“If children are our future, then we are in good hands with Catherine Belleau’s dedication,” says Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins.
A First Nations elder, Belleau has enriched the lives of three generations of her First Nations community.
It was 35 years ago that Cathy began her work with the daycare centre, serving the community’s infants, toddlers and youth with gentle loving care.
She has been instrumental in keeping the daycare centre open in some of the most challenging times.
She has mentored the child care workers who have followed in her footsteps.
Belleau has supported her work with educational upgrades such as receiving her Infant and Toddler Certificate at the age of 60.
When asked how long she will continue, she replies, “as long as I feel young, I’ll keep going.”
At the age of 60, Belleau went back to school for Infant/Toddler Certification, passed with As throughout the course outline, went to school in Kamloops and then Williams Lake for the last six months.
A respected elder, she received a BC Achievement award in May 2012 for her work and dedication. As a winnner, she was presented with the award by Honourable Steven Point in Victoria.
Today, at the age of 76, she continues to work with the Esk’etemc Headstart/Daycare in Alkali Lake and is well respected and known throughout the territory for her dedication and contributions to First Nation children’s success.
Robbins says he once asked Belleau why she has been able to do the work she does for so long a period. Her reply: “All children deserve respect, love and recognition, as long as I can give it I will.”
Over the years, she made a small store at her small three-bedroom home, and filled it with chips, pop, ice cream, pizza pops, homemade cookies/cakes, etc.
All the funds she raised went to less fortunate children who couldn’t afford to play organized sports, as well as assisting parents with food costs.
Today Belleau donates her time to ensure the children and parents of the Headstart/Daycare get a field trip (vacation) and she is instrumental in fundraising efforts.
She lives a traditional lifestyle and with what little she has, she gives, knowing the need is always there.
Complete strangers leave her home with full stomachs and food for the road ahead.
Through her experiences, she will ‘never’ leave anyone behind, children are her life. She was a sun dancer for four years and today she supports and teaches the ways a Secwepemc speaker keeps the language strong.
Even today when words can’t be found, people will call Belleau and she gladly delivers.
With her gentle, kind soul, she can be seen and recognized walking and even running.
She always participates.
Where you see children enjoying themselves, Belleau will be there as a participant or the cheerleader.