Food is at the heart of Thai culture and tourism, providing income for thousands of people. So clearly cooking is an invaluable skill for young people to learn. Nobody recognises this better than Dwight Turner, founder of Bangkok’s Courageous Kitchen project.
Dwight hails from the US and was drawn to Bangkok by the world-class culinary scene, which he has been writing about on his food blog Bangkok Fatty since 2008. He set up Courageous Kitchen, training disadvantaged kids to cook, after seeing how malnutrition can impact on poverty-stricken communities in Bangkok.
The charity works with children who are at risk of extreme poverty and malnutrition, and those who lack access to education or safe shelter. As well as running a pre-school for 3 to 6 year olds, there are cooking and English classes for children aged 11 to 17 years. The idea is to upskill the kids so they have access to employment opportunities and are at a reduced risk of being exploited. Emphasis is placed on preparing nutritious foods and using the best cooking methods. And they don’t only learn how to cook: they learn about teamwork and delegation, setting them up for a successful working life.
“I started the project because I’m passionate about food and there is a stark and unsettling contrast between the everyday food-filled alleys I experienced in Bangkok, versus the scarce cupboards of the vulnerable families I now help.” Dwight explains.
“I believe food is an area of focus where a little change can trigger a broader impact. For example, it’s hard to study on an empty stomach. So in addition to improving overall health, the added nutrition we provide for families can give students a better chance at making the most of their classroom time.”
The charity also distributes food, supports students to enrol in public schools, offers support with housing and medical emergencies, and works with parents on job placement and livelihoods assistance as a means of stabilising the communities.
Our first thought when we heard about their amazing work (and we’re sure yours will be too), was: what can we do to help?
Dwight said: “At the moment we do have a good amount of volunteers. So the volunteers we need most are those with a specialized skill. Perhaps to teach cooking, preventative health, or a volunteer with a specialized language skill like the ability to speak Hmong. As we work mostly with vulnerable people groups, we do not provide any short term volunteer opportunities, and expect those working with us to commit for at least three months.”
Other ways to help include:
- Becoming a sponsor
- Recommending Courageous Kitchen cooking classes
- Attending a dinner meetup where you can learn more about how they’re trying to inspire people from the kitchen.
- Parents interested in getting involved can engage their social groups, religious organizations, and schools to support and collaborate with Courageous Kitchen.
The next Courageous Kitchen event is a 2 April 2017 meetup at the Ratchada Night Market – details here.
Read more about Courageous Kitchen at courageouskitchen.org
Photo credit: Kelly Tobias Miller