When the year started it seemed we were rounding the corner on outlasting covid. Wow, we were all wrong. Now as we enter the second year, we know that even last year’s most pessimistic predictions about how long this pandemic would last were too conservative. Renewed lockdowns, slow vaccine rollout, and rapidly spreading new variants of the disease have rolled back much of the success Thailand had last year. As the death toll continues to rise, the threat of the disease is still very real, and the economic implications make people already teetering on survival extremely vulnerable right now.
For anyone interested to give, we’ll be combining proceeds from our business efforts and your donations to help as many families as possible with rice, cooking oil, and other supplies.
During this time Courageous Kitchen has been offering virtual cooking classes and selling food locally. This has been an unsteady pivot as we’ve struggled to replace the income earned through classes we previously offered to tourists visiting Thailand. For these reasons we’re updating our donation appeals to reflect our need for more support with donations for covid food relief. For anyone interested to give, we’ll be combining proceeds from our business efforts and your donations to help as many families as possible with rice, cooking oil, and other supplies. The cost of these donations each month is $10 per family, and we hope to reach 200 families or more each month.
Our goal is to help people on the border of Thailand and Burma with food supplies. Many of the people there are ineligible for support from the government because they are ethnic minorities without Thai citizenship. With the border closed due to conflict and covid concerns, parents in these families are also without work for the foreseeable future. This month (May 2021) we provided rice, noodles, cooking oil, salt, and other supplies to about 200 families. Of those families, there were about 35 identified as especially vulnerable and they received eggs and fresh produce as well.
Please find and share our new Food Relief donation page with anyone interested to help in our efforts. If you decide to give through Facebook, local banks, or another campaign be sure to let us know or indicate ‘covid relief’ in the notes portion. This will be an ongoing campaign so we’re especially grateful to those assisting by setting up monthly donations. We’ll be talking about these efforts more in our upcoming cooking classes, so we look forward to engage with you there and on Instagram and social media as well. Thank you!
Hey friends around the world, we hope you are healthy and getting back to ‘normal’ where-ever you are. The new normal, however, is being honest about the challenges we’re facing during the covid-19 epidemic and sharing high quality advice whenever possible. Whatever stage of lock down or quarantine your country is in, here are some tips to help you stay safe.
1) Don’t neglect the basics.
Wear a mask
Avoid touching your face
Avoid activities causing unnecessary exposure
Limit interaction with people at risk
Remember you can spread the virus without being sick
Exercise and eat healthy
We’ve got songs for washing our hands now. Masks are becoming more readily available, and you’ve learned to keep hand sanitizer with you wherever you go. During this time we have even seen people going to extremes by wearing hazmats suits in grocery stores. This is evidence that we are learning to be better together, but we shouldn’t let our guard down as we return to work, school, and other activities. Please keep your hygiene practices up to maintain the basic level of protection for everyone.
Many of us have to interact with others during this period for crisis response, work, and other necessities. When possible avoid confined spaces, especially where air can be trapped or is unfiltered. Although many places have restricted gathering in public parks, take advantage of any outdoor or open air areas which can allow people to meet while facilitating social distancing.
For example, instead of distributing aid to people in need in groups, we bring the items door to door. Of course this is more work, but we have to adapt to the challenges of doing aid under such conditions. Aid organizations, governments, and volunteers have a responsibility to provide aid safely, while ensuring efforts to help are not unintentionally spreading the disease to vulnerable groups.
3) Briefly Journal Interactions
One quick tip you can employ right at this moment is to begin journaling your interactions. In the face of disease that can be transmitted without symptoms we have to take new precautions and this is a simple, free task most anyone can perform.
“Until a vaccine is available, the more we return to normal, the greater our responsibility to society becomes.”
Did you meet anyone unexpectedly today?
Were you in close proximity to that person?
Did you cough more than normal today or experience any other symptoms?
Did you go somewhere high risk? Or interact with someone who may become sick easily?
Make a note on your phone or in a notebook of symptoms, interactions, and abnormal risk. Hopefully, you will never need to use this information, but in an emergency, this tiny task can quickly become invaluable to you and your family.
Finally, as soon as I begin showing symptoms of any infection, remember you are responsible for notifying people you may have exposed. This is a big, scary task. Having a journal of interactions, including brief occurrences will help us notify people more quickly of their exposure, and may even help us to identify how we became infected.
