Summer Community Baking
It Was a Hot Summer Day
It is one of those rare warm summery days in London and I am sitting in a public outdoor space, no phone, no internet just focusing on writing this blogpost. I can hear excited happy children playing with fountains in the background.
The whole scene reminds me of my childhood when my younger brother and I water play on our balcony during Tehran’s hottest summer afternoons. I don't think we were allowed to be this loud.
I grew up in a traditional society, where I was not quite sure if I enjoyed or even appreciated that much the notion of community life. The way my younger self experienced it, was more limiting and more than a barrier in order to exercise my individuality rather than anything else. In other words, I was not the one who chose to be part of that community life and value system at the core of it.
Working with Junior Flatbread Makers
I’d like to share a bit of the background story of how I started to organise my Community Baking Workshops this summer and the way I see myself being part of communities.
I do not think that I have ever talked about my two years of working as a part-time administrator, in a little tiny school for children with autism in south west London called Snowflake School. It was during my first years of being in London. The whole experience was quite new to me, I never worked in a school environment, let alone in a school for children with special needs. I learnt a lot on a daily basis, not only about autism, also the world of parents living with special needs children. That was my first exposure to the power of a community in London. A community of parents which was mainly formed around a common issue and they were all equally determined to find a common solution for that shared issue.
I received the most genuine love and affection from the students in their own unique way.That day when a tiny little girl pointed at Dora - in Dora the Explorer children’s book - and said, “Aw! this is Leila”, it was one of my sweetest memories.
When I started Bake2Explore, I had a chance to bake with my friends’ kids and their friends on different occasions and we had so much fun. I also received lots of positive feedback from those who baked with their children, using my Flatbread Making Kits. This includes a few colleagues in the co-working space that I’m working from, where I tried my kits with their children during one of the mid-term school holidays. Based on those fun, exciting and well received sessions, I was looking for any opportunity to work with children again.
Community Baking Idea
Overtime, I gradually and painfully learned how to build up my own community around my values, my world view and what I care about the most. My lived experience as a migrant woman played an important role in deepening my understanding and perception of race, diversity, intersectionality and the power dynamic between communities. Studying and working in the human rights field also introduced me to a more structured right based approach in life.
It took me a while to be able to put those concepts into meaningful practices, I would admit.
Earlier this year, I attended Asma Khan’s talk during the launch of Sejal Sukhadwala’s book at the British Library. She talked about the role of community cooking in connecting communities together, it was a light bulb moment for me. I think that was the moment I found my angel and the way in which I want to contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community. Then I started to try different channels to get connected to community centres who are working with families and children to improve their health and wellbeing. Those who were open and looking for some new experiences for summer activities.
Believe it or not it was through a post on NextDoor Application that I started a conversation which led to a fun and memorable collaboration with Spring Community Hub. Then through them to more than 50 families and children in South East London.
“Dare to Dream, Dare to Believe, Dare to Do”
Charlotte Tilbury's passionate voice is in my head, “Dare to Dream it, Dare to Believe it, Dare to Do it.” This is an exact example of what the founder of the Snowflake School has been following as well as all those amazing volunteers - mainly women- in the community centres that I had a chance to work with so far.
A sense of belonging, collaboration and co-creation, daring to change, meaningful and conscious choices, became the major reasons that I would create my communities around. This way of thinking so far has opened opportunities to be part of different communities beyond my geographical location and my cultural background, which I am grateful for.
How do you define and find your community?