Chennai : Taking their skill development programme up a notch, The Banyan, an NGO for the mentally ill, launched Nalam Bakers and Nalam Café run by people with mental health issues. Eight bakers and four servers in an apron and a disposable cap on their heads, walked around the launch party distributing their healthy snacks including cutlets and 300 cakes they had baked in the last two days. How healthy is this, you ask?
Senthil Kumar Balu explained the upgraded concept of cooking in The Banyan “They have been baking for the past three years but what I’ve done is upgrade their products in terms of its health quotient. For instance, we use oats instead of maida, palm sugar than the refined sugar and ingredients rich in antioxidants and vitamins. They were given training in a weekly workshop conducted for two months and the results have been satisfactory,” smiles Senthil who also runs his own bakery called Wholesome Rhapsody.
Customized according to the needs of the customers, the Nalam bakers will improvise on the recipes. “If the customer is diabetic, we wouldn’t use palm sugar instead go for natural ingredients like prunes and blueberries that will give the necessary sweetness. They are trained in four healthy recipes. For now they can bake without any help or supervision,” added Senthil.
Joining us was Archana Padmakar, assistant director. “What I observed during the course of their training was they found it difficult initially. First, they were made to observe Senthil’s demonstrations and encouraged to try their hands too. Senthil gave them feedback on how they can improve. Some required emotional back up when their dishes did not turn out well but towards the end, their perfect cakes brought changes in so many ways – be it happiness or improvement in their motor skills and concentration.”
Porselvi, Rajarajeshwari and Anita from Nalam Café share their moments of happiness. Rajarajeshwari said The Banyan has helped her in “unbelievable ways” and they are her family now. “I help in the kitchen, sell flowers to make a living and love talking to my friends,” she smiles. Anita pipes in about her love for cakes. “Though I’ve been baking for the past two years, I’ve learnt a lot from the workshop – mango cake, egg cakes and my most favorite orange cake!” she grins.
Nalam Bakers and Nalam Café is a huge step forward for The Banyan, which is famous for its work with people with mental illness. It’s also a way to help such women earn decent livelihoods.
Note: News shared for public awareness with reference from the information provided at online news portals.