Blog News

Brian Campbell

Brian Campbell


By Penny Goldsmith, former VCN president

In 1992, Brian Campbell got together a group of librarians and other community activists in the lower mainland of British Columbia who started meeting to talk about the internet and the importance of it being accessible to everyone. Brian recognized early on that a lot of people were going to be left out of this new online world unless there was a concerted and organized effort to make sure that that didn’t happen. In June of 1993, he chaired the founding meeting of the Vancouver Regional Freenet (now the Vancouver Community Network)

Brian was a leader in promoting free and equal access to information both inside and outside the library. He found a home for the Vancouver Freenet server at VPL. He made sure that there were public access computers devoted to the Freenet in the library and fought for them to stay there, even when they were being less and less used as people were starting to access their emails via commercial sites. He was instrumental in convincing libraries to make free public internet accessible across Canada.

Brian officially resigned from the Freenet board in 1995, but he never really left – he never left anything that mattered to him and that he believed in. He never stopped talking about universal public access to the internet and the ongoing danger of the digital divide, even after he retired from the library. In 2015 he was the recipient of the intellectual freedom award given out annually by the Canadian Library Association.

Brian Campbell died in December, 2016 in Vancouver, BC

Blog News

2016 March Newsletter




After 13 years VCN continues to be committed to delivering high-impact programming to offer youth in Vancouver meaningful tech-related internships. This cycle we received close to 600 applications for 27 placements with 23 host organizations.

As we assess the successes and challenges, we are thrilled with this year’s outcomes. The greatest indicator we found was that over half of youth interns were offered extended contracts with their host organizations or found work immediately after their internships. Read more about their experiences below!


“[There is] satisfaction in knowing that I had created something that will be very useful for an important organization. Now I have an increased understanding of my trade and a great portfolio piece to add.” Safe Amp Intern

“My coworkers at Geist were very supportive and encouraged me to delve deeper into better web practices. I came out of this internship with more web-related expertise, it was a wonderful learning experience.” Geist Magazine Intern

“I was able to learn more digital skills and enhance my existing ones. In this role, I really felt like a member of staff and not a youth intern, and [I] was given a lot of responsibility to use my skills in the digital sphere.” UBC LE Learning Exchange Intern

“If I can introduce similar methods to a future work environment then this will give me an edge in the work place. I feel ready to enter employment and apply my disciplines.” BC Technology for Learning Society Intern

“We bonded over art, and learned about how technology can serve their art practices, as well as everyday computer skills that benefit their ability to connect with others and get access to information and resources.” Gallery Gachet Intern

“I personally have seen growth in many of my skills including problem solving, written and oral communication, and teaching. I also improved in my technical skills through troubleshooting computers, performing maintenance and learning to develop a website using WordPress.” RayCam Co-operative Centre Intern

“VCN’s [youth internship] program provided me an excellent opportunity to gain real work experience in a technical related position. I was able to oversee the launch of the organization’s new website, greatly Improving my WordPress knowledge in the process, and see the result of my work adopted and implemented.” New Forms Media Society Intern

“…people experiencing poverty and homelessness…it was very powerful to have [had the] opportunity to work with so many passionate and intelligent co-workers and community members. It was particularly helpful to gain new skills working with computers… I am very grateful that the youth internship was able to fund my participation in the project.” Megaphone Magazine Intern



For close to 20 years, Patrick Clark has stayed connected to the VCN network and has generously given his time in different capacities – as a help|desk volunteer, board member, and digital rights advocate to name a few.

Patrick’s invaluable work and enthusiasm continues to inspire the VCN team to better serve our community. We interviewed Patrick and asked him to share what his involvement with VCN has meant to him.

How did you become involved with VCN?
Originally, many years ago when the organization was only about four months old I was invited to an introductory get-together and was immediately drawn in by the sincere desire to provide an insurer Internet access and education to the whole community regardless of an individual’s income or position in life.  The founders of VCN had seen the writing on the wall in regards to commercial [high cost] Internet in Canada and wanted to make sure that the voices of modest or zero income people were not left out.  I immediately then began a year-long term on the board of VCN.

What role(s) do you currently have with the organization?
Two roles officially: volunteer and board member.

How has being a part of VCN’s network impacted your professional work?
In the year and a half I’ve been involved with the office crew and manning the help line I have learned, and been exposed to, more information and opportunities than I could ever hope to have achieved on my own.  I learned a completely new content management system “WordPress” for quickly designing web pages.  I have been able to explore various Linux operating systems, and work on a wide variety of computers both old and new.  Most importantly, because everyone at VCN is so supportive the knowledge has been free-flowing. If you have a question, you get a collaborative answer. It really is the best way to work.  Not only that, there is a real sense of community that encourages questions and discussion.  In short this has been a massive boost to my knowledge base, which has resulted in several contract jobs.

