Social networks are starting to play an important role during these unprecedented times, with lockdown and social distancing having a real impact on everyone’s social and private lives.
The Bags of Taste Mentored Home Cooking Course, which we do on WhatsApp (mainly, though we can also do it over the phone), is now giving a lot of our students a sense of inclusion and engagement with the outside world.
A major benefit for students on our mentored home cooking course is that they work with volunteer mentors for two weeks while the course runs.
This means much more support and encouragement as they embark on the journey to healthier diets and savings on shopping, when compared with 2-3 hour cooking sessions in our in-person courses.
The Mentored Home Cooking Course also opens up our programme to a wider audience, who would never have had access to in-person cooking lessons.
I’ve worked with people with disabilities, mothers with young children, and those who live too far away from the venue, people who could never have participated before.
Of course, not everyone on the course is technically-savvy or experienced with WhatsApp, and some people are very private or shy.
I have found that the mentoring support we give, beyond the WhatsApp groups, by calling and speaking directly with the participants, helps people gain confidence in cooking as well as using social media.
Participants on the Mentored Home cooking course also benefit from being able to re-watch videos, and we can re-share instructions, as well as provide real time feedback on any questions.
I have found that bonding as a group is a key part of the programme, and I actively encourage group members to engage with each other as well as me.
When we start out, I always let the participants know they’ll be cooking some of my favourite BoT recipes to build their curiosity and find common interests, so that they also interact with each other.
This creates a virtual space where people feel comfortable sharing information and discussing with each other.
There are also benefits for volunteers too!
The timings of the course fits perfectly into my work-life balance.
Most people cook the recipes in the evening so I can respond them, and during the day when I have a spare minute, I can respond to WhatsApp messages too, as a break from work.