The girls at Neema recently worked together to cook Pilau Njeri, a Kenyan delicacy. When I first saw this name, I knew I had to look up the dish and see if it was something I could make here in the US! Looks like it might not be so difficult after all with primarily rice, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and chilies as ingredients. But if I made it here, they obviously wouldn’t be fresh Kenyan ingredients and I’d lose the shared environment of group preparation.
At Neema, we prioritize not only the practical skills of tailoring, but skills essential for life. Our cook, Enoch, has been a faithful member of the Neema staff team for many years now. With his help, the young women regularly take part in a catering class. It’s through this class that they learn how to cook traditional, balanced, and nutritional Kenyan meals - foods they will be able to continue making after graduating from Neema.
This could be while living independently or back in their village community on a limited income. But don’t make the mistake of thinking these meals taste as bland as a can of beans from Giant! In Kenya, whenever possible, cooks know how to properly spice their meals.
Oh and of course, a full meal in Kenya comes with chapati, a soft, warm, and buttery not-so-flat flatbread. What’s important is that the young women who graduate from Neema will be able to either start a new life in a new location, or return to their home life with the ability to feed themselves and their children with healthy and nutritious food.
Enoch is an integral part of this process. Without him, it wouldn’t be possible to prepare the girls at Neema holistically because most of them come with minimal cooking skills. Enoch has been a consistent positive male example to the Neema girls, some of whom have not experienced this before. He shares his passion for cooking with them but also has become someone they can trust. Enoch himself is rewarded every year as he watches young women leave Neema with a bright and healthier future ahead of them.