Service providers combine forces to help mid-island Indigenous residents

By Spencer Sterritt
December 4, 2018 - 6:07pm

Tillicum Lelum executive director Grace Elliott Nielsen (left) with Kw'umut Lelum executive director Bill Yoachim (right).submitted/Tillicum Lelum

NANAIMO — A new agreement between Indigenous service providers in the Nanaimo area is breaking down artificial divides and making sure no families are left behind.

Tillicum Lelum, who run 75 programs for Indigenous families and youth, and Kw'umut Lelum, who work with housing providers and social services for families from nine mid-island bands, have partnered to enhance their existing programs and keep families together.

Traditionally, the two organizations worked separately towards the same goals. This now establishes them as S'Qa'shintul I'Tsi'tsuwatul, which means “those who are walking with and helping each other.”

Tillicum Lelum executive director Grace Elliott Nielsen told NanaimoNewsNOW the vast network of Kw'umut Lelum, from Qualicum to the Malahat, means service won't be interrupted if those they help decide to move.

“Quite often we'll have a family who'll move to Cowichan or Qualicum and to be able to keep track of them and their children is very important,” she said. “We realized something more needed to be done. Children go from foster home to foster home to foster home and may not have the cultural or traditional connection in their lives.”

There was some previous overlap between the two organizations, given the broad scope of their respective mandates.

Alan MacDonald, assistant executive director of Kw'umut Lelum, said the agreement was sought after by their member nations and works to bring everyone together.

“This really is honouring the natural flow and movement of Indigenous people throughout their traditional territories,” he said. “It does remove some of those arbitrary boundaries and barriers which get in the way of Indigenous people getting services when they need them.”

Until recently, Kw'umut Lelum only offered services to on-reserve members of the nine bands they work with and were funded by the federal government. However, the organization was recently ceded files by the province for off-reserve families and youth in need and will now also receive provincial funding.

MacDonald said the organization taking on more files went “hand-in-glove” with their new agreement with Tillicum Lelum.

“If we can, with young people particularly, make sure they're moving through life effectively and getting the supports they need where ever they are getting access to educational opportunities, there's great opportunities in that area.”

With the agreement still in the early stages, a team from both organizations is laying the framework for collaboration and how to build future partnerships.


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UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP say 81-year-old man missing for a week has been found