South London Changemakers: Serena Dyett, Reee_create
This conversation is part of South London Changemakers, a series celebrating the impact of the Community Leadership in Motion (CLiM) programme, that funded community projects across Lambeth and Southwark. Learn more about CLiM here.
In this conversation, we sat down with Serena Dyett, Founder of Reee_create, an evening cookery school that teaches people to make affordable, nutritious meals with what’s in their cupboard.
We spoke about her love of cooking, her favourite recipe to teach and the community she’s building through Reee_create.
Can you tell me a bit about your project and what inspired you to start it?
So Reee_create is all about cooking and how to cook on a low-cost budget, with the stuff that you already have in your cupboards.
I love to cook. For me, it’s simple. I always used to post what I was making on Instagram or my WhatsApp status, and everyone used to love it and say to me: why don’t you do sessions where people can come along and learn to cook? I was constantly having conversations with my friends about cooking, and they always said they didn’t know how to make their favourite dishes and they had to go out to get them. So I decided to do it.
I heard about the CLiM programme and everything kind of came together. Reee_create has been running for about a year now. It’s based in Peckham, but I’ve had people come from all over London. It’s for anyone that wants to participate.
What’s been the impact of your project so far?
It’s managed to attract a really diverse age group, which is great. I have people from their early twenties to their seventies coming along.
When people come to the sessions I try to break the ice and make everyone feel comfortable. That helps people to open up. We’ve found some amazing connections between participants. There were some older ladies who realised they’d both worked in the same school. It’s great to see people making new connections and friends from coming here.
I also love seeing people try new things, and use new ingredients that they weren’t aware of before. People come in thinking they don’t like raisins, but by the end of it, they realise that what they’ve made tastes really nice even though it has raisins in it. It’s all about erasing fear, so that people feel confident to go home and make nutritious, comforting meals for themselves that they can enjoy.
Do you have a favourite recipe that you like to teach?
At the moment, we’re doing Caribbean vegetable soup, a veggie patty and banana oat biscuits. I think my favourite is the patty. Because people love it and they don’t realise how easy it is to make.
What are the challenges that you face as a community group?
There are some practical challenges, like storage. When you’re using kitchen equipment you need someone to store it, or you end up storing everything at home.
Then there are other challenges. Sometimes you get people that come to the sessions who are clearly going through a lot. They might have mental health issues. So knowing how to deal with that is hard, and it’s important to make sure you’re directing them to the right support if needed.
It’s also difficult to get funding to be able to continue the project. It’s free at the moment, and I really want to keep it that way, or at least very low-cost.
How was your experience being part of CLiM?
I got £5k in funding through CLiM, which enabled me to run the sessions. I was able to buy equipment and ingredients, as well as hiring the venue and making recipe cards. I’d never applied for funding before, so it was great to get support with the funding application through the programme. I found that very useful. Since CLiM, I’ve applied for more funding and I’ve been successful.
It was definitely eye-opening learning more about the process of setting up a project. I learnt about the need to have clearly defined aims and actions, so you can ensure that it’s successful. The sessions and guidance from the team broke down the process and made it feel less overwhelming. It was a great experience.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I’ve just had a little one, so I would love to build a team of people that can help, and who I can train to facilitate the sessions. I’d love to see the project be able to continue on into the future, without being so reliant on me.
If you would like to support Reee_create you can donate via Open Collective here.
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