It didn’t take us long to say “Yes!” to participate in the First Nations ‘Strength Within Circle’ Youth Wellness Gathering this summer. The cultural event was co-hosted by Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Our Voices – a collective of inspired young indigenous leaders.
The sun was shining Saturday morning as Hospice volunteer extraordinaire Joshua Lesage and I drove to the Jackson Lake Healing Camp just outside Whitehorse. Although many challenging topics were explored the day before, the feeling when we arrived was relaxed and there were lots of friendly, smiling faces.
Some of the themes of the gathering included: Connection to Culture, Identity & Spirit, Suicide Awareness & Prevention, Health & Wellness, Trauma & Grieving and Lateral Violence. Throughout the 3 days, the large group of over 200 gathered in the big tent to hear speakers and then broke out into smaller workshops.
Joshua and I set up shop in one of the small tents and welcomed about 14 youth to our talk on Loss & Grief. To start, we gave each participant a ‘Feelie Heart’ kit and they were invited to sew their own ‘Feelie Hearts’ while listening to our stories and talk about the Grief Wheel – the journey we travel through loss.
We talked about the importance of expressing our grief and mourning while finding comfort and solace. Through a slide presentation we showed images of ways we can do this accompanied by the beautiful song, Crows Call, written by Beth Stupple, in memory her friends that had died in a house fire.
These are not easy topics but by coming together in community we realize we are all in this together, finding the strength and support to not only heal but to thrive.
Hospice Yukon has offered its services to Yukoners from the little house at 409 Jarvis Street in Whitehorse for more than 17 years. Visitors and clients who walk through the doors often remark at how comfortable and welcoming the space feels. More than just a building…it is a home where healing takes place.
This fall, after years of renting, Hospice Yukon Society was able to purchase the house thanks to a generous contribution by the Yukon Government.
Premier Darrell Pasloski said “Keeping what is familiar is really important. We are pleased and proud to provide $220,000 to Hospice Yukon so it can purchase the building from which it has provided much-needed services to Yukoners”. The money will go towards the purchase price of the house, as well as covering the costs of timely renovations including a new roof and flooring for the building.
Staying in the same location for 17 years is not always possible for a non-profit with a minimal operating budget. Landlord Gordon Ryder charged very reasonable rent and offered a purchase price well below market value as his way of supporting the organization. Ryder is a born-and-raised Yukoner and local business owner of Builder’s Supplyland.
The house comes with a bit of it’s own local history. Originally owned by Bob and Nellie Watson (of the Yukon Pioneer Watson family), they moved the house from a former location on Ogylvie Street. Ryder bought it in the 1980s. When the elderly tenant who had rented the house for several decades passed away, Gordie agreed to rent it out to Hospice Yukon Society, and the rest is history.
Though small – the house contains just four rooms – it has supported a wide range of services and activities over the years. These include an active lending library, counselling and Healing Touch appointments, grief
support groups, volunteer training sessions, board meetings, and public workshops for healing through art, journalling, poetry writing, and more.
We look forward to supporting Yukoners from 409 Jarvis Street for many more years to come.
The front yard of Hospice House is being transformed into an outdoor ‘Peaceful Place’ that can be used by all for quiet contemplation and remembrance.
The process started this summer and will be ongoing as the different stages of the project get completed. The idea was conceived by local artist and Hospice volunteer Josh Lesage.
On a recent trip to India and Nepal, Josh was inspired by the many ways that local people use rituals, prayer wheels and shrines to bring spirituality and the honouring of loved ones into daily life. He wanted to create something that helps us re-integrate spirituality and remembrance into our lives, and is accessible to all in the community .
Josh says “I hope this project will offer a space where people can feel a sense of safety and peace to sit with grief, memories or contemplations. The space will be open to everyone at any time; I hope people will use it for their personal rituals, whether it be offering flowers or lighting a candle at this ‘contemporary shrine'”.
The stone and wood alter that now sits outside Hospice House is the first stage in a three part project. Over the coming year Josh will create a stone carving of a swan to go on the altar, and the final stage involves building wooden decking and benches to surround the structure and make it an easily accessible and welcoming space for all.
We are glad that Hospice is the home for this beautiful space and look forward to seeing how it is used by people in the community. Please stop by to take a look!
If you would like to make a donation to support this project please call us: 667-7429.
Many thanks to the local businesses who have offered generous contributions towards this project: Whitehorse Motors, Murdoch’s, North End Gallery, Lenore Morris Law Firm, Independent Grocers, T n T Nature Tours, Klondike Rib and Salmon, Heritage Funeral Home and others who wish to remain anonymous.