Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre hosts soft opening ceremony of centre focused on nurturing the spark of all Indigenous children
LONDON, ON | September 16, 2021 – The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC) today held a soft opening of the new Nshwaasnangong Child Care and Family Centre, located at 449 Hill Street in London, with ceremonial prayers, drumming and dancing, as well as remarks by SOAHAC leaders and officials from various levels of government, including the Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Councillor Elizabeth Peloza, City of London.
Nshwaanangong, which means “place of the 8th 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.
The Centre is expected to welcome infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in mid October and is already at nearly 60% capacity for registrations. EarlyON programming will begin in person at the centre and in community locations in October with virtual programming available online via Facebook.
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.
“Nshwaasnangong will be a warm and welcoming place for children, youth and families to rekindle and honour the cultures and languages of Indigenous people in the London area. It will be a safe place for families and communities to gather and access programs, services, activities, and ceremonies that are important to reclaiming language and culture.”
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. It identified that a child care and EarlyON program that was culturally safe, and rooted in Indigenous languages and cultures, was needed in London-Middlesex.
“The City of London is excited to have been a partner with SOAHAC, the Ministry of Education, and the community to open this beautiful new space that will offer incredible programs for Indigenous children and families in London,” said Mayor Ed Holder. “Nshwaasnangong signifies our commitment to the wellbeing of all Londoners, and this important Indigenous-led child care and family centre will help children and future generations thrive.”
A proposal to the Ministry of Education was successful in securing $5.860 million dollars from the Ministry of Education and the Government of Canada to construct the new Centre. The City of London purchased the land and transferred it to the lead agency, the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre to design, construct and operate Nshwaasnangong. The design is reflective of Indigenous cultures and knowledge.
Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said that the project was reflective of the Government’s ongoing commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and overall investment in early childhood education.
We are firmly committed to supporting affordable and accessible childcare for families across London,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Ontario. “The launch of the Nshwaasnangong Child Care and Family Centre will provide quality and free programs for London families, as well as affordable licensed child care, that proudly reflect and celebrate Indigenous cultures.”
To learn more about Nshwaasnangong, visit www.nshwaasnangong.ca or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.