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Baking with love
23 December 2016

Star PALS families get bonding time during baking workshop

Contributions from Bernice Pua

In a time when the stress of daily life becomes increasingly taxing, family bonding time has to take precedence so that relationships can be renewed and values restored. This is especially important for families who are coping with children who are facing life-limiting illnesses. HCA Hospice Care (HCA) understands this need keenly, as we tend to the children under our Star PALS programme.

Working with generous sponsors like BITC (Baking Industry Training College) and ToTT, HCA’s Star PALS beneficiaries and their families were treated to a very special family event, “Baking with Love’, where children and their parents gained both culinary and life skills, over a Friday and Sunday respectively.

Sarah Foo, Senior Marcom Executive of the ToTT store shared, “We aim to inspire others by demonstrating that cooking and food is more than just ingredients and recipes – it’s about encouraging imagination, empowerment and creativity.”

BITC’s FRIDAY SESSION

In a classroom at BITC situated high up in Prima Tower, their chefs prepared the room for a very special group of participants. Placing on their signature chef hats, they waited eagerly to welcome the Star PALS beneficiaries, their families and volunteers.

The day opened with an introductory speech by HCA’s Medical Director, Dr Chong Poh Heng.

Everyone was ushered into the lab, donning aprons and hair-nets and settled into groups of four. The chefs then started introducing the many ingredients to the feature of the day – apple crumble.

A beneficiary’s parent Madam Nani said “It’s a good and fun activity. I found the entire process enjoyable. But just one thing – the portions are too small!”

Ranon, younger brother to a Star PALS beneficiary also commented “This is very fun and interesting. I prefer cooking and being in the kitchen than going outside.”

Bonding is not only for family members, as strangers soon became good friends in a few short hours.  Madam Azizah’s group had such fun working together, that it didn’t take long for laughter to be breaking out while they worked. She told us about her new found friend, “This is Parmis! I’ve only met her 3 hours ago!”

HCA’s Medical Director, Dr. Chong, who also gamely tried his hand at the baking activity, shared his perspective, “This event allows us to get in touch with our patients on a more personal level. Events like this provide a less tense environment and facilitates interaction, allowing us to better understand a family’s situation. This can then help me work with them better.”

ToTT’s SUNDAY SOIREE

At the ToTT store at Sime Darby Centre, a carefully crafted programme was organised to create a light-hearted and fun environment for our beneficiaries and their family members. Spending time together outside of the home care environment is a much treasured experience, as the daily chores of caregiving are put on hold for a few hours.

On hand to greet the participants was Spider-man, clad in bright, flashing sneakers and “bling” wristbands.

“Okay, let’s go, come on!” Spiderman said, hefting up large bags of goodies. “Hi, how are you?” the friendly web-slinger greeted the first child he saw. “Would you like a balloon?” He took a balloon out and connected it to the trusty electric balloon inflator hanging on his left hip. A few twists and turns later, a white rubber sword appeared in his gloved hands. He handed it to the boy, who looked on in amazement.

During the baking session, the participants were guided by a team consisting of baker Jane and other ToTT staff. Everyone donned aprons that were handed out and begun the session by scooping out premixed chocolate dough into cups, topping it with a light sprinkle of chocolate chips. Soon, the room was filled with the wonderful aroma of cupcakes baking in the oven.

While piping purple icing on her freshly baked cupcakes, Amanda, big sister to a Star PALS patient described the event, “Its so fun! It feels kind of like a home economics lesson that we learn in school.”

There was also a session where the families took to making the perennial favourite, pizza.

One of the participating parents, Kelvin, shared “It’s quite nice to chat with other parents who share the same situation. When people don’t experience what you have, they can’t understand and sometimes behave quite insensitively.”

Hety, a Star PALS patient’s mother added, “It’s nice to have something like this to bond with the children and it helps us relieve stress that accumulate over the week.”

As the weekend came to a close, HCA’s Medical Director Dr Chong wrapped up the events with these thoughts, “The intention of these events is to provide some respite to the caregivers and the families – a time when all can just relax and have fun. Sometimes, if there is a child that requires special attention, the other siblings may tend to get less attention. By actively strengthening family bonds, we help them foster mutual understanding, remind them that they too are loved.”

Where situations seemed less than perfect, our Star PALS families learned that coping with challenges can be made easier when everyone comes together as a family.