How has working at VCN influenced you personally?
I have been involved with a great number of nonprofit and advocacy organizations over the years. I was becoming a little jaded because, through no fault of their own, many groups succumb to “power positioning” and hierarchical structures, ultimately focused on maintaining the status quo. VCN has done the exact opposite. Collectively they have managed to inspire, not only the community at large, but everyone who works or is involved on regular basis. There is a real sense of sincerity in everything they undertake. It is the true cooperative adventure with a real community and spirit.

What makes VCN rock, and indeed makes them unique among many organizations is that there is a sincere cooperative spirit to everything that is undertaken. Ego does not live with this group. I think perhaps all the core people are “kindhearted radicals” who have each had to fight battles and that has given them a real understanding of community spirit in the truest sense. Truly inspiring–is it any wonder I love VCN!



The deadline for submitting 2015 tax returns is quickly approaching!

CanadaHelps has recently launched an online tool to help donors find and get a copy of all receipts for donations made in 2015 using CanadaHelps.

VCN donors and supporters can easily access tax receipts by using this Tax Receipt Tool:



Start the new 2016 tax season off with a donation to an impactful community organization working to bridge the digital divide!

VCN helps advance education and provides a public utility which helps relieve disadvantage by providing Internet access to those who would otherwise be denied it.

Remember VCN counts on you to either pay your yearly membership ($25) and/or make a donation helps us to support the entire system. Please commit to keeping this valuable resource available into the future!

We welcome volunteers who speak Aramaic, Farsi, Kurdish, or Arabic to help with the resettlement of new immigrants and refugees. To volunteer, please fill out our online form:

Blog News

2016 February Newsletter



VCN’s AGM was held on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 on the second floor of the Woodward’s Heritage Building. The meeting reached quorum with 4 board members, 7 staff, 2 volunteers, and 17 regular members.

Highlights of 2014-15:

  • Long-time Board Chair, Jim Sayre, sadly passed away in August 2015 after a long battle with cancer. VCN will move forward with the values and goals he instilled. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
  • In 2015, VCN connected 1000+ people to our WiFi networks across the city.
  • VCN showed appreciation to our volunteers at the AGM. The leadership team, headed by Chris Chanhsamone, mentored and provided work experience to over 30 volunteers.
  • A social enterprise strategy, known as VCN Innovation Labs, was developed and launched this past year to provide low-cost technical services through VCN’s tech|team and web|team.
  • Refurbished laptops for $25 annual lease are available to members.
  • Participation in Canada Helps’ fundraising campaign raised money to keep VCN’s programs available to the community.
  • This past year saw a significant increase in new and renewing memberships.
  • Telus commissioned a short film on the Street Messaging System and awarded $10,000 in funds to advance the Street Messaging System.
  • In participation of 2015 Homelessness Action Week, The City of Vancouver awarded a grant to hold a series of community consultations to feed into the development process of the Street Messaging System.
  • VCN partnered with Lu’ma to offer Community Voice Mail for people who are homeless, phoneless, in crisis, and/or in transition.
  • VCN submitted a bid to the City of Vancouver for more space in the Woodward’s building. We are currently engaged with the opportunity to be a lead tenant in the 312 Main redevelopment project as a Tech and Innovation Centre envisioned for the community.


At the end of this AGM, we had to say good-bye to long time Board Member – Treasurer Travis Keyworth.

He joined VCN in July 2009. For 7 years Travis used his accounting designation and skills to guide the society with his eye to strategic planning and financial management.

He will be sorely missed. We thank him for his years of devotion to social justice and digital literacy!


Carrillo is a mother, an award-winning chef, community organizer, and activist, as well as founder of Paying It Forward to Mother Earth Food Truck Program, Pachamama’s Natural Rights, and Quinoa’s Ambassador.

When she discovered VCN, Carrillo was living out of her van, without permanent housing, and moving from shelter to shelter. She would commute from a women’s shelter in Surrey to the Downtown Eastside to the Woodward’s Building to access VCN’s computers and services Monday to Friday.

Over the last several months, VCN witnessed remarkable progress with Carrillo’s project despite being faced with what seemed like insurmountable odds. Carrillo’s resilience and tenacity coupled with VCN’s resources has helped to further her personal and professional goals.
Through the difficult months, VCN staff particularly Executive Director Tracey Axelsson, supported Carrillo in moving forward with her dreams. With limited resources, Carrillo utilized VCN’s web|team services to create her own website to spread her vision.

