OPOKAA'SIN EARLY INTERVENTION SOCIETY
In 1996, a society was formed to fill the need of Aboriginal support services in Lethbridge, Alberta. “Opokaa’sin”, or “all the children”, was the collaborative effort of a number of agencies who perceived the important role children have in society, thus the great privilege and responsibility that parents and mentors hold. Consistent with true Blackfoot spirituality, social workers established that individual potential was best realized within a strong community culture, a supportive environment of grandparents and elders. The nurturing of social competency in the young provided them the trust and confidence to overcome inevitable setbacks. This early “anchoring” became the basis for all of Opokaa’sin’s child and family programs.
Having faced operational challenges and opposition, Opokaa'sin Early Intervention Society’s Director, Tanya Pace-Crosschild, initiated a new facility suitable for the advancement of these programs. The architectural programming would consider all the social dynamics and nuances associated with the work, injecting new life into the vision. The existing building, located on a major artery on the North side of Lethbridge, provided an ideal space for these programs to be potentialized. The high airy ceilings presented an open environment for many activities as well as the potential for many classrooms.
The project received additional nurturing from Ted Breznik of RC Construction, who, after his own experiences of family tragedy, personally embraced the mission. Mr. Breznik provided much needed support to Ms. Pace-Crosschild, overseeing important finishing details. Cultural motifs and colors envelope the spacious interiors. Office partitions array the perimeter of the open concept design, the center gathering space providing a sense of belonging and inclusion. The sense of safety and ownership is shared by its members; it has become home for many aboriginal families.
The centralized kitchen is well used by the staff and members. The facility is equipped to provide light catering for luncheons, providing both the conveniences for some and the essentials for others. The young children enjoy the playspace in the mezzanine above, which also includes a games room for the youth, as well as the central boardroom. The facility proves to be well enjoyed by its frequent users, providing an ideal environment for the success of the Society’s programs.