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Songhees Wellness Centre celebrates its official opening

For immediate release -- Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Victoria, B.C. - Several hundred people gathered today to celebrate the grand opening of the Songhees Wellness Centre, a 55,000 square-foot, $24-million LEEDS-silver building designed by Victoria architect Philip Chang to “walk softly on the earth” and to be a place of hospitality, welcome and wellbeing.

The Songhees Wellness Centre will be a focal point for Community activities and an opportunity to connect with neighbours and businesses in the Capital Region and beyond. The centre is the realization of a long held dream for a Community gathering place with space for sports and recreation programs. A full size gymnasium, with change rooms and a fitness centre will encourage active lifestyles, offering a full range of recreational activities from fun leagues to serious training for current and future athletes. Hosting sports events with up to 300 people in attendance will be a source of pride for the Songhees Nation and a catalyst for engagement and meaningful partnerships with the boarder community.

A gathering place where everyone is welcome, the Songhees Wellness Centre provides the Community with complete health, wellness and educational support. A feature element is the Health Centre that allows for the delivery of new and existing health initiatives in a holistic manner, linking programs to address physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of the Community.

“Our people wanted a gathering place to call their own,” explained Chief Ron Sam of the Songhees Nation. “But when we started to explore the energy and the vision behind this gathering space, we realized that what our people really wanted was the opportunity to celebrate their identity, and their wellness - spiritual, physical, cultural and financial.”

For David Dick, who was at the planning table eight years ago and who has seen this project come to fruition along with his community members, the Songhees Wellness Centre is about new beginnings. “This centre honours three generations – our children, ourselves and our Elders including those honoured leaders and members who have passed before us. We are physically together in our own space now – a strong family once again inspired by renewal and new beginnings.”

A symbol of self-reliance and cultural pride, the Songhees Wellness Centre includes a teaching kitchen to promote healthy lifestyle and nutrition options to address health concerns such as diabetes. In addition, there are classrooms where certificate courses and skills training programs are being offered through partnerships with local colleges and agencies. The Centralization of Education program reaches to youth connecting sport programs and youth activities to classroom work. The goal is to encourage greater participation in school and active-living while at the same time, strengthening graduation rates.

Health Canada contributed $800,000 to the project and another $200,000 was contributed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The remaining $23-million was financed by the Songhees Nation.

“The Songhees Wellness Centre is our own success story,” said Christina Clarke, Director of Operations for the Songhees Nation, who has been working with the Nation for 18 years in the area of taxation and business development. “When we started to look for financing opportunities, it was very daunting. Most banks looked at us like a business and without land ownership equity, we were too high risk. Vancity, however, actually took the time to work with us exploring ways to help. They saw us not as a business, but as a First Nations government, and because the Wellness Centre was consolidating under one roof our Band administration, our education and our health services, the Songhees Nation was able to secure a loan against projected future lease and tax revenues. The Songhees Wellness Centre is a catalyst for new economic opportunities. We teach financial literacy here in the classrooms, and we promote financial wellbeing. Already we are receiving bookings for space rentals, business partnerships and leases.” The centre is honoured by extraordinary carvings and pieces of art throughout, and there is a gift shop that will draw tourists and collectors alike featuring the works of many accomplished Songhees and local artists.

"We're incredibly proud to provide the Songhees Nation with a tailored financing solution that enabled them to build this amazing gathering place," says Stewart Anderson, Vancity's Community Investment Manager who oversees Aboriginal banking. "Investing in community assets like this Wellness Centre is part of our goal to put our members’ money to good work in the communities where we operate."

In addition to being a community hub for the Songhees community, the Wellness Centre will serve as a post disaster gathering place for the area, and be an integral asset to the ‘emergency response - mutual aid’ agreement that the Nation has with the Town of View Royal. Through the utilization of geothermal heating, solar hot water and innovative materials throughout, the Songhees Wellness Centre is a proud example of Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design. The Songhees Wellness Centre is a proud and enduring reflection of the Songhees Nation who welcome you to come and see them.

For more information:

Lorraine Wilson | Vancity

T: 778-837-0394