The Huu-ay-aht First Nations Paawats is a fully-licensed child- care facility that aims to provide a holistic approach to child and family services.
Paawats, meaning “nest” in Huu-ay-aht, opened in Port Alberni in November 2014, with a sister facility in Anacla that opened in 2007.
“We’re finding that more and more Huu-ay-aht citizens are living in Port Alberni, it’s kind of where our largest population base is, so we decided that we needed to have a culturally appropriate child care and early childhood programs here in the Valley,” said Kathy Waddell, director of community services at Huu-ay-aht First Nations.
The Paawats house, located on Elizabeth Street, provides culturally-appropriate care for children, most of which are Huu-ay-aht with a mission to provide cultural early childhood programming that will enable children and families to achieve their full potential, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.
The children learn about their culture through a variety of activities and elders will often bring Huu-ay-aht knowledge to Paawats through traditional teachings and language.
“We try to have different cultural activities going on,” Waddell said. “We have people who come and do drum making, drumming, singing and dancing.”
The centre offers 14 spots each to children needing day care, preschool and after-school care five days a week.
Expanding culturally is on the horizon for Paawats, Waddell said, as they are looking for extra funding to pursue writing a culturally-based children’s book that would focus on Nuu-chah-nulth values.
In addition to children’s services, the centre offers programs and support for whole families through parent support groups, women’s groups and family nights.
“We really envision supporting the whole family,” Waddell said.
“Children have a lovely safe place… and we have other programs as well that equally support parents.”
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