Callander Youth Project Visit Washington in Community

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As part of the Year of Young People, British Council Scotland has teamed up the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Community Jobs Scotland scheme to create new opportunities for young people to take part in international knowledge exchange visits to learn new skills and make new connections.

A group from Callander Youth Project, the award-winning Scottish social enterprise, are just back from Washington DC where they visited DC Central Kitchen to share their work, meet key staff and learn more about their approach.

We spoke to CYP Hospitality Assistants Eilidh (19) and Zara (21) about their experience:

What happened when you visited DC Central Kitchens?

Zara: We got a tour of the different areas, met the staff and learned about what they do. They turn food waste into healthy cooked meals for schools & homeless shelters, including their own shelter which is used by 1,100 people! They also have a culinary training programme for unemployed adults.

Eilidh: We spent time volunteering in The Kitchen, preparing food and packing orders. We met Lily Banning who is the nutrition and community education manager. She holds information sessions so people can learn about the culinary training programme.

We also went to the Nutrition Lab where we talked to Ronald Taylor, the nutrition and community education programme assistant. He told us how he helps people by teaching them to cook healthy meals. He was really passionate and said he did it because he grew up in a poor area and felt he had the opportunity to make a difference now.

Did you get to see any of the work in action?

Zara: Yeah, we spoke to Jeffrey who is the community outreach specialist. He runs a class called ‘Empowerment’ where he teaches people about behaviour and how important the right attitude is in the workplace. We sat in on one of his classes which was really interesting. We got to meet some of the people on the programme and see how Jeffrey’s teaching impacted them.

Eilidh: His way of training people was very empowering and positive, but realistic as well. He explained that life can be difficult and that to succeed you have to make mistakes. It was very interesting to listen to.

Did you have time to explore Washington?

Eilidh: We were fortunate enough to visit the Smithsonian [Museum of Natural History] and to go on a tour of the Capitol Building, which was amazing!

Zara: While we were there, the Washington Capitals ice hockey team won their first championship in 44 years, so there was a huge parade. It was really cool to see Washington in celebration mode!

Eilidh: Washington is very different to what you see on TV. It’s a lot more striking in real life and so beautiful!

What stood out to you most from the trip?

Eilidh: For me, it was meeting Jess who works at the Kitchen. She was a 6-time convicted felon who struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. She was homeless before DC Central Kitchen gave her a chance. Since starting work there she has been promoted four times and is now coordinates thousands of volunteers.

She showed us videos of other people who have struggled, been through the culinary training programme, and come out the other end. One woman even became a teacher.

She also recommended we go to an exhibition called ‘Evicted’ which showed real examples of the housing situation in America. It was a real eye-opener to see how easy it is to be evicted from your home and how difficult it is to get back on your feet!

Zara: The bit that stood out to me was the day we helped with breakfast before it was sent to one of the shelters, which houses 110 people. A lot of them are in rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol. Learning about all of that kind of fascinated me.

There was also a woman called Cora who was such a nice lady and really funny. She told us that after getting clean she went on the DC Central Kitchen culinary programme then got a job at the Nutrition Lab. She’s been there almost two years now.

What will you take away from the experience?

Zara: I’ll take away what Jeffrey taught us in his class, that different emotions can get to you but it’s important to take steps to calm yourself down. Everything that has happened this week will stay in my mind, though. It was just absolutely incredible to be involved in.

Eilidh: I’ve done a lot of self-reflection looking at how grateful the people we met are for what they have and the opportunities they’ve had. So I’ll definitely be taking back a sense of what I have to be grateful for, and the opportunities I have because of where I work. The trip was full of amazing opportunities and information, I’m so grateful I was able to come here and see how they do things!

More Info

DC Central Kitchen collects waste food, turns it into healthy meals, distributes these meals to shelters and schools, and uses the process to train unemployed adults in culinary skills. The Kitchen works closely with young people in Washington by encouraging them to collect waste food from their schools or colleges, and by running a youth job training centre.

CYP provides recreational space, support, and culinary training for people aged 11-25 in Callander and the surrounding area. Find out more about the project here and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

British Council Scotland is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter to stay up to date with the latest opportunities and funding.