I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and I wish you and your family a wonderful 2016. I hope this year is better than 2015.
So, back in December, I went to Brazil for a holiday for 3 weeks. We usually split the period there between two states, Rio Grande do Sul state, on the South and Espirito Santo state on the south eastern part of Brazil. However, this time we spent more days in the South, where my family live.
I had decided, two months before our departure, to put in to practise an old project: a workshop about healthy gluten free baking to raise awareness about Celiac Disease in the Sarandi region and also to raise money for a local charity organization called Lar Da Menina. The organization welcomes young girls aged between 5-16 years, who could be vulnerable and offers free recreational, educational and cultural activities, outside of school hours. The organization’s goal is to integrate and socialize children and adolescents, guaranteeing fundamental right, such as safety and security in the society in which they live. In addition to the work done, the Charity Organization also offers support, social and educational orientation for parents of the young girls.
It was a challenging project because I had to organize everything from the UK and arrived in the city only one day before the Event. I contacted Consuelo, a friend who lives in Sarandi and follows a gluten free diet and invited her to join me on this project. She was really excited to be involved and from there we started to organize everything via emails and whataspp messages.
I am someone who likes things to move quickly and Consuelo is very proactive so I was responsible for developing recipes for the workshop, researching good and reliable gluten free products and contacting companies that had a very good reputation amongst the Celiac community in Brazil, and who have a good social ethic. I invited them to join us on this project by donating ingredients for the workshop, goodie bags and closing event degustation.
Consuelo was responsible for the workshop space, marketing, eliciting and finding local support. We were overwhelmed with the positive response we received. By the middle of November we had everything we needed in order to make this event successful. The local health and organic grocery Sabor Natural joined us and donated some of the ingredients and took care of the bookings.
Thanks to the local newspapers and magazine, Jornal a Regiao, Folha da Producao e Revista Spelho, we had several articles talking about celiac disease, gluten free diet and gluten free recipes in the weeks before the event.
The day before the event, Consuelo and I were unpacking boxes and checking all the ingredients sent by the sponsors: Sem Glúten Alimentos, Bob’s Red Mill Brasil, Carob House, Nazinha, Agtal/Enova Foods, Monama, Seu Divino, Finococo Organicos, Damas Detox. We collected the vegetables and fruit donated by the local shop Fruteira Texas. We filled the fridge with mineral water donated by Aguas Minerais Sarandi and with sparkling wine for our closing event donated by Vinhos Don Gentil.
We had the bags for our goodies donated by Peregrino Malhas e Confeccoes, and the the recipe booklet printed by VS Informatica.
We washed, chopped, measured, weighted and separated all the ingredients and organized some of the recipes for the closing event and by the end of the day we were exhausted but still very excited about the next day.
I also had incredible support from Ester Benatti, who I have known for many years but only met face to face two days before the event. She is someone who has contributed so much to the Celiac community in Brazil. She came from Porto Alegre especially to help me during the event and very early on the Saturday morning we met at the local Radio Sarandi for a one hour interview and to talk about Celiac Disease, gluten free diet conducted by the friendly guys Luiz Fernando Giovanini, Leonardo Portolan e Felipe Laudyr Concatto. After the programme I headed to Lar da Menina where the workshop was going to be held and Ester went to Radio Minuano for another interview and to talk about Celiac Disease.
Consuelo and Queila were at Lar da Menina already organizing things. I changed my clothes, put my apron and hat on, and was excited and ready to start the day. Later, Ester and my friend Elis Favretto, started to filling the 35 goodie bags with delicious products donated by our generous sponsors.
I was expecting more people to help me but they didn’t turn up and my heart start beating faster. We still had lots of things to do but, luckily, the incredible Ana Pasqualoto who was just going to help us in the afternoon also came to help us in the morning. I gave her all the responsibility for the closing event food. She followed my recipe instructions and thanks to her leadership and culinary skills she did a wonderful job.
At 3pm, on a sunny Saturday afternoon we were ready to welcome 25 people to start the event. They all came with a big smile and it was an opportunity for me to see some of the people I have known for so many years, others that I have only known via the social media and also new faces.
Each person received an apron and water donated by Aguas Minerais Sarandi, a hat and a recipe booklet. Consuelo welcomed all the students and Ester gave an excellent explanation about celiac disease. Once she finished I started talking about gluten free flours and after a demonstration we headed to the kitchen for the workshop.
We split into five groups and each group made four delicious recipes. Ester, Consuelo, Queila, Tatiana helped me to control the time, the ovens and the handing over of ingredients, washing, cleaning so that I could spend time with each group answering questions and making sure everything was running smoothly and according to the schedule.
The atmosphere was brilliant and the students were really happy and excited. I enjoyed every single minute. Between one recipe and another we enjoyed the freshly baked pizzas and focaccias and I was overwhelmed with their comments. It was really rewarding.
After 3 hours baking it was time to taste, not only what we had made but also some of the products donated by our sponsors, some of the dishes we had made for the closing event and to enjoy the delicious Moscatel sparkling wine donated by Vinhos Don Gentil.
It was really rewarding to see everyone enjoying themselves and chatting about how happy they were with the workshop. Most of them were surprised how delicious gluten free and healthy food is. By 8pm, we had handed the goodie bags full of delicious products and with a big hug and massive thanks we closed the event.
It was time to pack and tidy up. I was still fully charged! Thanks to the support I received, everything had gone according to plan.
I would like once again, to give a massive thank you to all the people who supported me and made this project a reality. From my Facebook friends and readers who helped me to spread the word about the Workshop, to my friend Consuelo for all her help and support from day one, to Lar da Menina for the space, to Queila, Tatiana, Anna, Elis, Ester for helping before and during the event and to the radios Radio Sarandi and Radio Minuano, newspapers Jornal A Regiao e Folha da Producao and Revista Spelho for helping us to spread the word about celiac disease, to VS Informatica for printing the booklets and massive, massive thanks to all my sponsors Sem Glúten Alimentos, Bob’s Red Mill Brasil, Carob House, Nazinha, Agtal/Enova Foods, Monama, Seu Divino, Finococo Organicos, Damas Detox, Fruteira Texas, Sabor Natural, Aguas Minerais Sarandi e Vinhos Don Gentil who helped me make this project a reality, raise awareness about Celiac Disease in the Sarandi region and also contributed to my fundraising event by donating ingredients so we could then donate all the money received to Lar da Menina.