April 23, 2021

The home economics classroom at Kittilä secondary school is bustling as the members of the Safkasankarit 1 cooking club are preparing dough and mixing fillings for pastries. Club instructor Anniina Rouhiainen has given clear baking instructions and, if necessary, helps the elementary-school-aged bakers with the other instructor Tuomo Kallo.

Both have paid jobs in the Panimo restaurant in Levi, where Anniina works as a cook and Tuomo as an executive chef and restaurant manager. At the end of last year, they learned that two 4H cooking clubs were looking for instructors and thought it would be fun. “It is just great to work with children, and its completely different from our daily work at the restaurant,” say both Anniina and Tuomo.

“The 4H clubs are mainly run by young trained instructors, but for safety reasons cooking clubs must have an adult present,” says Juha Kurtakko, executive manager of Kittilä’s 4H association. Eighth graders Olivia Huttu and Netta Hiltunen have trained as 4H club instructors and are co-instructors for the Safkasankarit 1 cooking club. They also run a sports club.

“This is a nice and relaxing thing to do. The club members are really skilled and have lots of initiative. You get useful experience as an instructor and even a small salary,” Olivia says.

Agnico Eagle Finland has signed a three-year cooperation agreement with Kittilä’s 4H association. According to Juha, the cooperation agreement enables them to develop their activities. Money is needed for the rent as well as supplies and equipment, among other things. “We want to keep our clubs free for everyone who wants to join them. We’d be delighted to expand our operations to as many of Kittilä’s remote villages as possible,” he adds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges for the clubs, but according to Juha, they have managed to adapt and continue activities remotely. “For example, the cooking club instructors have made instruction videos for the members, so they have been able to cook at home by following the videos. Then they have posted pictures of what they have prepared to the WhatsApp group,” says Juha. Sports clubs have been able to meet outdoors even during the pandemic.

“We start new clubs based on wishes from children and young people,” says Juha. “In addition to cooking and sports clubs, we have had activity clubs, especially in the remote villages; clubs on nature photography and horses; and club meetings for young people. We will have a nature detective club and bird watching in the fall.”

Along with the instructors, we are amazed at the skills, initiative, and speed of the cooking club participants. The tables get wiped quickly, the baking dishes washed, and the tables set nicely with pretty napkins in no time. And then we get to taste the delicious pastries with butter, cream, and jam filling. Finally, the kitchen and facilities are cleaned and made ready for the other cooking club to use.

Kittilä’s 4H association is turning 80 this year, and all the clubs celebrate the anniversary in their own way. Would it then be time for birthday cakes in the cooking clubs?

Click here to see the photos on our Facebook page!