In the summer of 2018, Lolita Richards facilitated her second ArtReach-funded iteration of Wee Bake, a workshop series serving youth in the West Hill area through the East Scarborough Storefront Community Centre, a free commercial kitchen space in Scarborough. Wee Bake is a unique program in that it combines the development of baking skills and basic financial education into fun activities for youth, two valuable skills that Lolita saw were not being taught in schools.
The 2018 round of Wee Bake saw 25 young aspiring bakers, aged 14-17. Of these participants, almost half were from the previous time Wee Bake was run, illustrating the success of the program and enthusiasm of participants to get back in the kitchen with Lolita.
But while most participants were eager to develop their skills and get baking, Lolita tells us that she “also had a couple of returning participants who in the beginning didn’t take the program very seriously, but by the end of the 8 weeks, were really focused on creating a beautiful cake with decorations that they had baked on their own at home”. She shares that, “it was nice to see them grow in that way”.
In reflecting on the impact Wee Bake has had on youth participants in the community, Lolita notes that, “a lot of the program participants have discovered their passion through baking". A returning participant even expressed to Lolita that "through the Wee Bake program, I was able to realize my passion for baking and now know what I'd like to do once I complete high school. I've even already started making cakes for family gatherings!". Lolita notes that, "it’s great to be able to find something you are passionate about at an early age because you can take that passion and make it into a career".
Helping turn passions into careers is exactly what ArtReach grants are meant to do. As a funder, we're here to provide the opportunity for community change-makers to develop both their skills as a project leader and an artist in the hopes that they’re able to establish themselves in the youth arts sector. Lolita told us that “leading this project has supported my individual skills as a leader by helping me to gain new valuable skills like budgeting, as well as honing in on some strengths. I am now more confident in my grant writing skills, teaching/ facilitation style, and project management abilities.”
When asked what was next for Wee Bake, Lolita said, “I see the program expanding. For the third year of the program, I intend to have access to the kitchen for a longer period of time, and hope to bring in more industry experts to run workshops in subjects like vegan baking and financial literacy. My ultimate goal is to raise funds in order to facilitate Wee Bake throughout the school year, as well as obtain contracts from local schools to operate Wee Bake on a long term basis.”
From the large number of youth who expressed the hope that programing would continue throughout the year, to staff and community members at East Scarborough Storefront consistently gathering after sessions hoping there would be enough baked goods to share, it’s easy to see that Wee Bake is a program vital to the youth and community in the West Hill neighbourhood.
Learn more at instagram.com/madebymoi_desserts