by Kathy Santini - Cowichan News Leader Pictorial
A new centre for the Malahat Nation — a legacy of a program created by former lieutenant-governor Stephen Point and Rotarian Bob Blacker — will open Wednesday, Aug. 6.
During his tenure as LG from 2008 to 2012, Point created the Write to Read program. The purpose of the program is to build ongoing and lasting relationships between British Columbians living in urban environments and First Nations people living in rural, remote, or suburban communities that may not have good educational and employment opportunities. The program’s main focus is on improving Aboriginal literacy.
The 3,000-square-foot building has two main areas and will be used for two primary purposes, Malahat Nation chief Michael Harry said.
On one side is a replica of a traditional longhouse and on the other, a literacy centre for the band’s children and youths. The facility will also be used for early childhood education programs and be a gathering place.
“This building provides us with the opportunity to learn through reading and education and ties in with the opportunity to learn about our historical ways, which are being passed on to this day,” Harry said.
Write to Read secures donations of books appropriate for school-age children, as well as computers. As far as the physical facility in which to house those books, Harry said Britco Structures of Langley, which has been a program partner from the beginning, provided first one, then two modular trailers for a library. An architect was hired and 18 months later the Nation is eager to show off its cultural resource facility.
The project cost $650,000, with $150,000 coming from the Malahat Band and another $500,000 in fundraising, and cash contributions.
“This centre allows us to help educate our children and maintain our cultural values and beliefs,” Harry said.