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Habitat for Humanity helps Secwépemc families build houses near Chase

Two Secwepemc families are looking forward to new housing, thanks to Habitat for Humanity Kamloops.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held last month on Secwepemc land near Chase for the homes of the Willard families, members of the Neskonlith band.

A news release states that brother and sister Mike and Joyce Willard were raised by their grandparents along the shores of the South Thompson River, near Chase.

“Their grandparents were pillars in the community, as far as culture and spirituality, as well as continuing to pass on Secwepemc language to the children in the community,” states the release, going on to say that when Mike married his spouse Kelli, they resided with his grandparents Isaac and Adeline Willard.

When Kelli gave birth to their first daughter Tara, it was time to branch out on their own.

Around this time, land was given to the young couple and it became their family lands where their children and grandchildren could settle and build their own family history.

“Fast forward to today,” states the release. “Habitat Kamloops will work with and help to build two affordable homes for two of Mike and Kelli’s grown children and their families.

“Tara Willard and her four children, as well as her brother Dustin Willard, his wife Sara and their two children are very excited to have this opportunity to be homeowners on their family land.”

Read more: Frustration and hope at Okanagan Habitat for Humanity event

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On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the families gathered with Habitat Kamloops to do a ground-breaking ceremony that incorporated Indigenous tradition.

“The families made a sacred fire for warmth as well as representation of the work that would be done in the coming months. They talked briefly about their appreciation for their ancestors and the land itself. It was important to the families to make a food, water and tobacco offering to the land and fire,” states the release.

“This offering, they explained, was to give thanks as well as honour their traditions as Indigenous people in their lands. After sharing some words of gratitude, two of the children spoke and offered a prayer in their Secwepemctsin language with their grandparents.

“A hand drum song was then sung by Tara and the ground was officially broken with Habitat Kamloops’ golden shovels.”

Remarked Tara: “We are excited to be working closely with Habitat Kamloops to build homes for our current families and for many generations to come within our community and on our family lands.”

Funding includes grants and nominal mortgage financing, combined with 500 hours of sweat equity from the families.

To find out more about how Habitat for Humanity Kamloops helps build attainable housing for families, veterans and seniors in the region visit habitatkamloops.com.

Martha Wickett

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Martha Wickett

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