May, 2024

Yashodhari and the impact of the Dessford Community Kitchen

Children at the CDC enjoying their mid-day meal provided by the Community Kitchen.
Children at the CDC enjoying their mid-day meal provided by the Community Kitchen.
Children at the CDC enjoying their mid-day meal provided by the Community Kitchen.

Yashodhari, a 31-year-old mother of three, has been working as a tea harvester for the past nine years. Her children are 5, 10, and 12 years old. Her husband, who works 160km away in the capital, visits them once a month and it is Yashodhari who takes care of the children with the help of her mother. Despite having two incomes, affording necessities for their three children remains a challenge. She wakes up at 5:30 in the morning to prepare food before getting her three children ready and dropping them off at the Child Development Centre (CDC) and the school.

In March 2024, the Dessford Estate Community Kitchen was upgraded and inaugurated as part of the Women of Tea project with financial support from The Republic of Tea (TROT), in collaboration with the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT) and the PALM Foundation, to improve access to nutritious food for communities, especially women and children.

As a parent, I am happy that all children are getting equally nutritious food at a lower cost and that they are enjoying the meals – they are more active now.

Yashodhari Tea Harvester

Yashodhari witnesses Sabeena enjoying the variety of food the Community Kitchen provides. Previously, they didn’t have the means to cook diverse food options so whatever was available was prepared, and she’d give Sabeena an egg every day to compensate her being underweight. Now, she gets to try new flavours, and she doesn’t fuss about food; instead, she loves going to school. Yashodhari recalls how, when Sabeena comes home “she excitedly tells me about the different meals she had and adds that she ate everything. Every day is a different meal.”

“Thanks to the new Community Kitchen programme, I worry less about what meals to prepare, especially for my youngest daughter Sabeena (5) who is underweight,” said Yashodhari. “My workload in the morning has reduced because her meal is provided at the Child Development Centre.”

Some parents could provide their children with comparatively better food, while other parents could not afford to do so. The children would judge themselves against each other and struggle to understand why some had access to different foods when they did not. This affects emotional and mental wellbeing at a very young age.

“This is a great service for us. Now we have peace of mind knowing that our children are receiving clean and nutritious meals along with good education,” said Yashodhari. “We can come early to the field, work a few extra hours, earn more and also save money spent on meals.”

While Yashodhari expresses the need to sustain and continue the Community Kitchen at Dessford Estate, she hopes parents come together and discuss how this programme could be improved, expanded, and sustained in the future.