From editing materials to providing input on a business plan, developing and updating website content, assisting with a crowd-funding campaign, and emotional support, Axelsson and VCN staff have strived to encourage Gloria in her work. She says, “The assistance of the volunteers and staff at VCN have been absolutely very supportive, I don’t think there is any place like this in the whole city.”

When asked the ways in which VCN helped in her mission, Gloria replies: How one could not be happy this organization’s breadth of empowerment. In my eyes, VCN truly represents the Canadian spirit. That the Canadian Government and sponsors should recognize that VCN truly works to empower spirit and minds… they are very supportive and they don’t hold back.”

Read Gloria’s full story here:
Learn more about Gloria’s work:


As VCN approaches its 23rd year of operation, help to keep VCN’s open and inclusive program by donating what you can – including your time! We are continuing to seek volunteers who speak Aramaic, Farsi, Kurdish, or Arabic to help with the resettlement of thousands of refugees.

To volunteer, please fill out our online form:

Remember VCN counts on you to either pay your yearly membership ($25) and/or make a donation helps us to support the entire system. Please commit to keeping this valuable resource available into the future!

Please give:

Blog News

Success Story: Ada Wong

Ada Wong

tech|team Manager, Chris Chanhsamone, and Ada Wong

The Vancouver Community Network would not be able to fill our organizational mandate to serve, engage, and improve public access and knowledge of the Internet and information communications technologies without the help of our dedicated volunteers.

VCN’s help|desk assists members and the general public from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday right here at Woodward’s. Many who seek help are from the Downtown Eastside. The staff and volunteers help by trouble-shooting hardware and software challenges associated with setting up a computer, training on a variety of software packages and internet applications, and troubleshooting for any of our VCN services such as using dial up internet access, email, mailing lists, and web hosting for individual accounts and for group accounts.

The majority of help|desk volunteers are youth interns from BCIT and UBC along with recent immigrants/refugees looking for in-country experience, training, and career development support. In 2015, 26 volunteers with diverse backgrounds worked over 3000 hours to offer our community members technical support.

Ada Wong, former RN practitioner and help|desk volunteer, shares her experience at VCN:

How did you become involved with VCN?
I was introduced to VCN while attending university from one of my best high school friends. I was told VCN provides free computer support and free electronic mail. Sold, I became a VCN member right away.

In what capacity are you involved with VCN?
Officially, I became an active volunteer with VCN on and off the past 5 years or so while I was advancing my knowledge about nursing and technology. Professionally, I needed to keep up-to-date, and keep my computer free from various software viruses and learn where to go to purchase computer hardware at an affordable price. VCN helped me tremendously by enhancing my basic technical knowledge about computer hardware and software to the point that I was able to answer basic computer inquires, teach others about the use of computers, and design and create my own professional webpage.

What motivated you to give your time to the organization?
VCN has the right resources and helps many individuals, small businesses, and non-profit organizations across Metro Vancouver, and does so in a charitable way. VCN requires some core staff, volunteers, generous donors, and grants to keep its charitable services up and running. I’m thankful to VCN for helping me save my computer from the recycle bin a few times!

What have you learned from working with VCN?
VCN helped me a lot, [the] people are kind, and I was given the opportunity to share my nursing knowledge and skills back to others by helping them with their computer inquiries and by sharing my knowledge about health/wellness questions. Some of VCN walk-ins require some basic knowledge and life skills before they could start their path to health and wellness, to look for productive employment, and to maintain a stable and caring friendship and relationship with others.

VCN taught me how to research mine and others’ inquires about computer hardware and software. Chris, Nhan, Patrick, and Tracey had been immensely helpful to me in their feedback during my learning process. From VCN, I learned how to respond to technical questions; how to answer e-mail and telephone inquiries using web request tracker; and ways to teach and manage walk-in inquiries at VCN, at 411 Seniors Centre Society, and at the Vancouver Public Library. In addition, I learned how to approach and teach basic computer usage to all kinds of people; how to manage and set-up basic computer hardware; and how to use various operating systems and software.

What type of knowledge have you been able to impart on to community members?
Over the years, I [have] met lots of people from VCN and from 411 Seniors Centre Society. Generally, they are interested in using the computer for writing e-mails to loved ones, for on-line shopping, for watching movies, for researching travel and leisure, or health and wellness.

VCN introduced me to their Street Messaging System [] – this platform allowed me to communicate health and wellness information to receivers across Metro Vancouver, and to apply my nursing expertise with those who may benefit from my nursing knowledge and skills.

