How One Little Boy in Northern Thailand Learned to Love Baking
Who: Jade and Toby Keller, son Cy, and dog Dot
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Read Parts 1 and 2: Jade’s Thai Kitchen in Chiang Mai and Why Jade Shipped Her Special Wedding Dishes Across the Globe
Jade works as the Educational Program Manager at the SOLD Project, an NGO in Northern Thailand working to prevent the trafficking of children into sexual servitude. Recently Jade introduced baking into the project’s curriculum, which means that she totes her small kitchen oven to the SOLD project’s facilities every afternoon to bake with the students.
The kids love baking, as she told me, particularly one 11-year-old boy named Jai.
About The Sold Project
SOLD provides at-risk children with scholarships to help keep them in school, and with a Community Resource Center to offer them a safe place to stay after school to receive help with homework, mentorship, and workshops in various fields.
Now that baking has been introduced into the curriculum, the kids make cookies, cakes, anything that gets them excited to be in the kitchen learning something new. As it turns out, homey American sweets such as chocolate chip cookies are universally beloved!
One little boy in particular loves being around food. Here’s what Jade says:
At The SOLD Project, we try to inspire the kids to dream big and we try to expand their horizons to include a lot more possibilities than they initially see in front of them. When I first asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up, they all said they wanted to be teachers. Teaching is obviously a fine profession, but it’s clear they only all wanted to be teachers because that was all they knew. So the staff and volunteers all try to share their own passions with the children to see if we can spark any latent interests, and for me, one of my passions is baking.
Now, the kitchen at The SOLD Project’s Resource Center is only minimally equipped. To get the kids involved in baking, I had to bring all my own supplies, including mixing bowls, measuring cups, ingredients, recipes (translated into Thai), and my oven! Thankfully, it’s small and light enough to transport from my house to our Resource Center. At one of the very first baking sessions, there was an 11-year-old boy named Jai (name changed to protect privacy). His mother was a prostitute in Bangkok and he lived with his stepdad and grandfather who constantly bullied him, telling him he wasn’t his stepdad’s real son, making him feel like a freeloader and outsider.
Despite his upbringing, he’s gregarious and witty, and when he heard we were making chocolate chip cookies (which he, like many of students, had never had before), he jumped right in and helped measure out the flour and sugars and mix the dough. When we put the cookies in the oven, the other kids wandered out to go play, but Jai plopped himself down in front of the oven and sat there to watch the cookies bake. He has a hard time at school — doesn’t always attend, doesn’t always do his homework — but he always showed up for cooking and baking sessions. He loves food and he loves being a part of its preparation.
I’m trying to encourage him to train to be a chef. I could easily imagine him finishing formal training and working in a local hotel or other fancy restaurant, or even setting out in a shop of his own. I see his eyes light up at the thought, but he always says no.
He has trouble believing he could be good at anything. But that’s why we’re there: to try to prove them different.
Thanks so much for sharing, Jade!