Cooking courses

Cooking – One of Life Skills’ program offerings  

The Ottawa Booth Centre’s Life Skills program includes classes on everyday practical responsibilities, from budgeting to healthy lifestyle choices, and job readiness.

The cooking component is one of the course’s independent living activities. It is one of six broad areas of life covered in the program.

It is designed for clients to become more self-sufficient by the time they complete their four-month stay at the Booth Centre. The kitchen is part of the facilities at the Ottawa Booth Centre set up for the Life Skills program.

In addition to practical classes, the program offerings include 40 life skills classes and 16 spirituality classes connecting self-discovery to spiritual practices, such as forgiveness, wellness and hope.

Mark mashes potatoes for a Shepherd's Pie, while the program facilitator, Stewart, speaks to the class, to his left, and explains how the meal is being prepared.

Mark, (photographed above), is applying the skills he learned while working in two restaurants in Ottawa, and one in Kingston, to lead the preparation of a shepherd’s pie meal. He was assisted by three other “chefs.”

He explained he and his colleagues made the meal with the following ingredients:
- 5 pounds of ground beef (2.25 kilos)
- 10 pounds of potatoes (4.5 kilos)
- 2 cans of corn
- 1 can of creamed corn
- 1 diced onion - & 2 stalks diced celery stalks 

Mark said to his colleagues that “food is expensive these days so it is good to learn at a place like Life Skills, (how to keep your costs down).” They also made a side green salad.

Mark said the shepherd’s pie took 1-1/2 hours to make. “Freeze it," he said. "It will last you for the week.”

He is assisted by fellow clients Roger and Adam. 

One week after the shepherd's pie meal, Jice (left) is cooking chicken, curry and lasagna for his colleagues. He is assisted by fellow clients Roger and Adam. 

Jice and his assistants invited Uchennah for lunch. She is their spirituality class teacher.

Seated at the table, clockwise from the left, are Rob, Uchennah, Zach, Claude, Keven and

Uchennah also leads the men in their devotions and prayers in their classroom sessions. Uchennah said she appreciated that Jice walked the class through the steps of making the “tasty” curry meal, and shared the recipe with them.



  SIDEBAR: Some thoughts from Mark, a Life Skills client

Mark chose Life Skills in
order to stay on the right path

Mark is currently finishing high school in the mornings, while he attends Life Skills classes in the afternoon. He plans to go to Algonquin College next year, and study Fitness and Health Promotion.

Mark, now 32, has done two stints with the Life Skills program, the present stay under Stewart, the current program facilitator; and the previous course, under Drew. He has high praise and regard for both.

He first checked into the Life Skills Program after serving a sentence in jail for robbery. Asked why he chose the Life Skills program, he said:

“I wanted to stay on the right path. I chose to stay involved with the Salvation Army and their programming, to try and better my life.”

“I learned a lot. We covered self-discipline, mindfulness (being aware of yourself), what makes you who you are and what makes you feel the way you feel. I definitely learned about anger, and learned about bullying."

“The way they deliver the program is they teach you to be aware of yourself, and where you are going in life. So they (also) teach you how to budget your money. How to find housing. They help you with all of that. They don’t tell you but they encourage you to wake up early and make your bed, getting your day started.”

So, he said he encourages fellow clients not to take advantage of the program, but to use it. “Don’t just exist in it. That’s what I said in my graduation from Life Skills.”

Mark is a natural leader. “I try to be positive and outgoing," he says.


By Roderick Macdonell
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