People, is what the economic development manager of Binche Whut’en First Nation near Fort St. James enjoys most.
Dave Birdi has witnessed many positive changes within his four years with the Binche Binche Keyoh Bu Society.
“When I first joined Binche it was to help them move forward to become more independent…and what they were looking for is no different than anyone of us looking in any of the communities—we all want good education, a good health system, a good place to raise kids and safe environment,” he said.
“So the message that I heard loud and clear from the community is they’re ready for change, and I think that’s the positive thing. When people are ready for change, progress happens much faster.”
To improve matters directly impacting health and wellness, Birdi said he follows three key components: education, assessing what is working and what isn’t, and working with different levels of government, organizations, and stakeholders.
When Birdi first joined Binche, he recalled community members stepping into his office to use the phone.
“As I delved more into the conversation, many of them could not afford to the monthly fees,” he said. “For most people, basic telephone service is not a big deal, but for people on a fixed income, $40 or more is quite a bit of money that they can’t use on food or clothing.”
Because Binche owns its internet and telephone services, Birdi said a monthly telephone plan starting at $10 was introduced.
Fast forward to 2021, upgrades to Binche’s high-speed internet has been completed.
A major milestone was also achieved earlier this month, with elders moving into the community’s first housing project in more than 20-years. Ten more units open to all residents, specifically individuals and couples, are hoped to be completed before the end of the year.
“With the housing, the next step what we’re promoting is instead of Binche financing the housing we would like to have the individuals work to the level in which that they’re able to go to the bank and get a loan or a mortgage, and so that’s how we’re trying to give them the independence,” Birdi said.
The unemployment rate is near zero as Binche takes steps to bridge jobs while exploring diversified economic opportunities from technology, housing, and natural resources such as forestry and mining.
Birdi has resided in Fort St. James for more than 40-years, where he regularly makes the 30-minute drive to Binche daily.
He and his spouse, a local realtor, have three children currently attending the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University for post-secondary studies.
Birdi was previously involved in forestry as well as the financial sector, politics and even television and radio. He is also a director of Community Futures Stuart Nechako, encouraging entrepreneurs with taking their business dreams to reality.
In his spare time, Birdi enjoys outdoor activities such as canoeing that he describes as peaceful and an excellent way to spend time with family.
“I see lots of positive things, and it’s great working in the communities, and I think that’s what makes it home.”