Monday, April 22, was a special day for children and families in Waswanipi. It was the inauguration of the new extension to the Awaash Shiishikun Kamik Childcare Center. It was an extension that the Director, Angel Nakogee Saganash, was justifiably proud to show off to visitors.

She has been with the centre since it first opened in 1998 with spaces for 30 children and has seen it grow to its current capacity in being able to accommodate up to 80 children.

The centre is spacious, clean, and brightly decorated to reflect Cree culture with Native designs taking the place of Mickey Mouse and the children’s names written on the walls both in letters and in Cree syllabics. In the lunch room there is a large painting on the wall representing a bright sunrise coming up over a lake with a teepee and canoe nearby and a parent with three children playfully walking along the shore.

There are special rooms in the centre for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. There is also a gymnasium and a library that is equipped with books, a combination television/ video player, and large cushions for children to be comfortable.

The expansion was made possible with $78,000 in funding from the Quebec Ministry of Child and Family Welfare and was initiated following a favourable recommendation from the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) to the Minister of State for Social Solidarity and Child and Family Welfare, Linda Goupil.

Present for the inauguration was Waswanipi Chief Paul Gull; Norman Gull, Director of Community Services for the CRA; Lynn Fleury, representative for the Ministry of Children and Families; Miriam Trudel, representative for the Minister responsible for the Nord-du-Quebec Region, Michel Letourneau; and Lucie Bergeron of the CRA, who was instrumental in setting up the Waswanipi centre along with others in Ouje Bougoumou and Mistissini and organizing child-care training programs for the workers. Also present for the occasion were parents, children, and other community members.

In his remarks Chief Paul Gull said that he was happy to see the centre become a reality given that “the children are the future of the nation.” Norman Gull described the center as “one of the best in the province of Quebec.” He also had special praise for the director of the centre and for the board members (all parents), who contribute their time on a volunteer basis.

At the end of the formalities there were gifts for special guests and board members, refreshments for everyone and entertainment provided by the children. A plaque of recognition was also given to Tina Mark who has volunteered her time as a board member since the beginning of the centre’s operations.