From a new gymnasium to a new gas station, several recent developments are positively impacting the ʔaq̓am community. The latest is a new Health and Wellness Centre, which will house health practitioners and activities, plus serve as the heart of the community and provide new wellness programs. The centre is being built with $140,000 in support from Columbia Basin Trust.
Michelle Shortridge is the ʔaq̓am Director of Operations and Community Services. “It is going be a very special place that brings everyone together,” she said. “We have been running our health programs out of one set of older facilities and our elder and youth activities out of another. The new Health and Wellness Centre will centralize these into one space. It will allow us to expand our existing programs for community members and offer new ones.”
The First Nations Health Authority has been the main partner on this multi-year project and funded the clinical aspects of the project. The community turned to the Trust to help support the construction of the wellness aspects such as an Elders health program, physical and mental health support groups and traditional healing.
“Our aim is to support communities as they address their priorities and improve the well-being of residents, which is precisely the goal of this new facility,” said Mark Brunton, Senior Manager Delivery of Benefits. “More than a building, it will directly impact the lives of ʔaq̓am community members. We’re pleased to be able to collaborate on this important project.”
The project is part of ʔaq̓am’s strategic plan called Ka Kniⱡwitiyaⱡa – Our Thinking. Modelled on the Ktunaxa tipi, the plan links community goals and objectives to the various poles in a tipi. For example, the foundation poles are “community government,” “language and culture,” “spirit of community” and “lands and resources.” Two of the eight tipi poles are “health” and “infrastructure.” Each pole is vital to the strength of the community, and all the poles support each other.
“I’ve enjoyed so many parts of this project,” said Shortridge, “but being able to include the four foundational poles of the tipi as part of the main entrance and incorporate Ka Kniⱡwitiyaⱡa into the actual design of the new centre is probably one of the neater features for me.”
Groundbreaking on the facility will begin this spring and construction is expected to wrap up in late fall.
Shortridge said it’s been a long journey, but worth it. “It has been so satisfying to be part of the entire experience, beginning with engaging our community, knowing that this is going to benefit my children and my children’s children. I am just waiting for the snow to melt as everyone is excited to get started.”
To learn more about ʔaq̓am and its strategic plan, visit aqam.net.