The Tukisigiarvik Wellness Centre in Iqaluit moved into its new, temporary home at the Anglican Parish Hall, and it’s full steam ahead.

The move from their now-demolished former home to the hall only caused a two-week disruption in services at the end of August and early September.

“We repainted it completely, renovated all the walls, cleaned the kitchen, renovated the bathrooms, had all the air ducts cleaned, installed better lighting,” said the centre’s executive director David Wilman.

The move doubled the space the centre’s working space from 2,100 square feet to 4,000, which means the centre will now have two big teaching and work areas, offices for counsellors, as well as a sizeable space for drop-ins at breakfast and throughout the day.

“Which is great, because we only had one little room before (for classes),” said Wilman.

The move to the Parish Hall came in the absence of a permanent building for the centre. Wilman says a Government of Nunavut promise that the centre could occupy Building 534 – the vacant building which formerly housed the Akausisarvik Mental Health Centre – failed to meet the move-out deadline.

“We’ve been trying to get a building through the government for over five years. It’s an endlessly frustrating process. We’re still negotiating on it,” said Wilman.

Iqaluit’s Tukisigiarvik Wellness Centre staff, such as hunter guide and elder Lucassie Kootoo, counsellor Nash Sagiatook and cultural instructor Maggie Qappik, are now working from the newly renovated Anglican Parish Hall, where programs continue after a two-week period of moving from their now demolished former location to the new location. Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo.

The Department of Health paid the $8,000-per-month rent at the previous location, and continues to contribute that amount while the centre covers the $800 difference.

“Health has been a big supporter,” Wilman said.

Staff are still setting up in the new space in the parish hall, which for now is home, and sheds are being constructed for supplies and hunting gear.

“But we’re back up and open for business,” said Wilman.

The lease with the Parish of St. Simon’s and St. Jude’s is for 13 months.

“Tukisigiarvik is a very important member and organization in our community. Its myriad of programs, services, counselling, job readiness, career and life skills and supports to members of the community need to continue,” said parish rector’s warden and member of the vestry council Ed Picco.

The centre has provided these services for 14 years.

“The vestry of St. Simon’s and St. Jude’s were approached by them to see if we could help accommodate the program over the next 10-14 months while they locate and access another facility. The vestry were in agreement to help the program.”

The parish does accommodate other users in the hall on occasion.

“The Parish Hall is owned by the Parish of St. Simon’s and St. Jude’s and is made available for rental, and/or use of the community at large and or the parish. Rentals to the general public during the Tukisigiarvik lease arrangement will be limited,” said Picco.

“Access for certain programs and or usage by the parish will continue. Other groups that may have accessed the building without disruption to Tukisigiarvik can continue. In cases where that is not possible, they have been informed where needed, to access other space where appropriate.”

Wilman says the centre restarted the afternoon drop-in cultural program Sept. 24.

Elisapi Aningmiuq manages cultural-skills and land-skills programs, and other staff is on hand in the afternoon five days a year, year-round for those who want to drop by to finish a parka or kamiik.

“Apart from August, because we’re busy doing other things, the summer camp and everything else,” said Wilman.

The date isn’t set yet, but evening cultural skills classes will soon begin.

“Probably parka-making will be first, from the end of this month until Christmas. Kamiit-making will start in January, and usually runs through to the end of April. That’s always a very popular class,” said Wilman.

“We’re already back doing our fall hunting program. We have a boat out today seal hunting.”

Wilman hopes to one day have a dedicated building, and his preference is to build one.

“Custom built,” he said. “We’re negotiating with one group in town, but I don’t want to talk about it and jeopardize negotiations.”

Tukisigiarvik had a $1.5 million budget last year.

“We used every cent,” Wilman said, adding they did set aside $8,500 for a new building with the approval of the funder.

Picco said if Tukisigiarvik needs to extend its lease, that request would be reviewed and discussed by the vestry council at that time.

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