The North Island’s home away from home for access maternal and pediatric care is officially open.

A ribbon cutting marked the opening of  Q̓ʷalayu House perched next to Campbell River’s North Island hospital.

It’ll provide a home-like environment for not only pregnant women and their families on the North Island, but for families with children who need to travel to town to access pediatric health care services.

Today’s opening was attended by community partners, donors, supporters, and families with lived experience and included speakers from Island Health, First Nations Health Authority, and the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. 

Nick Chowdhury spoke during today’s ribbon cutting ceremony. His family stayed at Jeneece Place in Victoria to support their son’s health care. (Ethan Morneau, Vista Radio)

Later this summer, staff will welcome families from the North Island and surrounding islands to the 10-bedroom home.

 Q̓ʷalayu House was inspired by the impact of Jeneece Place over the last nine years; a home away from home built from the dream of Jeneece Edroff, Victoria’s ‘penny girl’. 

Jeneece asked the community to rally behind the development of a home where families could stay close by while their children received health care in Victoria. 

As families, health care providers, and community groups from Northern Vancouver Island saw the impact of Jeneece Place on Island families, they stepped forward voicing a need to expand this model in Campbell River.

“Today is an emotional and exciting culmination of years of consultation, community collaboration, planning, and design work,” said Children’s Health Foundation CEO, Veronica Carrol. 

“We broke ground just last year and I never imagined that, during a global pandemic, we’d be able to build  Q̓ʷalayu House as quickly as we did. We couldn’t have done this without the support of the community and our donors. Without them, none of this would be possible. And because of them, thousands of families will have a safe and affordable place to stay while caring for their child. This home will truly help transform health care outcomes for North Island families.”

 Q̓ʷalayu House includes a shared kitchen space, a stocked pantry, laundry facilities, and common areas including play areas, a quiet room, and gathering spaces, the design was informed by families with lived experience. 

An outdoor lounge area, barbeque, and children’s play area with a basketball hoop and tricycling path will encourage families to play, rest, and simply be together.

Accommodation and day-use reservations are made through a referral process. 

Health care professionals, social workers, and other family support services will contact  Q̓ʷalayu House directly on behalf of the families needing accommodation.

Bryan Thomson, board chair at the Foundation, emphasized that the Foundation’s priority is to ensure  Q̓ʷalayu House is a welcoming space for all North Island families. 

“From the time we started our initial discussions, we have been grateful for the cultural guidance of Indigenous serving organizations including the Laichwiltach (pronounced lake-will-tah) Family Life Society, Kwakiutl

District Council Health (KDC Health), North Island Metis, the First Nations Health Authority, and Indigenous Health at Island Health. Our work to ensure cultural safety doesn’t stop with the building of the home. Our foundation team is dedicated to continuing to learn from and listen to the experiences of Indigenous families so we can work hard to ensure that this will remain a culturally safe space for all families far into the future.”

Since the launch of the Foundation’s  Q̓ʷalayu House fundraising campaign in 2019, the Vancouver Island community has come together to raise the majority of the $7 million goal. 

The foundation is still seeking donations for the final $1.8 million of its goal to fund the first five years of the home’s operating costs.

For more information about  Q̓ʷalayu House, visit islandkidsfirst.com/campbellriverhome

To donate, click here