4) Have A ‘Coming Home’ Routine
Typically doctors, nurses, and medical staff are the ones who shoulder the responsibility of creating daily routines to prevent disease spread. For healthy people who are still working or in the community providing aid, this is now becoming part of our daily life. Thinking ahead to create a routine for arriving home can keep you from bringing infectious germs into your home.
Keep in mind your routine may be unique to you and your circumstances. For some this may be as simple as washing hands and cleaning personal items before coming in the house (keys, mobile phones, and things in your pockets). The proactive activity could happen in your front yard, garage, or some condos and apartment building may provide soap or hand sanitizer in the lobby.
Making these practices a habit can help everyone prevent the spread of the disease to our loved ones.
5) Be Considerate of the Most Vulnerable
Healthy people who have the ability to return to work and leisure activities must also spare concern and consideration for those who may never have any semblance of normal in the coming years. The most vulnerable people are groups such as the elderly, pregnant mothers and newborns, and immunocompromised. However, in this group we need to also consider people who are vulnerable due to their socioeconomic status. This may because of lack of resources, information, or living in crowded conditions where social distancing is made impossible. For example we have seen countries where the disease had been somewhat contained, only to ravage through crowded dorms and detention centers holding migrant workers and refugees.
Social distancing has changed our lives. We’ve begun doing more via video calls and online communication than we ever thought possible. However, as we return to gathering socially with family and friends, we should maintain a certain level of caution. This includes distancing or limiting interaction with people who don’t maintain the same level of concern about the virus. We have no way of knowing where someone has been, or their level of exposure to possible infection, our best protection is to be cautious or avoid meeting people in the early days of quarantine ending altogether.
“I was at the pharmacy today and someone was having a coughing fit. I know we were supposed to meet tomorrow, but let’s talk online instead to be safe.” – A Responsible Friend
This does not mean we need to publicly shame people who aren’t following guidelines to our liking. However, we do want to limit interaction with people being casual about virus prevention, irresponsible with their hygiene, or spreading misinformation about the disease. To prevent this from causing friction in the workplace, school, and in social groups, don’t wait until face to face meetings to bring up topics about safety.
7) Enjoy Lunch Alone
One of the things we consider being the most social, may put us in danger — our coveted time eating together at our table. Whenever the time to eat comes around, people should be ready to carve out their own personal space. This is important because when eating you may let your guard down by removing masks and gloves, and relaxing social distancing.
When working or in public, try to maintain your distance from others while eating. For those who can, arrange meetings or work tasks in way that you can eat at home or the car. Other suggestions may be packing snacks or quick meals for work, while saving more substantial meals for home.
Until a vaccine is available, the more we return to normal, the greater our responsibility to society becomes. If we understand this, stay compassionate, and plan accordingly we can help save lives together.
Thank you for reading and if you have other great suggestions during these unprecedented times, please share. We hope you are healthy, stay safe, and appreciate your support of Courageous Kitchen.
The world has been engulfed by the current health crisis surrounding the coronavirus, Covid 19. We have seen global travel come to a halt and local businesses closed indefinitely. As a charity fundraising by offering cooking classes in Bangkok, we have also been impacted by the abrupt end to tourism.
The quiet days however, have given us plenty of time to brainstorm how we as an organization can make a difference in the communities we serve in Bangkok. Like a lot of communities around the world there are areas of the city that have all the perfect conditions for rapid spread of the virus, including: poor sanitation, compact and crowded housing, varied language and cultural contexts
This has forced us to ask difficult questions about the likelihood of an outbreak in those areas, and hypothesize about our response. Today we want to share a few ideas with you, and invite everyone, whether organizations or individuals, to start thinking strategically about assisting the most vulnerable during this time.
Feel free to adapt and expand these ideas for your locality, and to share them with others. We encourage everyone to give to organizations helping this fight, and don’t forget you can make calls and advocate online from the safety of your home.
1) Free Testing and Treatment
The easiest way to help vulnerable people is to make sure they have access to testing and treatment freely. This should happen regardless of people’s ability to pay, or nationality.
“We can’t treat what we can’t track…”
While different governments have had different policies, those most successful in combating the spread understand made testing widely available. We can’t treat what we can’t track, and this virus is unique in its ability to be spread by people with few or no symptoms. If there is no policy for testing and treatment for those at risk, please continue to advocate a vocal advocate for this crucial need on and off line.
