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Friendship Centre breaks ground on traditional healing garden

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The concrete parking lot outside the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre will soon become a community garden.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday to get work started on a traditional healing garden.

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre Executive Director Miranda Laroche believes National Indigenous Peoples Day was the perfect day to break ground on the project. It is being built in honour of residential school victims, their families, and the community.

“Our hope is to create awareness of the residential schools and let the community know that this is our plans for the community garden and that it is a healing garden but it’s also a place for the community to come together.”

Laroche says the garden is meant to be an inviting space for community members to come together in support of one another.

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“We wanted to do something where we can bring nature into the urban setting, and for people to gather and do ceremonies to start healing from the residential schools and intergenerational trauma.”

The traditional healing garden will be in the lot next to the friendship centre on 98 Avenue. It will be used for traditional medicine, berry bushes, vegetables, and an arbour for ceremonies.

“There will be trees, garden boxes, and it’s going to be a traditional place like our traditional medicines so that it’s as natural as possible,” adds Laroche.

Métis Elder Angie Crerar says has been part of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre for more than four decades. She says she is proud to be a part of a milestone she believes will help honour and remember what she and many other residential school victims went through.

“We all go through the trauma of being a little girl, seven years old, abandoned, lonely, lost, and don’t have a clue what’s happening,” explains Crerar. “I’ve learned a lot from the friendship centre; they started my healing journey and today is very special. Today, we’re commemorating our survivors, and I’ve been one for 10 years. Now we have a place to honour, to commit, and to remember.”

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre Board of Directors Secretary Amylee Snider says it’s been a long process preparing for the healing garden and it felt surreal to finally get construction going.

“It means a lot to me today. We’ve been working on this project for a long time, for over a year in a half, if not longer. It’s always been our vision to turn this into something beautiful and to finally break ground and know that it’s going to happen is just amazing.”

The garden is funded through a community impact grant from the Community Foundation. The goal is to host classes on making planter boxes this summer and to start planting next spring.

Donations towards the community garden can be made on the Friendship Centre’s GoFundMe page.

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