Zeenat Fayyaz has been cooking up spices and smiles for the families of Coldharbour with her project Healthy Indian Cooking with Mindfulness and Laughter. With support from The Healthy Living Platform, Zeenat has used her LEAP award funding to deliver healthy and educational Indian cooking sessions incorporating laughter yoga, singing, and play.

Lady reading children's books over the internet

The project got off to a great start with two sessions held at the St Matthew’s Community Hall celebrating Diwali, before the government issued lockdown came into place. However, this did not stop Zeenat and Helen Wiggins from The Healthy Living Platform who, after much planning and many meetings, successfully moved the project online.

While there has been a few teething issues with technical difficulties, the team have adapted to delivering in the virtual. Zeenat said:

You just have to work through it, there have been a few challenges … but we are keeping [the families] engaged.

This engagement has been seen through a group Whatsapp, where recipes and photos are shared, as well as through ingredient drop-offs. For example, to make sure the families have access to specific ingredients, distributions of things like spice packs and chapatti flour have been organised by the group and participants. In addition to this, all the sessions are recorded and sent out for families to access the sessions even if they do not have a streaming device.

Healthy Indian Cooking with Mindfulness and Laughter has been beneficial for the community with the online sessions seeing increasing numbers of participants, keeping more and more families in Lambeth connected – something especially needed in these times of social distancing.

There has been lots of positive feedback about the online set-up from parents. One said:

My daughter and I really enjoyed the session, it gave me an opportunity to learn new skills in the comfort of my own home.

The inspiration for the project was drawn from Zeenat’s own experience in the kitchen with her five children and grandchild, Rakeem. She says that she wanted to deliver a project to the community that was new and different, and most importantly came from what she knew. On top of this, Zeenat has worked with children as a Cresh manager as well as being a laughter yoga facilitator for adults. Another parent said that taking part in Zeenat’s session with her son was particularly enjoyable:

It was our first time making [roti’s] together and he loved it so much I am confident now I can do it with him again, he really liked the singing and laughing session too, he stayed engaged and was laughing loads so I was impressed.

Overall, keeping the community connected through good food, laughter and play, ‘Healthy Indian Cooking with Mindfulness and Laughter’ has been rewarding for all those involved.

Apply for a LEAP Community award