Terrace’s first Indigenous-centred daycare will be celebrating its grand opening next week.
The new Kermode Friendship Society building, named Waap Sagayt K’uulm Goot, meaning “house of one heart” in the Tsimshian language, is licensed for 37 spaces but will start with 30, enough for eight infants and 22 toddlers ages three to five for full-time daycare service.
“We’re going to celebrate this and have the community come in and see that Kermode has made a giant leap forward to strengthen the services here,” said Cal Albright, executive director of the Kermode Friendship Society.
Twenty existing and eight new staff members, including four early childhood educators, moved into the location at 4714 Park St. in July, transferring most of their programs and services offered at the old location on Kalum Street into the new 8,600 sq.ft. space. A grand opening ceremony set for Oct. 12, with the daycare planned to officially open Oct. 15.
Originally scheduled to open Sept. 1, the society was waiting on confirmation from the provincial government that would make the daycare extremely affordable for Indigenous families. Albright said they received confirmation earlier this month, making the centre one of twelve projects to receive a provincial Aboriginal Head Start grant, part of the province’s $30 million commitment to expand AHS programs in B.C.
It provides the centre with $500,000 in annual funding for three years with an additional $100,000 in capital in the first year to furnish the building. The contribution agreement is also eligible for renewal every three years, with a potential for funding over 10 years.
“That takes a lot of pressure off of us because we have money now to look after the operating part, including the salaries,” Albright said.
To be eligible for the contribution agreement the daycare had to be an Indigenous-only space, Albright said. But the additional support would ensure the facility can run for years to come, and provide the Terrace community with its first Indigenous-centred daycare. It also allows the facility to provide heavily subsidized, full-time childcare for Indigenous families who apply.
Access to affordable daycare for First Nations children in Canada is important, as the likelihood that a young Aboriginal child will live in and be affected by poverty is much higher than that of a non-Aboriginal child in Canada, according to the 2014 BC Aboriginal Child Care Society study, A Cold Wind Blows.
“We know that daycare is so expensive, and with the new policy put in by the provincial government, this is going to remove a barrier for these people that really want to find good, quality daycare for their children while they’re getting training or getting work experience to better themselves,” Albright said.
There are two play areas with a walk-out into the yard and playground, once the equipment arrives. The space also includes a common area kitchen, naptime area and laundry facilities. There are also plans to build a sweat lodge in the back of the facility.
Next to the daycare centre are where several existing services are run, including family skills, infant development, mentorship, employment, and elder programs. So if families have other needs, they can access supports at the centre.
The daycare facility at Waap Sagayt K’uulm Goot will also involve elder leadership and support from Indigenous staff to make northwest First Nations culture implicit in the daycare’s operation. Aboriginal Head Start programs also include family healing support, health services, child welfare and early intervention programs.
As a victim of the Sixties Scoop, when Indigenous children were taken from their families and put into foster homes or put up for adoption, Albright said he knows first hand the importance of having a place to teach and welcome Indigenous culture, history and knowledge to younger generations. It is key to rebuilding from the effects of colonization, he said.
“Temporarily I was in a different world, but I found my way back. I had to find elders, I had to find my family… now here I am,” he said, standing next to a large medicine wheel on the floor of the front entrance.
“The effects of colonialism is huge on all of us. As staff we’re trying to decolonize ourselves and we’re trying to decolonize the people that come to us. To feel better about who you are as an Indigenous person, that’s what it’s all about.”
The grand opening ceremony for the facility is on Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 4714 Park Avenue.