Aboriginal Head Start Program

The Conayt Friendship Society is thrilled to announce that we're partnering with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and the Nicola Valley and District Métis Society to operate the daycare facility on the NVIT Merritt campus. We'll be offering a full-time Aboriginal Head Start program to support the daycare needs of NVIT staff and students, as well as the Métis and urban Aboriginal families in the Nicola Valley. 



The Aboriginal Head Start Program is designed for infants and children up to age 6. It is a holistic model encompassing the whole family, and has six components to create a quality early learning environment to help children and their families thrive while respecting and honouring Aboriginal diversity, teachings, and protocols. The six components of the program are language and culture, health, education, nutrition, social support, and parental involvement. 


The daycare will offer a total of 28 spots (12 for infants/toddlers and 16 for children aged 3-6) and while a percentage will be reserved for NVIT staff and students as well as Métis in the Nicola Valley, there will be spots available for urban Aboriginal families in the Nicola Valley. The program will be available full time from Monday - Friday, include meals, and will be free of charge.

Please stay tuned for more information about enrolment here on our blog, and our Facebook and Instagram pages.


Meet our Aboriginal Head Start Coordinator

Catherine Holmes is our Aboriginal Head Start Coordinator and has worked in early childhood education for over ten years. The mother of five hails from the Tsilqhoten and Dakelh country and together with her children she practices both the traditional ways of her ancestors while being open to new languages and traditions. Her passion for education and children started with a diploma in Early Childhood Education from NVIT and has grown since then, adding additional training and education along her journey. 


Catherine is excited to work with parents and caregivers of the community, and is planning on establishing a parent and elder advisory committee to guide and enhance the program and help it flourish. 


Catherine will also be guiding seven additional staff members from support staff to early childhood educators; if you are interested in joining the team please get in touch with Catherine via headstart@conayt.com and check out the job postings on this page.

Stay tuned and check back often for updates - and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram - as we share our progress and excitement about this new partnership.  


While we prepare for opening in the Spring we would love to get the community involved in naming the new facility, which will represent a variety of different First Nations and languages. If you're interested to be part of the naming committee please get in touch with Catherine Holmes at headstart@conayt.com.


Update March 1, 2022

We're excited to share some "before" pictures of the new daycare space - stay tuned as it will be transformed over the next few weeks!


Update March 11, 2022

We're excited to share that work on the outdoor space has begun, and deliveries have started arriving. We're busy working towards opening this wonderful space and will continue to post updates. Stay tuned for more details about the new Indigenous Playground!


Update March 24 - Community Outreach

Update April 1, 2022

Community Outreach has begun and will continue to run to the middle of April. We're expecting to open the daycare just after the middle of April as well. For this update we're sharing more pictures of the progress that has been made inside the daycare, we're thrilled to see it all come together.


To furnish and renovate the new daycare space we worked with and would like to thank the following vendors: Merritt Printing, Merritt Walmart, Canadian Tire Merritt, Native Reflections, Natural Pod, Western Varieties Wholesale, and Kamloops Office Supplies.


Update April 19, 2022

As we inch closer to opening the new Aboriginal Head Start, we have two more updates to share. April 19th was training day with the Conayt daycare staff, our Executive Director Kelly L'Hirondelle, and a team from Aboriginal Head Start BC.


Also, the first two pieces created by Metis artist Pat Calihou for the playground have been delivered, and we look forward to sharing pictures of the new playground once completed. The Nicola Valley and District Metis Society has raised the funds for the playground, we're so grateful to have them on board as a partner for this venture.


Update May 9, 2022

Metis artist Pat Calihou is installing the playground, and created a great custom sign for us. The Nicola Valley and District Metis Society has raised the funds for the playground, we're so grateful to have them on board as a partner for this venture. Stay tuned for an announcement about the Grand Opening soon!

Update May 17, 2022

The playground is completed and we're thrilled to share pictures of it.


Update May 23 - Announcing Open House

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