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One for the books

Last year, Calgary’s Creedance Ewenin (PCK ‘14) applied for a grant to attend the prestigious MAD4 cooking symposium in Copenhagen. More than 500 aspiring young chefs from around the world applied, but only 10 were selected. Ewenin was one of those chosen. So was a young man from Nairobi named Kiige Maagu.

The need

During the symposium, Ewenin and the others started discussing cookbooks: who had what and what kind of books they wanted. Maagu mentioned how difficult it is to get modern, up-to-date cookbooks in Kenya.

“You can’t go into a bookstore there and find a section for cooking,” says Ewenin. Ordering books online is also problematic where Maagu lives. “The way they get their mail…it all goes to one place so it would never make it to him.”

Ewenin suddenly understood that, while the passion she feels toward food and cooking is shared by others all over the world, access to information on evolving science and cooking techniques is not as universal. She returned home intent on sending Maagu a modern cookbook. On second thought, she considered reaching out to Calgary’s culinary community to collect and send an entire library that Maagu could share among his friends and colleagues.

An overwhelming response

“I brought it up with one of the chef instructors at SAIT who I keep in touch with,” says Ewenin. “She thought it was a good idea and told one of the other instructors about it.” Before long, the call for cookbooks was out. SAIT instructors, restaurant staff, foodies and friends across Calgary donated more than 300 cookbooks to the cause.

“We got more books than we expected,” says Ewenin, admittedly overwhelmed by the support and generosity. “We had to figure out how to ship them within budget.”

While talking to a friend about the challenge she was facing, Ewenin learned her friend’s sister, Maggie Glover, would be heading to Kenya the very next week as an intern with Veterinarians Without Borders. Discussion ensued among the veterinary interns making the trip and they graciously agreed to take the boxes of books on the plane as their extra baggage.

“I didn’t expect the response I got [to the call for books] and the help that I got to make it all happen,” says Ewenin. Her surprise and gratitude echoed nearly 14,000 kilometres away in Nairobi when Maagu received the unexpected bounty.

“I felt very touched deep in my heart when I heard Creedance had rallied so many people to donate…and I am forever grateful to them,” writes Maagu in an email. “I will honour their great deed by making sure these books get to people who need them most…to make the food culture in Kenya better.”

Written by Julie Sengl