24 Oct 2014

Cook & Eat :: SYHA Clusters Project

A few months ago I interviewed a member of staff from South Yorkshire Housing Association.  It was when they were running their Open Cinema projects, and I was quite taken with their high regard for creating safe & social environments where people could interact, learn something & enjoy a positive experience just for the sake of it.

The same woman a few weeks later asked me directly if I'd be interested in attending future projects in order to document the day and do a write up for them afterwards.  Of course, I jumped at the chance.  It's journalism, but more than that it's a privilege to be in some way supporting such worthy causes.

On Thursday I attended my first one.  It was organised by the Clusters Project and to tell you what they do I'll quote the website:

The Cluster Project provides supported accommodation to 34 people who have a variety of different needs such as mental health issues and giving up drugs or alcohol.  The project stretches across Sheffield into areas including Crookesmoor, Lower Manor, Broomhall and Gleadless.

The plan was to get a group of customers together for a 'Cook n Eat' session.  Learn about cooking, talk about cooking, get involved and then eat the rewards!  Lee Vintin from Eten stepped up to be the cooking host for the day - and he very bravely refused to see any of the ingredients beforehand!

Lee's challenge was to cook decent meals from limited ingredients - and talk us through how he did it.  He covered all kinds of useful things from fridge settings to how to chop an onion properly.  The customers who came volunteered to help Lee make pancakes, meatballs and more.

I have a lot of admiration for the folk at Eten.  They're so open to running any kind of event and to getting involved with their local community in any kind of way.

I think people generally avoid home cooking because of a lack of knowledge.  This event allowed those there to learn through involvement but also allowed them to leave feeling empowered to do their own cooking at home.

I'm saving most of my words about this day for the write up I'll do for SYHA's website.  It was a really humbling, feel-good day.  SYHA's objectives to me seem to be all about educating, empowering and engaging people, and they're doing that by putting on creative events that create a community for their customers.

The best part for me was in the last hour when the customers were really relaxed.  They were catching up with each other and cracking wicked jokes, followed by raucous belly laughs.  It was lovely!

The second best part was that I got to live Tweet throughout the event!  I am a complete and utter Twitter geek, loved it.

A photographer friend of mine also came along to capture the day and got some beautiful shots!  I'll leave you with one of me trying to look like I'm not dying from flu:

You can follow Eten on Twitter here, SYHA here and find José on Instagram here.

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