Local first nations and faith groups gathered and lit candles together to celebrate Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s Sacred Space.

The light ceremony Wednesday afternoon was later followed by a community open house.

“I think there has been recognition of the need for reconciliation with our first nation partners in this region and also having a space that is more inclusive and welcoming of all faiths and cultures, so I think there have been conversations going on for a few years but really about a year ago, last June, the conversations started in earnest for the planning of this space and a committee was struck,” said Thalia Vesterbeck, Acute Health Services Director for CMH and 100 Mile General.

“They met and talked about everything. I understand there was a lot of debate and discussion and through it, there really was strong relationships built and an understanding of each other’s beliefs and backgrounds and a real willingness and relationships created to work together.”

Serving as Acute Health Services Director for the past three months, Vesterbeck added that she was ecstatic of the space.

“It’s great. I’ve come from another area in Interior Health where we haven’t managed to create sacred spaces yet, and I feel very honored to be somewhere I get to come in at the unveiling of one and having this lovely space that people can use to support their healthcare journey.”

Director of Aboriginal Health Services with Interior Health, Brad Anderson called it a historical moment.

“It was nearly ten years ago in Royal Inland Hospital that we had the sacred space ceremony, and now to kind of see this build throughout the region and now land in Williams Lake, it’s a pretty historical moment to have all of the faiths come together led by our First Nations partners that started off as in a good way with prayer and song.”

The Sacred Space is located on the ground floor of Deni House. It provides a place for patients and their families from all or no spiritual affiliations and cultures to gather whether they are celebrating, mourning, or just needing a quiet space for reflection.

“It’s been a phenomenal build up over the last year, and we are really following the Minister of Health’s proposed policy for sacred spaces as we are moving into a more patient-centered diverse population that we serve and moving from the old chapel model which is from the concept of the Judo Christian tradition into all-inclusive,” said Viktor Gundel, IH Spiritual Health Lead.

“Going through transitions and often through trauma or end of life situations in essence I think is a deeply humanistic journey for people, and having a space where they can process these events in a more conducive, spiritual, inclusive way I think that’s what the sacred space is really being served for.”