“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
– Mohandas K. Gandhi
ABOUT OOTA THOTA
Oota Thota is developed with the intent of using cooking creatively, to enable the children to explore and build culinary skills. It has evolved as Snehadhara’s flagship project by looking at engagements within community spaces, fostering social skills as well as creating opportunities leading to livelihoods.
The beginnings of Oota Thota (2015 onwards) focussed on developing basic functioning skills as well as connecting with community spaces. For the former, a space was created for a group of children to contribute to the overnighters by cooking dinner at the centre. The senior boys group took up the onus and started shopping for vegetables at Hopcoms every week. In the process they could explore learning language, math sorting and categorizing, learning step by step and first-next-last concepts. In addition to this, as an endeavour towards encouraging socialization and communication within community spaces, we took the children to The Millet Cafe and Zhang’s restaurant for kitchen and customer support.
Sometimes the most ordinary things become extraordinary by doing them together. ‘Dhoop Dhamal’, the summer school program in 2017 paved the way for a different experience in the culinary world for our children. They cooked together, they served together, they powered their creativity and gave a kick start to the cafe ‘Obattoo’. Looking at the learning potential of the venture we decided to build on the culinary ground that had been set for us and make it our ‘Oota Thota’ classroom for the older children. The children created recipes, bought ingredients, measured and weighed and roasted and fried and baked and sautéd mouth watering dishes for their friends and families every Tuesday. They experienced the complete cycle from the garden to the table as the vegetables and herbs grown inhouse were used in the Café Obattoo. Built into the narrative were learnings on waste management, cleanliness as well as the concept of Seva Cafe.
As the year progressed the children increased their stamina through the Cafe Obattoo program. Two groups were combined to take on the additional responsibility of making lunch for the team along with the cafe fare for the evening. Their ambit of work increased to shopping for ingredients, collecting vegetables from the inhouse garden and preparing the meal. The attempt to bring the two groups together was to see how they would work together within a larger learning setting, to see if buddy systems get established naturally, and whether the children are able to watch each other and learn. We saw the groups become more comfortable in the cooking sessions and without any prompts, mingle and work together. Towards the end of the year the Cafe Team was serving Tuesday lunch to Map Unity, an office near the centre, thus increasing their realm of culinary practice.
A powerful narrative emerged through the year, of ‘imagination, empowerment and creativity’ amidst the aprons and ladles.
This is be carried through to the next phase of the ‘Oota Thota’ program which enables the children to carry these skills and build on them in spaces outside the centre. They combine the aims of attaining gastronomic abilities with social interaction by visiting and working in cafes and restaurants in and around Snehadhara. Through these twin objectives, using the kitchen as the means, we hope our children will be able to navigate the path towards independence with relative ease and joy.
“Cooking is love made visible”, come share the love every Tuesday at 4:30 pm.
Highlights of the Program
- To promote inclusive spaces and awareness of learning diversities.
- To encourage socialization, communication, and the development of leisure activities.
- To develop social dynamics that involves turn taking, lead and follow and attention skills.
- To offer a child with special needs a multisensory experience (smell, taste, touch, sight), a medium to develop basic independent functioning skills, to develop fine and gross motor skills.
- To explore learning language and math using “use your words” to describe products, sorting and categorizing them, learning step by step and first-next-last concepts.
- To encourage children with needs to experience outdoor spaces, beyond their homes and learning centers thus exploring possibilities of employment with established cafes/ restaurants/ supermarkets.