First-of-its-kind Indigenous-led child care center opens in London, Ont.
The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC) held a soft opening Thursday for the new Indigenous-led Nshwaasnangong Child Care and Family Centre.
Members of the community and political dignitaries gathered for an emotional outdoor ceremony and were given a tour of the new facility located at 449 Hill St. in London.
Nshwaanangong, which means “place of the eighth star,” will feature space for 88 infants, toddlers and preschoolers in its licensed child care centre, and will be home to culturally relevant EarlyON programming rooted in Language and Spirit.
“In this space we hope to share regeneration healing, regeneration learning, regeneration love, with humility, truth, honesty, courage, love wisdom and respect,” said Emmaline Beauchamp, a Nshwaasnangong staff member.
Jan Martin, the director of Indigenous Relations for SOAHAC says the space will be enriched with language and culture.
“The design is an aboriginal design in the shape of a turtle…so the children are hugged and they feel mother earth -- so we kept everything indigenous.”
The centre is expected to welcome infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in mid-October and is already at nearly 60 per cent capacity for registrations.
SOAHAC CEO Brian Dokis described the vision of the centre as a safe and welcoming place to help families reconnect with culture and heal from the longstanding traumas of colonialism.
“I think that it’s important that kids have access to culture, a lot of them in the city don’t have the same access as they do in the First Nations community for example, so this will be a place and home for them, especially the family resource center.”
The project was initiated after the City of London partnered with urban Indigenous organizations and community members to engage Indigenous families about experiences with child care and early years
“This center is so special and unique for Indigenous aboriginal children, Metis children and Inuit. That it’s a place to learn their language, to come together as a community and have a space to celebrate,” said Ward 12 Councillor Elizabeth Peloza.
A proposal to the Ministry of Education was successful in securing $5.9 million from the Ministry of Education and the Government of Canada to construct the new centre.
“We’re also taking action to ensure that families have access to safe and affordable child care -- Indigenous-led child care specifically, that’s why we are so proud to support the Nshwaasnangong Child Care and Family Centre, the opening of this sacred space in London,” said Stephen Lecce, Ontario's Minister of Education.