I would advise to inform potential participants during recruitment that the workshop is not strictly about cooking skills as some can think it is regular cooking class.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who was running a Healthnic workshop with a group the same as yours, what would it be?
If possible, I would find out more about what the participants are coming from, what culinary traditions they might have, important dishes and so on. That would make it easier to establish initial understanding.
In my opinion it is important to be flexible with the group. Although the workshop is structured very well, sometimes a bit of extra effort is needed, but that can be planned only after the workshop starts. The workshop could be slightly tailored for what the particular group need, not the other way around.
Give knowledge about healthy eating in a joyous motivating way. Laughter is the most important ingredient for healthy living.
For our group the twice a week/ 3 hours each time sessions in the morning worked well because participants had the chance to get to know each other well and to create strong bondings. For those who had children these were the hours that their children were at school. I think that if we had four consecutive days we wouldn’t have enough time for reflection and deepening the relations.
To investigate more carefully the family situation of the participants and their cultural level.
I want to suggest to someone who want to run a Healthnic workshop to focused in the composition of the group and to try to work on group dynamics. The guide of Healthnic is really an excellent support to introduce people to eat and the cook healthy food and the use local products. It need to consider that the workshop are addressed to the weaker part of the society and it is important to have a network of associated partners in social services who could reply to the needs of the participants who have been involved in the workshop.
Be flexible, focus on goals, get ready to learn and listen, and try to organize the most welcoming setting you can offer. Be prepared to face the problems of linguistic communication in the best possible way.
The only advice I would like to give is to stimulate communication through questions about their impressions and to foster a good atmosphere. Also looking for volunteers to take care of children to encourage concentration of parents.
The deeper meaning of healthnic workshop is not to provide strict and severe lessons on absolute truths concerning food and diet. Healthnic means to share a path of pleasure in discovering and re-discovering flavors, memories, recipes. It is a path of enjoyment which is shared with the group. My personal suggestion for facilitators is to allow themselves to be taken by the group, and to follow the group in the path which each single group will design.
After a brief overview of healthnic, get people doing something practical as soon as you can in the first session. It really helps to relax people and lets them get to know each other naturally. Have takeaway boxes on hand so everyone gets to take something home at the end to share with their family or friends.
The digi stories aspect pf the project needs to be integral and highlighted throughout the programme and cannot be thought of as an add on at the end.
Ensure at the recruitment stage that there is full clarification of all aims and aspects of the workshop – this will provide a framework, limit expectations and provide participants with an opportunity to raise any concerns they have and have them addressed and allow participants to decide if this is the course for them.
Just bear in mind that many of the learners will have outside commitments, work and family – attendance will fluctuate here and there. Make sure that the main facilitator is aware of what they have committed to do.
Do you have any other thoughts or comments you wish to share about your experience that may be helpful for others?
Make sure that you are prepared for things that you didn’t expect to happen and that you can improvise if it is needed. Try to make enjoyable atmosphere and make sure people are happy with what is happening even if you have to change the previously planned course of action.
Be prepared as much as possible, about traditions, cultural differences etc. Make sure to tell people in advance it’s not cooking class, it’s more than that. Try to listen what people say and react accordingly.
Treat each one as a unique human being building an environment that will allow them to actualise their potential for their own and the group’s best interest.
It was very important for me to attend many sessions of the cooking part. In this way I participated on games related to the narrative process, I had a view of the whole process and the participants started trusting me.
No, I don’t. I think this project is an excellent idea! Very glad that we went ahead with the workshops and the cooking and eating together approach can be transferred into many other contexts. Amazing to see the commitment of the participants despite their heavy workload in their jobs and their family responsibilities.
It was a lot of fun running the sessions and we all learnt a lot along the way. A good balance of locals/ asylum seekers is really important for the sessions to work really well. In order for this to happen, organise recruitment in advance.
It is crucial to select the correct people to run the workshops, not only for their knowledge, be that of nutrition or cooking, but also their skills with people; being inclusive, fair, encouraging and positive
Ensure that there is consistent integration to the dig stories throughout the food and cooking sessions. Be aware of cultural considerations and the background of all participants. Be prepared to face the unpredictable and embrace what you learn from this. Be flexible and allow the group to guide you. Enjoy
A couple of additional considerations
Things to keep in mind:
- always consider the degree of fragility of participants, both on personal, cultural and emotional levels,
- for some participants, the workshop might be a great occasion for a first contact with the social services, as the workshop itself is focused to strengthen the individual dimension, it also implies that it is a group-dimension where individual weakness might arise,
- consider cultural and religious stigmas which might lay underneath the surface but become aggressive behaviors hidden between the speeches participants,
- consider the diverse meaning of time between various cultural background,
- be ready to face the unpredictable; if it happens, don’t hide, but embrace and enjoy it.
At the end of the workshops experience, we can draw the following guidelines as conclusion and advice for who will conduct a Healthnic workshop:
- Barriers you might consider to take care of participants
- degree of fragility and weakness of participants, both on personal, cultural and emotional levels
- cultural and religious stigmas might lay underneath the surface but become aggressive behaviors hidden between the speeches of participants
- time might have a diverse meaning in various cultural background: be very clear on timeframe, and define if delay and lateness are acceptable, and to what esteem
- participants might have low education or even been illiterate: be prepared to invent linguistic strategies (i.e. the use of drawings, pictures, simplified schemes) and to provide communicative support (i.e. to read and write on behalf of participants, or organize them in subgroups that are able to fulfill the process).
- several young mothers might be present with their children, they will need a nursery support; in case children are a bit older, consider to organize some dedicated side-activities with an educator to entertain them while their parents attend the workshop
- Tips for conductors and facilitators
- investigate as much as possible the individual situation of the participants and their cultural level in order to organize and plan the workshop in a right way, but in any case be prepared to face the un-expectable problems
- organize the most welcoming setting you can offer, and harmonized it even at the very last moment to include participants needs
- be ready to face the unpredictable; if it happens, don’t hide, but embrace it, adjust the workshop to it and enjoy it
- be flexible, focus on goals, get ready to learn and listen
- allow yourself to be taken by the group, and to follow the group in the path which each single group will design