Sangeetha: Together was born out of the need to help young people in the autistic spectrum to prepare for independent living beyond the lifetime of their parents.
Together life skills centre is a not-for-profit organization that prepares students for vocational programs such as baking, job work from corporates and weighing and packaging.
We teach them everything that they need to know for independent living so vocational training is one part of it, then there is communication, there is life skills, there is a computer training program, kitchen management program, self-care, care of the environment, we have tried to imagine an entire day in their life and we are trying to take them through all the hurdles that they are likely to face.
Sangeetha: The reason we got into the bakery was to help our students do something that they enjoy, and many of them liked to work in the kitchen space. Second thing is to help them to build an identity for themselves beyond the organization.
So the whole concept of the bakery was to help them set up a local business for themselves, wherever they live and to build an independent identity.
We have set-up a commercial bakery in the center, with an FSSAI license that we got 6 months back. This was to enable us to cater to a greater demand and enable us to approach educational organizations to support our bakery. We are looking forward to catering to a larger community by spreading the beauty of our baked goodies that are healthy for everyone.
Sangeetha: When we started 2 years ago, we were doing things stereotypically – by adding refined white sugar in our baked products. When we approached educational organizations to buy products from us they were reluctant to take anything that has too much refined sugar as they encourage healthy eating habits in their schools, and thus we were left with no choice but to rework our model to make it healthy for all.
That, and a talk with a gentleman, Mr. A.K. Kundra who runs a residential program called Autism Ashram in Hyderabad told us that they do not allow sugar on their premises. Infact when there is a birthday, they light a candle on top of a samosa and not a cake.
He rightly pointed out that people with autism in particular have a difficult time in getting medical investigation done – a simple injection can be a very traumatic experience. Hence, we have to be careful that they do not get diabetes or any other issues due to improper diet (especially one that is high on sugar).
Monica: And dairy free – how did that happen?
Sangeetha: We realized we needed some professional help in training our students in simple healthy recipes to bake and we decided to get in touch with SHARAN to train us.
SHARAN sent their team to our center and taught the students simple, easy-to-learn, vegan recipes made with organic ingredients that are sugar-free, oil-free and super yummy. They went a step-forward by inviting us to participate in their Organic Farmer’s Market in Juhu that happens every Sunday and we have been getting a wonderful response to our products thanks to this.
Monica: Can you please share details of your students who have started their own baking initiatives?
Sangeetha: Our students from the age group of 13-25) have come a long way and are now ready to launch their own local bakery businesses at Andheri, Kandivali and Bhandup. We have Alby Chiramel‘s baked organic treats that you can order from him from Andheri East (Call: 9930581708), Arnav Shome in Bhandup West (Call: 9820575901), Benita Benny in Andheri East (Call: 98205-77371) and Krishna Khandelwal in Kandivali East (Call: 9820810395).
We would like to mention that Madhura Vayal and Rosemol Pinto from the SHARAN team went for training the students in healthy recipes. Rosemol had this to say about her experience,
Together is looking to hire a full time baker to teach the kitchen some healthy, dairy-free recipes. It is a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge and help a kitchen go completely vegan. They are even willing to compensate for the time and travel expenses. If interested, please get in touch with Sangeetha on 9930358173.
Their organic, healthy kitchen is also open for bulk orders. Schedule your weekend and rush to the Juhu Organic Market every Sunday to try their delicious vegan cookies and date balls.
This post has been written by Monica Chopra
To read about Arnav Shome and his family , click here