Having just moved to Canada, on my first day of school, I found myself fumbling for some stationery. After, what felt like eons of searching, I turned to the guy sitting next to me and asked, “Excuse me, do you have a rubber?”. To my horrific surprise, his reddening cheeks burst with laughter and sentenced me to a term of embarrassment, while teaching me that what I was looking for was identified as an eraser. Eventually, I learnt that different people identify and interpret things differently and that it is crucial to be on the same page to communicate efficiently (or well, at least to save one-self from utter embarrassment) – Embarrassed group member.
This past week, our objective was to improve communication between the group. This was done by exchanging availabilities, designing a weekly meeting schedule, delegating tasks and setting short-term goals in order to complete our project in an effective and timely manner. The above, allowed us to search for additional community accessible kitchens, start contacting kitchen managers, and scheduling visits to the assigned kitchens in our neighbourhood. Since our contacting efforts were made closer to lunchtime, we were only able to connect with two kitchen managers.
Our approach included calling and emailing the facility and making the necessary arrangements. During this process, one of the kitchen managers initially agreed to a kitchen visit and later decided otherwise.The manager explained that his schedule had filled up and gave the impression that he perceived the kitchen was inadequate for the purpose of our project. He then redirected us to a city-run community kitchen.This indicated that there may have been some miscommunication regarding the nature of our project, although, we felt that we were clear about our purpose. Thus, a clarification of our interests in non-city run kitchens, of all forms, may have been required. A communication gap may have occurred due to some assumptions made based on the response received during the initial phone conversation. This is a reflection of how different people may have varying interpretations to what is being communicated.
Initially, we felt a little discouraged, however we realize that these are some of the challenges faced during community based learning. Moving forward, it will be important that we keep this experience in mind while interacting with members of the community. Especially during the interview process, where even non-verbal communication by the interviewer may be interpreted differently by the interviewee, further leading to a bias in information provided. Hence, neutrality in expression and reactions to survey answers will not only assure the collection of unbiased data but also prevent these individuals from feeling judged. If interviewees are hesitant or do not know how to answer a question, try asking it in a clearer manner.
Our experience can be likened to The Fish Bank podcast by Jensi Sartin. In this podcast, a fish sanctuary is created on the coast of Bali, Indonesia. The sanctuary received overwhelming support by the local community and after a number of years, the protected fish flourished, as well as fish in surrounding waters. This can be related to community kitchens as a whole. The fish sanctuary shows that by nurturing certain members of the community you can strengthen the system as a whole. In a sense, a community kitchen could be considered a human sanctuary that aims to strengthen those most in need until they are able to go out into the “wild” again.
We come into the equation as a sort of independent consultant to the fish reserve. Our goal is to identify ways these protective establishments can be supported and to reiterate their needs to an authority who can achieve this. What we aim to accomplish is somewhat like developmental aid consulting, in that we hope to serve and develop these establishments much like they serve and impact their surroundings.