2) Quarantine or Isolation Beds
Space is a luxury many communities do not have. While social distancing has become a common term for many, the tactic to prevent the spread is unrealistic, especially in crowded cities. One idea would be to look at repurposing space in communities to provide quarantine or isolation areas. This may mean different things in different places. For some communities the priority may be on housing the homeless temporarily, while other highly dense areas could provide food and shelter to elderly or immunocompromised people most at risk. This may mean rethinking how best community spaces like schools, community centers, and others can best serve. Communities can even repurpose unused space or buildings.
3) Soap & Sanitation Stations
Provide free access to sanitation and supplies that help prevent the spread of the disease. This may mean complex projects like portable sinks or showers, or be as simple as makeshift community refilling stations where people can bring their containers and refill on soap. Masks could be provided freely, or people can learn in small groups how to repurpose household items as makeshift masks and face guards. Weather permitting, this could be done in open air areas in small groups, but it may be best to make these solutions portable to prevent crowding, and reach people with limited mobility.
4) Food Sponsorship Programs
One of the essential businesses allowed to continue operating are restaurants. We can support these local businesses and lean on their relationships with the community to serve the most vulnerable. A simple program would allow me to purchase a meal, while providing a meal to someone else. In turn, restaurants could provide food, cash, or products to local organizations — or even give it our directly to people. Partnerships with schools, churches/ temples, and community centers would speed this response.
5) Donate to Existing Organizations
Find an organization in your area and donate. Choose large and small organizations to support, and especially those who already have programs in place for assisting the sick, elderly, or vulnerable communities.
Keep in mind organizations are under a lot of pressure. They have to provide aid while protecting their staff, and insuring while helping people they are not spreading the virus from one place to another. Remember as the economic impact worsens, small charities who really depend on small $10-$100 individual donations, will see many of these resources dry up.
6) Jail & Detention Moratorium
Included in the communities most at risk to the spread of disease are the incarcerated. We should remember them during this time and be sure they have the supplies and care needed. In most cases you can assume they do not.
Governments should also not use this time to enforce petty laws or warrants. Compassionate responses would include a moratorium on immigration raids and arrests as well. However, it is unlikely government will come to these conclusions on their own and we can be busy advocating for such solutions online or sharing petitions for such calls.
Knowing this can be controversial, we would like to reiterate that this isn’t forgiveness of immigration status, or an end to law enforcement. Instead, it should allow enforcement to focus on the most serious issues, and provides some consideration for exposure and spread of the virus by law enforcement agencies.
7) Bolster Neighborhood Clinics & Pharmacies
We have to do what we can to make sure people can get the medicine they need nearby. This is essential for non covid related issues, and for people whose symptoms are mild enough to recover from the virus at home. This also relieves some pressure from our hospital systems, who are already being overwhelmed in so many places around the world.
8) Sponsorship for the Pregnant and Elderly
Sign up with an org today to sponsor a pregnant woman, or someone who has recently given birth. Make sure these women have the protection and transportation they need to get to hospitals safely. Remember this should include a long term vision for check ups, immunizations, and emergencies. Support for food and housing also helps ensure women and their children are safe and supported during this crisis.
There are so many neglected elderly people everywhere in the world. In addition to checking up on people in your own family, make sure people who don’t have family or resources are well cared for, whether that’s providing cash, groceries, or a friendly weekly checkup call for people who are even more isolated than usual right now.
9) Free Mental Health and Mourning Resources
Are we prepared for the conversation we need to have about mourning people we’ve lost? How do we do this from a distance? Do impoverished communities have the resources they need to deal with the death and burial of someone who dies at home?
There are so many questions to answer about mental health and mourning during this period. While they may seem peripheral to so many other pressing concerns, we should be careful not to be blindsided by the compounding ramifications of the loss of a loved one, isolation, and financial instability.
10) Free Wifi
Sounds simple, but lets not underestimate how much this could make a different in at risk communities.
Having good information and the ability to connect with people from afar has never been so important. Let’s remember people who may not have regular access to the internet, or whose services may be impacted because of loss of work by someone in their family.
Online communication also eases the burden of organizations who may be deciding which situations are most urgent, especially in changing rapidly cases. If people are connected they can be provided information, have that information translated, be entertained, and even talk face to face with volunteer doctors and nurses who can save time and reduce risk with such activities.
We hope these ideas have been helpful for you! Please help us to share and kindly consider visiting our donation page to support our work in Thailand.
