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Dreaming of child care

Kakivak Association bringing major improvements to day care in Qikiqtani region
Kakivak Association president and CEO Sheila Kolola hopes to be part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open a brand new daycare centre in one of the Qikiqtani region’s 13 communities during her tenure with the association. Photo courtesy Kakivak Association

The Kakivak Association serves the Inuit of the 13 communities in the Qikiqtani (Baffin) region, and has seen its budget grow from $400,000 in program deliveries in its initial year of operation to $15 million in 2022.

The organization was developed to deliver economic initiatives in 1991 and began with a four-member staff.

As the economic-development arm grew over time, the organization started to focus more on client needs surrounding child care, youth and disability programs through Employment and Social Development partnerships.

The Kakivak Association has spent many years helping Qikiqtani daycares with their operations through its child-care program, which offers support for basic operations and maintenance, attendance-based operations, support for culture and language instruction, operational equipment and worker training. Those efforts have really ramped-up during the past two years with the association now helping with renovations in existing daycares and looking to bring new daycares to the communities still without one of their own.

The five Qikiqtani communities without a formalized child-care service are Sanirajak, Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay and Clyde River. In its 2022 annual report, Kakivak provided $7,511,438 towards daycares in the Qikiqtani region with funds from its partners at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA).

A feasibility study is also being undertaken and a review of every daycare facility in the region was conducted to see what was needed.

Kakivak president and chief executive officer Sheila Kolola said daycares in Kimmirut, Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung will receive $2.8 million in desperately-needed renovations which will start in 2024. The funding was secured through ESDC’s short-term-renovations-and-repairment funds in 2022-23. She said Kakivak has conceptualized a new Inuit model child-care-facility initiative that is Government of Nunavut approved for licensing purposes.

“The model child-care centre is designed to have 44 licensed spaces (12 infants and 32 preschoolers),” said Kolola.

“For the much smaller communities, a smaller model with less required space (24 licensed spaces – eight infants and 16 preschoolers) is also available.

“Like the renovation projects, we are supporting and guiding hamlets and organizations (like daycare societies) who put in the dedication and time to potentially build a brand new child-care facility in their community to a ‘readiness’ stage.

“Funding to build a new daycare can come from various sources, so we’re hoping doing the leg work together with the interested hamlets and organizations would have them ready to build, and it would be a matter of securing the funds to proceed with the project.”

Kolola said Kakivak is expecting new funding to come from the Government of Canada for new child-care facilities, but it’s also looking for partners like QIA to join.

She said the association’s goal, or dream, is for every Baffin community to have a new child-care facility.