New Kermode daycare, office facility scheduled to open in the fall

The $3-million dollar project will be the city’s first First Nations-focused licensed daycare

The long-awaited Kermode daycare and office building complex has been given a new name in preparation for its September opening and will operate on a tuition-based model at the start of its operation.

The Tsimshian name Wap Sagayt K’uul Goot, which means “house in one heart”, was chosen in early May by Kermode elders and staff. Cal Albright, executive director of the Kermode Friendship Society, said northwest First Nations culture will be “very much a part” of the daycare.

“There’s no culturally-centered program for aboriginal children in Terrace,” said Albright, pointing out that 40 per cent of the city’s population is comprised of First Nations people. “This is meeting a need for that.”

The $3-million dollar project located at 4717 Park Avenue will house the 37-space daycare with accompanying playground, along with the Kermode Friendship Centre office spaces and commercial kitchen. The 8600 sq.ft. L-shaped building will be the city’s first First Nations-centered licensed daycare.

READ MORE: Daycare to be built in Terrace, B.C.

“This is probably the biggest thing Kermode has done since we started in 1976,” Albright said. “It’s exciting, and staff are all excited about it. It’s going to be filling some gaps in our Kermode service structure in Terrace.”

The rates are still a work in progress according to Albright. But if the province’s new Growing Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) grant is successful, the centre would receive $500,000 annually over a 10-year period for First Nations families.

“It could potentially mean a free daycare,” Albright said earlier this month. “We’ve just submitted our application, so we’ve got a ways to go yet.”

Access to free 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 high, 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.

“Poverty, with its attendant risk factors of poor nutrition, high stress and high stigma, has a particularly strong impact on early development,” wrote Dr. Jessica Ball, professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, in the report.

Other families will be able to reduce their monthly fees as well with the province’s new Child Care BC fee-reduction initiative, which could save parents with children in the infant toddler program up to $350 a month, and up to $100 a month for those with children aged three to five.

“Our purpose has always been to be an affordable daycare, and with government policy that is coming down, they seem to want to make it affordable as well,” Albright said. “We positioned ourselves pretty good right now.”

READ MORE: Early learning programs for Indigenous kids get $30M boost

The daycare facility at Wap Sagayt K’uul Goot will involve elder leadership and support from aboriginal staff to make northwest First Nations culture implicit in the daycare’s operation. Aboriginal Head Start programs can include family healing support, health services, child welfare and early intervention programs, according to the project’s principles and guidelines.

“We want to be role models for the rest of the community,” Albright said.

The building will look like a long-house with a combination of cedar and copper siding wrapping half-way around the construction’s perimeter, along with bright, multicoloured siding along the back of the exterior where the playground will be built. Three medicine wheels, a commonly shared symbol amongst First Nations groups in Canada, will also be incorporated into the floor designs.

“We’ve had a lot of say in how the building will express itself,” Albright said.

The project is scheduled to house eight new employees and 20 current staff members, now at the Kermode Friendship Centre at 3240 Kalum Street. They hope to move in by July 5 with a tentative opening expected for September 1.

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