Learning In the Kitchen: Reflections from our YSEALI Fellow

Hi, my name is Kimsorn Ngam, and I am coming to Brainfood from Cambodia, through Young South East Asia Leadership Initiative (YESEALI) program. At first, reading about my work placement at Brainfood, I was almost disappointed with American Councils because I applied for NGO who I can improve my skills with the background of Research and Evaluation. Why did they place me in a kitchen place?

But, when I arrived for my first day, I had a warm welcome from Ms. Carina Gervacio and four other staff members and I felt a bit better. Later on, I was oriented with the schedule, and then I felt more confidence in joining the activities. One week later at Brainfood, I have learnt a lot about programs activities and program’s goals, as I worked with Brainfood’s staff and students.

At home,  I eat many different foods.  I thought food just for feeding people, but when I started my fellowship at Brainfood, I learnt that food it is not just for feeding. On the other hand, it can be used as a tool to educate people of all ages about life skills. Eating is sometimes not as  satisfying without a challenge, and there are more challenges when you are making a food for different people.

I was placed in the Kitchen All Stars class where I met with different youth who were learning how to make food, and sharing outcome from the class, and sharing the challenge of putting together ingredients. While I was in the Kitchen All Star class a boy told me, “I love Brainfood as it was fun and taught me how to be self-independent.”

He continued, “If I stayed at home, I would become a lazy person and I can’t find a better life”. At that time, it was encouraging to me to be more independent at my workplace, at home, as well as in my life.  

In addition to Kitchen All Star class, I helped with the Homegrown program to packing some Old Bay Kale. It looks like a simple thing to pack kale and put label on the bag, but with the first two bags I tried, I  found it very difficult. Then I realized that something that looks easy can sometimes be more difficult in  practice.  

Moreover, at the Columbia Heights site, I learnt about the tools used to monitor and evaluate the program for example student survey questionnaires etc. Furthermore, I learnt a new approach of how to buy things on to budget. At home I used to buy whatever I found interesting  even if they weren’t essential items.

Brainfood is a fun education NGO for youth, and I personally believe if all students graduated from this programs they would gain many life skills, team work experience, public communicational skills etc.  

I hope donors continue supporting Brainfood and funding future opportunities for youth and fellows to learn about the amazing activities at Brainfood’s programs.

Finally, I am strongly happy with my placement.



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