As the end of 2021 was approaching, the team at New Directions was busy planning a long-awaited return to the office. It had been a two-year period of pandemic restrictions. Staff and the individuals we support were eager to return. And then the unthinkable happened: a fire!
Planning suddenly came to a halt on the morning of January 3, 2022. A fire broke out on the first floor of the building. It incinerated most of the ground level. The smoke damaged the entire building, and we couldn’t access it for many months. Combined with COVID, it severely impacted the people we support.
The area most impacted by the fire was the Indigenous cultural program, Opikihiwawin. It means “coming home” in Anishininew. For over 40 years Opikihiwawin has offered thousands of Indigenous adoptees, children and youth in foster care a path to reconnect with their culture and biological families.
The fire destroyed priceless, one-of-a-kind Indigenous items such as regalia, drums and star blankets. “The children and youth were particularly sad to lose the drums,” said Darlene Daniels, Director of Culture, Education and Training Services. Drums are considered living entities by Indigenous peoples.
The people we support are anxious to get back to normal programming—especially the Kookums/grandmothers! Once back, they’ll be busy in the restored kitchen making delicious meals like stews and bannock.
Just this past February we resumed some Opikihiwawin programming in our newly renovated space. We expect it will be fully operational by late spring. In the meantime, we are awaiting shipments of filmmaking equipment, sewing machines, fabrics, etc.
For more stories like this, read our latest edition of the Northstar here.