Young Carers Cook Up a Storm

Published: 10th May 2018

With an appetite for learning, a group of young carers from South Tyneside has made weekly visits to the Baltic Campus at Gateshead College to receive cooking lessons, thanks to the Rotary Club of Jarrow and Harton.

Over a six-week period, youngsters aged between 13 and 18, who are part of the Young Carers worked in a professional kitchen where they prepared food and created meals.

The course, which was funded by the Rotary Club of Jarrow with Harton, as part of the ‘Fresh Cooking for Young Carers’, taught the young people new skills whilst also giving them a break from their caring roles.

Karen Ahmed, South Tyneside Young Carers project manager, said: “The course was a huge success with our young carers who have learnt new life skills that will not only help them but the people they care for.  At home, along with other tasks such as dispensing medicines, cleaning and hoovering, doing the food shopping and washing clothes and dishes, our youngsters often have to prepare meals.

“One of the main issues we see with young carers is self-esteem problems and often when they reach adulthood they struggle to find employment. We cannot thank both Gateshead College and the Rotary club enough for giving our youngsters the opportunity to experience working in a non-intimidating professional environment which we hope will help to break down the barrier for going to college and university. Not only that, they provided a safe and exciting place for our young carers to relax and enjoy some ‘me’ time – something they often struggle to find time for.”

Young Carer, Jayne Plummer, 18, said: “The cooking course has really helped me feel a lot more confident in the kitchen and I’ve cooked a few of the dishes at home which went down well. I really looked forward to our weekly classes and I’m pleased with the new skills I have gained.”

Leading the classes were Chris Toon, deputy principal – curriculum and quality and Stuart Hawkins, chef and catering teacher, both of whom gave their time on a voluntary basis.

Chris Toon, said: “We were delighted to support this brilliant project. At Gateshead College our aim is to help people develop skills which will assist them to get ahead in life and work. Having the opportunity to work with these young people and seeing them grow in confidence and ability was fantastic and I am sure the experience will really benefit them not only at home but as they start making plans for their future.”

All ingredients were paid for by Gateshead College and the youngsters made dishes such as pasta and meatballs, chicken korma and sticky toffee pudding, all of which they were able to take home and share with their families and the people they care for.

Peter Haigh, secretary of Jarrow and Harton Rotary Club, said: “We are delighted that South Tyneside Young Carers accepted the invitation to participate in the “Fresh Cooking for Young Carers” program that Rotary is sponsoring in the North East Region. The club, which meets on Tuesday evenings at The Customs House, South Shields, has also contributed £400 towards the costs of transport as part of its charitable program for the year and hopes to continue supporting young carers in future years.”