How has volunteering helped you in your life?
My current success is because of what I have shared and what others have shared back to me – unconditionally – I believe this is what volunteering is all about. I definitely encourage those who are interested in computers and technology to volunteer at VCN – you only get as much out of it as what you put into it. Thank-you VCN and 411 Seniors Centre Society for taking me in as a volunteer!

Blog News

VCN help|desk Supports Community Members: Success Story

eagle little
Through Homeless Advocate Judy Graves, for the past several months *Eagle Little Boy has been consistently dropping by the second floor of the Woodward’s building to access VCN’s computer terminals and community support.

Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Eagle Little Boy relocated to Vancouver in 1992 with the help of his cousin. As with many youth in the government care system, Eagle Little Boy experienced trauma, hardships, and obstacles during his childhood that led to a dark past involving “gang-life”, substance abuse, and crime.

By the time Eagle Little Boy reached 16 years of age, he had been in and out of 45 replacements and was aging out of the foster care system, pushing him out to make room for others. He recounts, “They didn’t want nothing to do with me no more”. His psychiatrist at the time said, “Congratulations, you’re free. I hope you’re happy.”

Feeling abandoned, Little Eagle Boy was suddenly without a support system. “No one was there to grab my hand and tell me everything is going to be okay… that really fucked me up. No one to guide me what-so-ever.”

At 16 was when his “life on the black road” began. At a time of desperation, he turned to a path of crime to provide sustenance. “That’s when I broke into people’s homes. I had to. I had to eat, needed clothes on my back, how else could I do that? I had to.”

“For 29 years, I chased away death numerous times. For 29 years I had neglected my whole entire family. I didn’t bother contacting them or phoning or asking them for help what-so-ever. I’ve been in and out of jails in Alberta. I came to B.C. and I’ve been in and out of jails.”

Now at 45 years old, Little Eagle Boy has been clean and sober for 163 days and counting, “right in the middle of the devil’s playground” stating, “I don’t have the urge to do that no more.”

With the help of community supports like VCN, Eagle Little Boy has left all that behind him. In this safe space, Eagle Little Boy receives the help he needs to maintain and (re)build relationships with family and friends. VCN staff and volunteers offer Eagle Little Boy technical as well as emotional support to help him thrive day-to-day. Eagle Little Boy has expressed that access to VCN’s services and computers have been influential to his recovery.

He has also attributed his successful recovery to sweats, where he was given his spirit name. The gatherings have provided him with emotional support and opportunities for self-reflection. Sweat lodges have been a tradition for First Nations throughout North America. The sweat lodge ceremony cleans and heals the body. It heals the mind – bringing clarity – and it us often a testing place, offering a rite of passage where a participant can demonstrate endurance, strength, and courage. They are also holy places where Aboriginal people can renew their deep connection to the universe and to the spirit realm.

Cultivating positive lessons from spiritual teachings and healing circles, Little Eagle Boy says, “Circle represents power in numbers… everyone is equal. No one is better than the other. We can cry, laugh with no judgment, discrimination, it’s a safe space. There is power in those groups.”

“[I] learned out how to survive on the streets but one thing I know is the love and compassion towards/between people in the streets. They were willing to share whatever they had – whether it was drugs alcohol, pipe spoon whatever, pillow anything, food, makeup or last pair of socks or last fifty cents. They were like a family away from your own family. People live people die, the streets taught me how to survive and that’s why I’m alive today.”

*Alternate Name Used



Blog Procedure VCN Dialup

Ubuntu 7-9

  1. Click on System -> Administration -> Network
  2. A Network Setting box will appear
  1. Click on Modem connection button.
  2. Click on Properties button.
  1. A ppp0 Properties message box
Type of User Phone Number
Regular User 604-638-0189
Community Group 604-638-0195
Alternate Number 604-638-1365
  1. Check Enable this connection
  2. In the Phone number box, put the 10 digit number without hyphens
  3. Type in your username in the username box
  4. Type in your password in the password box
  5. Click on the Modem tab
  6. Select your Modem port
  7. Select Volume to Low
  8. Click on the Options tab
  9. Check “Set modem as default route to Internet”.
  10. Check “Use the Internet service provider nameservers”.
  11. Check “Retry if the connection breaks or fails to start”.
  12. Click Ok button
  13. Click Close button to exit
  1. Connecting to VCN dial-up service
  1. Click on System -> Administration -> Network
  2. Check the check box beside Modem connection to start connection.
  3. You will now hear the modem dialing if set up properly.
  4. After the modem’s sound stops, click close button to close window.
  5. Now you can start using Internet!
  1. Disconnecting to VCN dial-up service.
  1. Click on System -> Administration -> Network
  2. Uncheck the check box beside Modem connection to stop connection.
  3. Click close button to close window and you are now disconnected.