The kitchen is a special classroom, where students can be given the power to create, collaborate, and thrive! We believe this to the core, we preach it, and try to live by it. But we are also quick to admit the kitchen isn’t the only place children can express themselves, and learn new skills. In a recent Saturday cooking and jam session, our Courageous Kitchen students welcomed children from the Khlong Toey Music Program (KTMP) for a memorable afternoon.
If you’re unfamiliar, the KTMP music program is named for one the most infamous slums in Bangkok, Khlong Toey. Despite the rough surroundings, there’s important work happening in their community, and KTMP is part of the change that’s happening in this overlooked area of Bangkok. With a similar ethos to Courageous Kitchen, KTMP believes children deserve a safe place to learn, especially because of the pernicious nature of the cycle of poverty. Instead of proselytizing the way of the wok and other culinary arts like us, their program teaches guitar, drums, and several other instruments, adding English and other extracurriculars as often as possible. Each time the students have an opportunity to perform, they earn new fans across the city of Bangkok and online!
Still kids, even the ones gaining fans each week through their music on facebook and youtube, get nervous meeting other children. For this reason, we didn’t jump right into learning to play music when our two student groups came together. First we had to get to know each other. So to kick things off, we began the day with fun ice breaking games. The games required the students to interact with one another, learning each other’s names, and teaming up to identify vocabulary words faster than other teams.
The instruments made an appearance after we got to know each other and whoa did it get noisy! The students and teachers dispersed themselves around the room teaching the same melody, with a different instrument in each group. There was an entire section dedicated to our mini percussionists, the singers and ukulele players claimed the center of the room, and the electric and acoustic guitar fans filled the gap on the other side. I’d compare the sound and fury of the activity to having a baby elephant dancing in your kitchen. But despite what it did to our eardrums, looking around at the excitement on all the children’s faces as the instrument workshop began, was incredibly rewarding.
Low thuds, random strings, and excited voices filled the room as the students began to get the hang of the instruments. The KTMP teachers encouraged the children to change groups once they had the melody down, much to the excitement of the girls torn between playing the drums, and switching into guitar hero mode on KTMP’s shiny electric guitars. Knowing the kids would be working up an appetite, our kitchen team was rendering the fat off a kilo of shrimp. They would go on to use the fatty oils from cooking the shrimp, to toss egg noodles before serving.
Days before this event, we held meetings to debate what to serve our new friends at KTMP. On such a fun day, we wanted to serve familiar food that the kids would gobble down, but with a Courageous Kitchen twist. Cooking up ‘mama’ noodles easily won by popular vote. Named for the most popular brand of instant noodles in Thailand, mama noodles are popular in the low key street food stalls all over the country. The noodles are well known as a nostalgic childhood snack. However, instead of making a broth full of the msg filled flavoring packets, we made our own giant pot of creamy tom yum broth to serve our hungry little musicians.
As the scent of shrimp tinged egg noodles, and lemongrass broth began to fill the house, full bars of notes were beginning to tumble out as well. The practice was paying off, and the students were becoming more confident playing the song. Soon they would play it together, Thai, refugee, and migrant kids, all strumming to the same rhythm. For the finale, the KTMP youth performed a few more songs, before everyone agreed it was time to eat. The noodles were ready to eat, but the kids quickly organized into teams, some making spring rolls to eat with their noodles, while the others were ready for a cooling dessert snack.
There’s more you should know about the special students from KTMP. They didn’t just show up for tom yum noodles. They have been hearing about Courageous Kitchen for weeks, selecting us as the charity they most wanted interact with and help. In the lead up to meeting each other, they used the power of their music, performing and spreading awareness to raise money for us. In a few short weeks the students, supported by their tireless teachers, raised and donated nearly 14,000 baht (about $440) to help children in our program!
Exciting news! We’ve been featured in a local online magazine called The Cloud. The publication is in Thai, and includes some great photography, but we wanted to share more about the phenomenal weekend they visited, for supporters who may not read Thai. If you do, you can read the full article about Courageous Kitchen on The Cloud’s website, and help us by sharing with more Thai friends.
Typically when we have an opportunity to work with refugee kids from the communities we serve, it’s only for a few hours at a time. However, during the children’s school break, there’s more flexibility for us to host longer activities, such as our cooking camps. The camps give us a chance to work more closely with each of the students, and teach a wider range of subjects to the kids.
