Rendition of the new Health Sciences Centre being built on the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College. (Contributed)

Rendition of the new Health Sciences Centre being built on the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College. (Contributed)

Okanagan College fundraiser counters pandemic

Health Sciences Centre campaign has raised $2 million in midst of COVID economic slowdown

Raising money for health care education is an issue that strikes at the heart of many donors.

That relationship has enabled the Okanagan College fundraising campaign for the new Health Sciences Centre now under construction on the Kelowna campus.

Despite the economic impact of the coronavirus this past year, the Your Students, Our Health campaign has raised $3.5 million, with $2 million of that in the past year, towards its $5 million goal.

The province kicked in $15.4 million towards the project, about 75 per cent of the cost, leaving the college to make up the remainder.

“We can see the building going up so there is a pressure to meet our funding obligation,” stated Helen Jackman, executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation, the fundraising arm of the college.

“The plan is still to have the facility open when students return for fall classes in September.”

The college is coming off a successful campaign to raise $8 million for the building trades centre on the Kelowna campus, and looking past the Health Sciences Centre will be the next project.

The college’s Capital Master Plan includes a Wellness Centre and Food, Wine Tourism Centre on the Kelowna Campus. Both of these projects would require provincial approval to move ahead. At this point neither are confirmed.

The next capital project, announced by Premier John Horgan in March, will be the new student residences on Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Vernon Campuses.

But Jackman acknowledges COVID-19 has not made the fundraising task any easier, but yet many donors have stepped forward with individual significant donations.

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With the emphasis on health care, Jackman suggests striking a chord with donors is the students graduating with health care field supporters will be the people caring for us as we age.

Jackman said college grads will filter out into jobs at Kelowna General Hospital, long-term care facilities, pharmacies and dental clinics.

“Graduates of our health care assistant diploma program are in big demand right now,” she said.

Besides being an upgraded building, Jackman noted the Health Sciences Centre will be outfitted with health are training labs that mirror what students will face in the health care workforce.

She said health program students now take classes in buildings that date back to 1963.

“They just don’t fit the purpose anymore of what and how students today need to learn, so when you think about teaching and learning, it is pretty exciting to see the potential for simulating real-life health care experiences in a learning environment,” she said.

Maxine DeHart, the Your Students Our Health campaign ambassador, said she has been amazed by the generosity of donors in this past year.

“When we started this campaign it was pre-pandemic, so we really didn’t know what the pandemic was going to mean…but people have come forward with significant donations,” DeHart said.

“The odd thing is the pandemic has helped in a way because it has made people stop and think, ‘Oh God, this is exactly what we need more than ever.’ I would not have thought that would have been the reaction.”

Echoing Jackman’s sentiments, DeHart said people are supporting the campaign because they see the relationship of how health sciences program graduates will be sustaining a health care system that will look after them in the future.

“And it is just not about care for seniors. We are talking about physiotherapists, massage therapists, pharmacy assistants…health care services that benefit people of all ages,” she added.

DeHart said fundraising hurdles caused by the pandemic have been countered by the relationship that Okanagan College has built with the city.

For more info on the project and to donate go to www.ourstudentsyourhealth.ca. To book a tour or donate over the phone call 250-762-5445, ext 4772.

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