After more than twelve years on the NVIT campus, Helew’u’ Child Care Society has moved into their new location on the corner of Blair St. and Nicola Ave. 

Helew’u’, which had operated since 2009 out of the space at NVIT that will now become the Conayt Aboriginal Head Start, was informed in 2021 that their contract would not be automatically renewed as the space was going to be put up for a Request for Proposal. 

Because the Society wasn’t certain that their bid for the space would be successful, they began to look for a new space.   
“Closing our doors was a last resort option as our families relied on our centre to care for their children so they could work or go to school,” said Nicho Willson, manager of the Helew’u’ Child Care Centre. 

On May 31, 2021 Helew’u’ were informed that their bid was successful and they had secured the spot at NVIT, but they had also signed a lease at the second location on Blair St. 

“We quickly changed our plans and thought, Merritt needs another centre, we’ll run two,” said Willson. 
“We’ll keep the top one and we’ll start an after school program and run a multi-age program downtown.” 

However, contract negotiations with NVIT later proved unsuccessful, and the Society moved from their space on the campus to their newly secured downtown location. 

Although they are a non-profit organization, Helew’u’ had a small reserve of funds set aside, and they applied for an emergency grant from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to renovate the space, which had previously been a car
dealership that had been shuttered for more than 20 years. 

“The Society had support and generous contributions from the community, businesses, parents, individual people and has managed to create a beautiful space,” said Willson. 

The interior, which formerly featured a showroom, three offices and a washroom, is now child-ready with two classrooms, a nap room, a kitchen, an office and three washrooms. 

“There’s been a lot of personal hours put in renovating, and it’s worth it,” said Willson. 
“Because my kids are happy and they’re still here. Their parents aren’t trying to find different spots for them.” 

In the space at NVIT, the Society was able to care for 28 children aged 0-5, however, given the smaller size of the new space, only 26 children can be accommodated. 

The Centre opened on March 3, but there is still work to be done. The outdoor play area is still under construction, and some fine tuning of the interior space is still required. This will be challenging as the costs of the renovations skyrocketed well beyond what was budgeted, and flooding and a lack of contractor availability has hampered the project. 

“The Society has struggled with the requirements set out by the City and building standards, we’ve hit a couple roadblocks in that sense,” said Willson. 

“Our licensing requirements, and major cost overruns, but the need for daycare spaces in our community and the families that rely on the daycare has kept us moving forward, that’s why we kept pushing forward, so our families still had spots and future families have spots.” 

The staff and families of Helew’u’, which means ‘baby eagle’ and was inspired by the Merritt NVIT campus, which is known as ‘Eagles’ Perch’, look forward with excitement to welcoming children to the new space and a new beginning.

“Helew’u’ Child Care Society would like to thank NVIT for allowing the Society to run a daycare in their space for the last twelve and a half years,” Willson concluded.