Cooking Circles: a Great Ydea

8 March 2016

11289479_1099787996703849_9199610657265339069_oGreat Ydeas is YWCA Canberra’s small grants program, providing up to $2,000 to women to help kickstart a great idea for a business, community development project, or to support professional development or education and training opportunities.

Applications are currently open for Great Ydeas, and we’ll be featuring some of our amazing past recipients over the next few weeks to highlight what can be achieved through a grant.

Heidi Zajac was the recipient of a Great Ydeas grant in 2014, and used it to research and develop the knowledge and skills required to bring her Cooking Circles project into being. By connecting Australian and Timorese young women, Cooking Circles has since enabled hundreds of young women to share cooking processes and recipes, stories, and build friendships. Here we chat to her to find out how it’s all going, and to inspire you to apply for a grant of your own!

What inspired you to apply for a Great Ydeas small grant?

I saw the Great Ydeas grant as a great opportunity for an idea I had. I knew that if I was fortunate enough to receive a grant, the money would be enough to make a significant difference to Cooking Circles and take it from idea to reality.

What have been the highlights of Cooking Circles so far?

Travelling to Timor Leste to interview and share stories with women has been a big highlight! Since that trip, there have been some beautiful things happening in Canberra. I met someone I admire greatly, a woman by the name of Kirsty Sword Gusmao, who became the First Lady of a newly independent Timor Leste and is the reason I grew interested in the country and in women’s issues in Timor in the first place. Another highlight has been setting up an operational team/committee to manage Cooking Circles. It is energising to work alongside women who share the same values but complement my skill set.

How has the funding you received from YWCA Canberra influenced this?

The grant has made my essential travel and skill development possible. Without the important trip to Dili (Timor Leste) in 2014, and workshops and resources for social media and website development, I would not have had the resources to proceed. Another benefit of the grant is actually the moral support that comes from women within the YWCA Canberra network. The support, mentoring, encouragement and opportunities that I’ve had because of this network has been, to me, just as critical to the success of Cooking Circles as the grant.

What has been unexpected about the way Cooking Circles has unfolded?

The nature of the Timor Leste project was particularly unexpected for me. I was planning and anticipating to cook, video and blog with the networks of women and existing friends and ‘family’ I had in Dili. Timing was my biggest barrier; most of the women I was reconnecting with had competing priorities. On reflection, this seems so obvious! But I turned the trip into blogging about Timorese stories instead, and this was a deeply refreshing way to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. Discussing food and culture opened deeper discussion about women’s lives, and overall this unexpected turn for Cooking Circles has been a positive thing that has enriched the Timor Leste aspect.

What are the issues you continue to face, or that you foresee in the future, and how do you plan to address them?

The biggest issues for Cooking Circles are to do with the broad scope of the program. As a values-based program there is so much that we could be involved in and multiple partnerships and projects that could be done at any one time. We’re only limited by our imaginations when it comes to what we might do. However, as creative and frugal as we are with our resources, we need to manage our own energy levels and balance work, family and other commitments with the delivery of Cooking Circles. Through strategic planning in line with our values and opportunities I’m confident we will manage to deliver a program which is relevant, high-quality and that the women of Timor Leste and Canberra find inspiring.

Applications for the 2016 round of Great Ydeas small grants close Friday 25 March. Apply now! And you can find out more about Cooking Circles at their website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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