the Vancouver Whistler Games Network, a group that is responsible for the organization of volunteers throughout the games, will meet for their official kick-off event at Broadway Church in Vancouver.
Says Launhardt, "I honestly see that with this survey we can be a voice for the poor. The Olympics are a chance to hear what people have to say. My hope is that something much bigger, such as trust, communication and dialogue can begin because of this survey."
To read the full results of the "Survey on Volunteer Engagement and the Impact of the 2010 Winter Olympics on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside" please visit http://www.twu.ca/2010survey
Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers undergraduate degrees in 39 major areas of study ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music to business, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 15 graduate degrees include such areas as counseling psychology, business, theology, administrative leadership and interdisciplinary studies in English, philosophy and history.
Last Updated: 2007-10-11