On November 8th, Kw’umut Lelum hosted a lunch to say hych'ka siem to the wonderful members of our community who helped our family following the recent fire at our Centre St offices.
KL staff were joined by Nanaimo Fire Chief Craig Richardson, first responder fire fighters, and many of our colleagues from the Ministry of Child and Family Development to share a meal and a prayer and to gather in thanks for the continued safety and wellbeing of our children and community.
Before the meal, Debbie Good and Leanor Wyse offered up the traditional Welcome song and Elders Prayer song. The prayer asks for protection and guidance, for the safety of the children of the world, and speaks to the strength and grace given by the people and community surrounding us. We raise our hands to everyone who has provided kindness and support in our time of need.
Alan MacDonald addressed the gathered guests – old colleagues and new friends alike – to share our gratitude. He offered thanks to the fire and rescue crew for safely and effectively taking control of the situation on the day of the fire, recognizing the heroic work they do on a regular basis and reflected on the incredible efforts of KL staff who have gone to great lengths to keep services going while scattered around the city. Alan spoke warmly about Ministry social workers and administrators who welcomed our displaced staff and offered them not only a place to continue their important work, but also provided much needed professional and administrative support in our time of need. “Being a community means getting what you need from each other, when you need it.”, he said. “We are surrounded today by a group of helping professions who make us stronger as a whole.”
Previously scattered across several offices following the fire, and still unable to return to our Centre St location, KL staff are now all back together at a temporary location in Oyster Bay, near the Stz'uminus first nation band office. Their weeks working alongside MCFD staff brought some unexpected lessons in collaboration that KL staff are integrating into their own working relationships, and we like to think that the Ministry staff learned from us as well.
Members of the fire and rescue services, as they chatted with local social workers and KL staff over a shared meal, said they were surprised to get the lunch invitation. “We’ve never been invited to something like this before”, noted a Nanaimo firefighter. Colleagues from MCFD mentioned how fantastic it was to be able to meet with and get to know KL staff members that many of them had only spoken to on the phone, or simply interacted with as a name on a form or in an email. They acknowledged that this opportunity was a chance for us all to build stronger relationships in the community, to the benefit of all the children and families in our care.
Debbie Good made a point of noting that, for many of the attendees outside of the aboriginal community, this gathering was a unique lesson in the values of our culture. Most importantly, that everyone has something of value to offer when we share a common purpose toward a greater good. But also, that no good deed – whether small or truly significant – should go unrecognized. Said Debbie simply, “That is our culture: when kindness is shared, we share it back.”
We still don’t know when we will be able to return to our offices, and the fire investigation and restoration are ongoing. In the meantime, we are continuing our work in the community from our temporary location in Oyster Bay. We can still be contacted through our regular phone number: 250-591-0933 or toll-free at 1-800-613-1777.
Photos by Dirk Heydemann - HA Photography
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