Toward the end of December 2016 a group of 14 unaccompanied asylum-seeking boys from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Somalia gathered in a large kitchen in south Jakarta for an intensive, three-day baking course. This was a welcome break from the long, routine days and weeks the boys spend in their CWS-supported group homes. Since the boys have a lot of idle time, CWS staff are always looking for ways for them to have interesting adventures and learning opportunities – like last year’s design course with a local firm and an excursion to a concert. Their visit to the Bogasari Baking Center in Jakarta, which is a unit of Indonesia’s largest integrated flour mill, was a very special treat.
On the first morning the course got underway rather quietly as most of the children did not feel confident to speak up, not least because none of them knew anything about baking and pastry-making. But, almost immediately, one thing was very obvious: they were all very eager to learn!
“I am thrilled to see the children being excited about the course,” said Chef Heri, the instructor. “Maybe we do not speak the same verbal language; but one of the great things about baking is that speaking and hearing is not essential; teaching people to bake can be done by demonstrating – up to 80 percent of what we teach is hands-on, so we don’t need a lot of language for this.”
One of the baking class participants was Ali from Afghanistan, who arrived in Indonesia in mid-2015. And, as he waits to be officially recognized as a refugee and to be resettled to another country, one of the ways he manages is frustration has been cooking , and now he can bake pastries and cakes at his house, where he lives with other unaccompanied children. Theva, the only Sri Lankan among the children, joined the course with a resolution: “… to make a Christmas cake for Ibu Dewi, one of the social workers in our group home”. Theva made good on his promise to Ibu Dewi; and, every day, he and other boys brought their bakery creations back to their group homes where they were eagerly awaited by their friends.
Besides being a diversion from their daily routines, the course and time away from the group home gave the boys from four different group homes to get to know each other, learn about each others’ cultures and form new friendships.
At the end of the course Amir, a 16-year-old Afghan, said this, “The baking course has given me confidence that I have skills – to bake, to make something. To me it is beyond the baking skills, it gives me hope about the future.”