The walls are up and the roof is on at Habitat for Humanity’s first ever on-reserve build in Canada.
The charity is hoping the 10-unit elders lodge on the Flying Dust First Nation – near Meadow Lake, Sask., about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon – will be the first of many it builds in First Nation communities across the country.
“It’s beautiful,” said Jayshree Thakar, manager of Habitat for Humanity Canada’s indigenous housing program.
“The whole community is energized. The community has volunteered 5,000 hours of their time towards the elders’ home, or lodge, as we call it. And we have also used this project as providing skills and training for indigenous youth and women.”
Habitat usually focuses on building homes for families, especially those with young children.
About two years ago at an Assembly of First Nations housing and infrastructure symposium, Thakar said Robert Merasty – who was then-chief of the Flying Dust First Nation – approached Habitat about a partnership.
They decided to make it a two-step project, Thakar said.
First, build a wheelchair accessible, 10-unit elders lodge. Second, retrofit the homes the elders vacated for younger families “so both the generations are being helped at the same time,” said Thakar.
Friday marks the opening of the elders lodge and the start of the retrofit on two homes.
Thakar said two women from the community, who are enrolled in carpentry programs, will lead the work on the first two homes. The commitment is to retrofit 10 homes over the next couple of years, she said.
The elders are happy too.
“Oh they’re excited, they’re delighted,” Thakar said in a phone interview from Flying Dust.
“Not only the elders are delighted, (so are) their immediate family members, because imagine to be able to do things on your own without looking (for) someone’s help all the time.”
Habitat would like to see it as the first of many reserve projects across Canada, Thakar said.
“It’s all about taking the leadership. The first one has taken the lead. Other First Nations are going to see this. The trust has been built between First Nations and Habitat and the partnerships are being forged.”
The elders’ lodge has been named “Kikinaw,” the Cree word for “Our Home.”
By Jennifer Graham in Regina