Selina Perry has big plans for the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre.
As the newly elected board president, Perry’s first order of business is to find the centre a new location to call home, preferably in the downtown 100 Mile House area, with a larger, more accessible space where the centre can take part in more community outreach.
“The goal is to have at least one major community event per month in the new location,” Perry, 23, said. “But in order to do that we need more people to help out.”
With plans to grow the Friendship Centre’s membership and presence in the community, Perry hopes they can begin to offer more things like elder support, weekly dinners and youth nights. She would also like to partner up with local businesses that would be willing to offer small discounts to members. She is also in the process of creating physical membership cards to be distributed.
Although the centre currently relies on volunteers donating time to help host events, she eventually has plans to change that too.
“My goal is to open up more jobs for Indigenous people,” she said. “(With) Stemete7uw’i being a non-profit, right now we are volunteer-run but at the end of the day, the goal is to create more jobs.”
It’s not unusual for Perry to have ambitious plans for both herself and those around her.
She started taking university-level courses at the age of 15 while living in Langley, and had plans to be a lawyer by age 21.
While a move to the Cariboo almost four years ago, along with marriage and the birth of two daughters, pushed her law career to the back burner, Perry is currently working on her Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and philosophy with plans to go to law school in the next few years.
She admits her role as a mother to two young daughters, her heavy load of school work and her commitments to Stemete7uw’i are “a lot to juggle,” but said she knows how rewarding the work is, which helps keep her going.
“We need these services in 100 Mile House, and Stemete7uw’i is the perfect avenue to provide those services,” she said.
Volunteering for the Friendship Centre wasn’t something that Perry just stumbled upon, having actively sought out organizations in the region that were in need of help when she first moved to the South Cariboo.
“I had been looking for a year-and-a-half for a volunteer position. I called the hospital and the SPCA and I couldn’t find anything,” Perry recalled, noting it was a Free Press article indicating the Friendship Centre was looking for someone to help write grants that caught her eye.
“It was almost like it was meant to be.”
It wasn’t long before Perry was an integral member of the team, helping to plan events, taking care of some of the technical aspects of running a non-profit and helping to boost the Friendship Centre’s profile in the community.
This summer, she put together a scavenger hunt around town using clues relating to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
She said seeing first-hand how much community members from all walks of life enjoyed that event made the time she invested in it worthwhile.
“Everyone was so excited, and I really thought ‘this is so worth it,’” she said.
As the Stemete7uw’i looks to grow in the coming months, Perry encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to reach out about volunteer opportunities.
“Through volunteer work, you meet a new family. You expand your skills and it’s a really good opportunity to grow,” she said. “And you’re helping other people – that is super important.”