British Columbia

Kamloops friendship centre sees big jump in donations over past week

The money is being raised to build a new friendship centre and affordable housing units that will serve the urban Indigenous community

Funds will help build a new meeting place for urban Indigenous people and affordable housing units

The Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society organized a fundraiser to build a new centre. (Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society)

An online fundraiser for the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society (KAFS) saw a recent flood of donations, increasing from $1,500 to nearly $80,000 in less than a week.

Organizers believe the attention and generosity is largely because of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announcement that it had used the services of a ground-penetrating radar specialist to reveal what are believed to be the remains of children who died at the school between 1890 and 1969. 

The funds will go toward building a new friendship centre where the society can continue to deliver their services and expand and develop new programs, according to executive director Vicki Michaud.

She says their current building in the southern Interior city is in dire condition. 

"People are just donating so much money, and it's coming in every ten minutes," said Michaud.

If it can secure the funding, the society will build up to five stories of affordable housing to be made accessible for elders, single mothers and Indigenous families. 

Improving services

She says that the centre has been flooded with emails and phone calls offering support since the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced its findings.

"It's been totally amazing the way people are trying to support our friendship centre, and support each other, and in return we will provide the support to our people that need it and need to find us," she said.

Michaud noted that several of the elders that access the centre's services are residential school survivors. There are also residential school survivors among the centre's staff. 

"We're here. We're here to support anybody that needs assistance," she added. 

The KAFS provides an array of services to the urban Indigenous community, including supports for early childhood development, mental health, elders' wellness and substance use.

While the online fundraiser goal is set as $500,000, the centre will require an additional $2 million to move forward with the construction. The society is also applying for funding through various organizations, including the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and B.C. Housing. 

The society hopes to have the project completed in 2023.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gomez is a CBC News Researcher in Vancouver. You can contact her at michelle.gomez@cbc.ca.

now