Williams Lake Indian Band’s elders have something to celebrate.
Their community has entered into a partnership with Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus to build a new elders facility at Sugarcane, something leadership said is long overdue.
“I think it’s about time we built a centre for our elders,” band councillor Rick Gilbert said during a small ceremony at the building site Monday. “People have given their everything all their lives and it is about time we give them back something.”
Elder Virginia Gilbert blessed the site with a prayer and traditional song, and thanked the Great Spirit.
“I am thankful we can have a safe place to gather and our children can watch it being built,” Virginia said.
Carpenter, Residential Construction Foundation instructor Mark Kiefiuk and his students will build it, which Rick said made him very pleased.
“Hopefully you are going to learn a lot,” he said as he encouraged the students to work safely and to the best of their ability.
“Remember who you are doing it for,” Rick said. “It will be here for a long time and hopefully through doing this work you will be starting out on a brand new career.”
Responding, their instructor thanked WLIB for giving his students the opportunity to work in the community.
“It’s a privilege,” Kiefiuk said. “We will respect the place and put our best foot forward to do a job that will be what you would like to see here. “They are a great bunch, this class.”
Housing manager Holly Wycotte said the project has been in the works for almost a decade.
“We had utilized a trailer for the elders that ended up sustaining some severe water damage and we purchased another one, but it doesn’t fit the needs of the elders anymore,” Wycotte said. “The meeting space isn’t big enough and there isn’t really any room in there for them to do anything.”
The new building will have a kitchen, activity room, craft room, office and a small bedroom.
When the band realized it had some funds a representative met with TRU executive director Ray Sanders in January to discuss a possible project. By February design plans for the building were in the works.
“This is a great opportunity that the Williams Lake Indian Band has — to work with TRU — and it is a great opportunity for the students to get to work on a project from the ground up,” Wycotte said.
Campus co-ordinator Stacy Wong said TRU is grateful for the partnership with WLIB.
“We have a very close partnership with the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council and this is just an extension of what we’ve already been doing so it’s wonderful,” Wong said.
The fenced area where the building will be constructed was a community garden at one point and Wycotte said the fence will remain in place.
This will mark TRU’s second time doing some work at Sugarcane.
In June 2016, WLIB purchased materials and TRU students learning an introductory to the trades program did a major renovation to one of the houses in the community.
“They got hands-on learning in electrical, plumbing, various aspects of construction, drywall and concrete work as well,” Wycotte said.
It is anticipated the facility will be completed by the end of August, the students said unanimously.