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Bake 2 Educate: teaching life values at the kitchen counter

November 30, 2013
This post comes to us from Katrisha Villarante. Katrisha is part of the community at St. Clare's parish in Coquitlam, British Columbia.  She works for a  multi-faith television network in the Lower Mainland, studies at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and in her spare time blogs, jogs, and gets involved in activities at Vancouver's Crestwell Centre, a centre for young women run by Opus Dei.  While rediscovering her faith she developed a passion for Church History... but graciously agreed to write for us about how everyday activities can help foster Christian values.
Bake 2 Educate: The CALA Girls' Club
By Katrisha Villarante
Fundraising can be a detailed and daunting task. But for a group of girls in Vancouver, it’s just a matter of having the right ingredients. CALA girl’s club, short for Crestwell’s Art of Living Activity, has started a noteworthy initiative called “Bake 2 Educate”. The concept is simple, someone orders a cake, they bake it, and the proceeds go to help a girl receive education in the Ivory Coast of Africa. 
When I first heard about this project I was so intrigued that I sent in an order right away! I had heard of the CALA girl’s club before, but since the Bake 2 Educate initiative began, I was compelled to learn more about the club and their project. When I was their age my mother called me her “little humanitarian”, I had lots of dreams for social initiatives. Some were successful, some not so much.  But these girls seem to be finding much success with this project. And I suspect it has to do with a certain special ingredient, Faith.
Not only are these girls gaining skills in the kitchen, and doing good for others, they are also acquiring spiritual formation. Every Saturday, before getting flour on their faces, they get food for their souls. The girls are High School aged from grade 9 to 12. On any given Saturday, 6-8 girls show up to participate. 
The club is rather impressive, but it doesn’t happen without some behind-the scenes effort. Some of the logistics include: getting in touch with the charity organization, receiving orders for cakes, shopping for ingredients, and ensuring that the girls are given valuable spiritual formation. Behind all this are three lovely ladies, Edith Escobar, Coeli Bugash and Phae Azurin.
The club started in September 2010 with Edith Escobar, a hospitality professional. Originally from Montreal, Edith ran a similar girl’s club for 14 years.
“But we never did anything like Bake to Educate in Montreal,” says, Edith. “ [In Montreal] we [did] a lot of things that had to do with hospitality and through it, we taught them how to give to others.” 
Inspired by the teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva, who always emphasized family life, Edith says,
“Society’s basic cell is the family. So we need to encourage unity and service in the family. These values are born in the family and so we want to teach them Christianity in a very ordinary way. It’s very simple what we do.These girls all happen to have good doctrine. But, the struggle is in applying it. So, we like to make time for discussion with our girls. The last topic was on being coherent with our actions and our lives as a Christian.” 
With Christian values in mind, the organizers were inspired to start Bake 2 Educate. The idea was sparked by the motto, “Making tangible the intangible.” So Escobar, Bugash and Azurin set out in search for the right charity to work with. They came in contact with Lincco, a registered Canadian Charity that, “Gives Canadians the opportunity to make a lasting difference in developing countries.” Edith adds,
“We chose [to fundraise for] girls around their age, so that they could emotionally connect with the girls they are helping, although they may never meet them.”
The girl’s have expressed how the club has helped them understand their faith and to be a better followers of Jesus Christ. The efforts of the organizers are clearly reflected in CALA member, Maria Koh’s response,
“It’s nice to be with other girls my age, aside from being at school. It’s fun and I get to learn home skills. I would tell other girls who would be interested in joining that it’s a lot of fun, and you can grow in your faith too. I would even invite Catholic and Non-Catholic girls!”
Since September of this year, the girls have been making cakes for a suggested donation of twenty-five dollars. So far, the girls have taken orders to celebrate a range of different occasions such as: birthdays, retirement parties, anniversaries, and even dinner parties. As CALA is teamed with Lincco on this project, fundraising for the Ivory Coast is scheduled to end in December 2013. But, the girls intend on continuing with baking for a cause for the club’s next project. 
Going forward the organizers hope that the club will grow with more girls getting involved. Their short-terms goals include raising enough funds to help at least one girl receive education. The long-term goals include presenting Bake 2 Educate as a gallery project at the Art of Living Competition in Boston. The competition includes several different hospitality challenges, and a gallery project. 
However, the ultimate goal is summed up in my last question to Edith. I asked her if she ever felt like there was a time where CALA might not be able to go forward due to funding or the availability of the girls. This is what she had to say,
“I’ve been working with girl’s clubs for a while, I don’t want to say it, but [some of these girls] are even getting married. They grow up and have to leave, but to me it’s never a loss, because you’re giving them tools for life. And they may never come back. But it’s not that we just taught them how to cut tomatoes, or peel onions, but how to be more sociable and to have spirit of service. And my hope is that that will transfer into their family lives.”
When I received my cakes they were beautifully packaged complete with a little note of thanks and information on Lincco. I felt inspired by the love carried out by each of the organizers, the joy of the girls involved, and the quality of their work. The cake was delicious too!
Thus far, the project has spread solely by word of mouth. So as they reach their last month of fundraising, I feel compelled to cheer on these girls and to encourage you, if you happen to live in Vancouver, to take part and give back while being good examples to these girls. To order a cake or for information you can e-mail cala.crestwell@gmail.com or call 604 222 8317. Order a cake and eat it too!
Photo by Katrisha Villarante
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