After more than a year of planning Cariboo Memorial Hospital has a new sacred space on the main floor of Deni House.
The room boasts several cedar posts, a small mural on the floor featuring the four directions in distinctive colours, a table with candles, a sage bowl, prayer and meditation books and a Bible, to name a few.
In the corner a small water fountain flows continuously and in another corner there is a sink, some small couches and windows facing south have frosted glass.
A dedication ceremony was held Wednesday, June 12, to bless the room, followed by a community open house.
During the open house, the new acute health services director at CMH, Thalia Vesterback, said a lot of hard work went into the creation of the sacred space.
“I think it’s been talked about for quite a while, but the conversation started in earnest about a year ago,” Vesterback. “It’s been a collaboration between Interior Health, the spiritual community in Williams Lake and our area First Nations partners.”
Vesterback said it has been “incredible” for her to have arrived on her job three months ago and participate with the final discussions on the new space.
“At our second to last meeting there was acknowledgment from many members of the committee about how far they had come as a group in understanding each other’s cultures, beliefs, traditions, faiths and how much stronger we are as a group together.”
Viktor Gundel, spiritual lead with Interior Health, said the sacred space will contribute to the quality of holistic, culturally inclusive, humanistic and compassionate care that IH aspires to provide in treating ill health of the body, mind and spirit.
Looking around the room, Gundel said seeing dozens of people at the open house and even more at the dedication ceremony earlier showed the community’s trust in the concept of a culturally inclusive place at CMH.
“It has been absolutely amazing to see the energy, and the collaboration of the people together and the tenacity. It’s something that is so grassroots and reflective of the spirit of this community.”
People, he added, need to be welcomed as who they are by health care across the region.
“We need to embrace not just the physical, but the psychosocial and spiritual aspect of their healing as well.”
Brad Anderson, corporate director of Aboriginal Health Services IH, said in his 12 years working with IH he has seen growth in Aboriginal health.
“One of this things we strive towards is around meaningful participation and culturally safe care. Today is an example of both of those things coming together.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said the sacred space has been a long time coming, not only for the different denominations in the community, but as a quiet place.
“It’s important to have a place where family can come,” Cobb said. “I think it will be very well used so thank you very much everybody for putting it all together.”
Vesterback said the sacred space will be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and staff are researching how that will work after hours.
“If you are here and have loved ones that are here, please know that this space is available for solace, prayer or meditation or whatever it needs to be,” she added.