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VIDEO: Q̓ʷalayu House opens to support mothers and families

Facility provides safe and warm space for families from remote communities seeking health care

Families needing to travel to Campbell River for maternal and pediatric health care have a new affordable, safe and comfortable place to stay.

Q̓ʷalayu House (pronounced Kwuh-lie-you), a 10-bedroom facility located next to the North Island Hospital built by the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, officially opened on July 12, 2021. Its name — suggested by community stakeholders — is a term of endearment used by Elders when they speak of babies and children as their ‘reason for being.’

Later this summer, Q̓ʷalayu House will start welcoming families from the North Island region and surrounding islands. It will provide a home-like and culturally safe environment for entire families, helping to alleviate their emotional and financial stress.

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A major role of Q̓ʷalayu House is supporting expectant moms, who want or need to give birth in a hospital, must travel great distances and sometimes must relocate for extended periods. But it will also serve families often travelling hours to go to the hospital or see health care specialists, requiring overnight stays. The facility was inspired by Jeneece Place, another ‘home away from home’ for families accessing care in Victoria.

The opening ceremony marked the culmination of years of work by the foundation to secure land and funds, consult families with lived experience and design and build the structure. It was attended by community partners, donors, supporters and families, and featured speakers from Island Health, First Nations Health Authority, and the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations.

“We broke ground just last year and I never imagined that, during a global pandemic, we’d be able to build Q̓ʷalayu House as quickly as we did,” said Veronica Carroll, CEO at Children’s Health Foundation, in a release.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the community and our donors. Without them, none of this would be possible. And because of them, thousands of families will have a safe and affordable place to stay while caring for their child. This home will truly help transform health care outcomes for North Island families.”

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Visitors will be able to enjoy privacy, as each of the home’s ten rooms feature a private bathroom. The building has a shared kitchen, stocked pantry and laundry facilities, plus a play area, quiet room and gathering spaces. Outside, there is a lounge and a play area with a basketball hoop and tricycling path.

Health care professionals, social workers and other family support services will contact Q̓ʷalayu House directly to arrange accommodation for families. To stay at Q̓ʷalayu House, families are charged $26.25 per night. But if a family is unable to afford the nightly fee other arrangements may be made, to ensure Q̓ʷalayu House is available to all those who need it. It is staffed 24 hours a day, meaning there will always be staff available for intake in last minute and emergency situations.

The foundation launched a fundraising campaign in 2019 to raise $7 million for the facility. It is still seeking donations for the final $1.8 million of this goal, to fund the first five years of the home’s operating costs.

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