Light of the Prairies is developing the Entoto Community just south of Saskatoon at 5310 Clarence Ave. south. The property is fondly known as Walter Lane but as the initiative is the first of its kind in the world a new name that reflected the uniqueness of the endeavour was needed.
The Entoto Community hosts an operational farm, a group home, a community garden and is constructing Canada’s first Sensory Forest and Community Centre.
Imagine a community where people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) are valued and are as integral to the community as everyone else. Well that is our aim. The Entoto project is founded on the basis that community is relationship and that relationships need a context where they are formed and grow.
When we started our journey to better support people with ID we discoverer that it was less of a leisurely stroll and more like an expedition into uncharted territory with a valley to cross and a mountain to climb. First there was the ‘Relational Gap’. Put simply people with ID struggle to communicate and we as ‘typical’ people struggle to understand.
For a long time people assumed that those with ID were happier on their own and that they lacked the capacity or desire for meaningful relationship. But we believed that healthy relationships were the key to living a rich life so we pressed on seeking a way to help people with ID feel they were loved and to communicate love to others. Turns out there is a way and if you don’t know about our philosophy you should check it out.
The second challenge they face is finding a context to build those relationships. Did you know that there are not any building codes for people with ID? It’s true, all accessible codes and regulations are for physical access. It is not only about accessibility but also acceptability. What happens when the sounds and lights and the confusing hallways are too difficult to understand or are overwhelming? Well, it doesn’t allow for building relationships but further isolates those who want to have connections but can’t do it in those spaces.
The Entoto Project merges the solution to these challenges to become a uniquely designed building and forest sensory park, the first of its kind in the world, that allows all people with and without disabilities to build relationships through shared experiences. The key avenues for shared experience are recreation, vocation, and sensory engagement.
The vision for Entoto starts here and as a reproducible typology it will pave the way for centres and other Entoto spaces in countries around the world.