The day the team from The Cloud visited was the last day of our May cooking camp. In this cooking camp we worked with students who had much weaker English skills than the students who participated in the previous camp. If you remember the last cooking camp, in addition to fun Thai dishes, we also had everyone excited about the burgers and pizza we made too. However in the May camp, instead of fully focusing on cooking, our students were doing everything from fancy hat making, to an impossible human knot challenge, and learning to edit their own videos.
The subjects we choose for each camp depend on the ability of the students, and the interest of the participating volunteers. To be better suited for students with weaker English, our last batch of volunteer teachers helped run art therapy exercises, team building sessions, and challenged the students to use the English they’ve learned to make their own recipe videos.
The finale day saw the students putting the finishing touches on each group’s recipe video. While some students filmed and helped behind the scenes, others were challenged to stand in front of the camera and explain the recipes they were making in English. To keep the video editing from being too complicated, the students were assigned to simply explain how to make an herbal tea drink recipe. They made drinks from popular Thai ingredients like butterfly pea, chrysanthemum, and bael fruit, while managing to narrate and film at the same time.
Of course we had to take a break and cook lunch as well. The finale meal was a celebratory plate of banh xeo, a sort of Vietnamese crepe. For this cooking feat, we made an assembly line of students cooking pork belly and spring onion to use as filling for their crepes. Once everything was hot and smelling nice, they moved further along the station with their filling to make their crepe. The action of swirling the thin batter of turmeric tinted rice flour in the light weight, non-stick pans was exciting for everyone.
The challenge, however, was to get the crepe out of the pan without the fragile exterior fracturing into many pieces. While it was easier for some of the smaller students to fold the crepe in the pan, lifting it on to their plates, there’s a better way. The best technique to finish with a beautiful plate of banh xeo, is to dump the entire crepe out on your plate, folding it together as it falls, with a quick motion of the pan. Sound tricky? This is definitely a move inspired by the quick hands of the street food vendors we frequent!
After lunch, we gathered all the students to celebrate their accomplishments and watch their final videos. The students giggled with glee (and some horror) seeing their faces on the big screen. We discussed being brave in front of the camera, and being more conscious of lighting and sound when video making. Finally, everyone shared their biggest challenges and successes from the cooking camp before we said goodbye.
Our entire team had a great time this cooking camp and want to thank everyone who helped donate to sponsor this activity. Getting the students to be proud of their art, video production, and especially their culinary creations can be especially challenging with students overcoming trauma and fear they’ve accumulated over the years. However, this mission wasn’t in vain, and the wonderful article in The Cloud, and all the fun photos from the camp are a testament of what can be accomplished when we really believe courage is contagious.
Wherever you are reading from, and whatever you’re going through — be courageous!
Courageous Kitchen typically provides weekly English and cooking class to students from marginalized communities. This is important work and partially funded by our efforts to host cooking classes and street food tours for tourists visiting Bangkok. However, a few times a year we invite the youth we serve to take part in a multi day cooking camp. We recently hosted the first camp for this year and invite you to watch the following slideshow from the event:
During the camp we have more time to review and drill the English vocabulary the students are usually learning in Saturday classes. Since the kids are usually cooking every meal, they have extra time to develop in the kitchen as well. During the camps we invite teachers from outside the charity to help us expand what we can offer students including specialized cooking, art, drama, and music activities.
We believe all of the classes work well in tandem with our English teaching curricula, by giving the students plenty of opportunity to practice their English in the kitchen, and during other fun activities. The biggest challenge is that the students all come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have participated in our classes since they were very young, with our pre-school teaching being their first organized classroom experience. Others may still be new to our classes, and have only rudimentary knowledge of English. Each camp is special because with more time to spend with the students, we can more easily identify where a student may be excelling, or needing more encouragement and assistance.
If you’ve visited us before, you know our specialty is teaching and cooking Thai cuisine. However, in the slideshow from the most recent camp we were able to offer a variety of dishes, thanks to our volunteer chefs, teaching the kids to make Vietnamese cuisine, and western dishes such as hamburgers and pizza. Since the majority of our students don’t usually have an opportunity to eat in restaurants, they cherish the chance to try new dishes and learn about how people in different cultures eat in other parts of the world.
We are so grateful to everyone involved, especially visiting teachers who braved through Thailand’s summer weather, and all of our sponsors. If you’re interested in to sponsor a future camp, just leave a note when you donate online that the funds are for our cooking camp. As a small organization with no institutional funding, your support is so important to us!