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Avarua Bakery part of ACI transition programme

Thursday 19 May 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Local, National

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Avarua Bakery part of ACI transition programme
An Avarua Bakery staff member prepares to catch a loaf of dough. PHOTO: SIAN SOLOMON/22051722

Autism Cook Islands (ACI) visited Avarua Bakery on Tuesday as part of this month’s Autism events to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of people living with autism here in the Cook Islands.

Around 12 members from ACI showed up with their families, eager to learn what it takes to be a baker and create delicious bread.

General Manager for Avarua Bakery, Kervin Ariota said: “We always like to support groups like Autism and the Creative Centre. Not only me but my sister as well.”

“One of the members asked me if I was interested in the kids coming around to visit, and we said yeah, why not,” he added. “Because we always have schools coming to visit, and so that’s how it started.”

General Manager Kervin Ariota. PHOTO: SIAN SOLOMON/22051720

During the visit, Ariota explained to each of the kids and their families the process of how to make fresh bread from start to finish.

He showed them the different types of machinery used at the bakery, as well as some of the different ingredients added.

Other Avarua bakery staff members also demonstrated how to make bread along with the level of fitness and effort required to be a baker and part of the Avarua bakery team.

“Here in the Cook Islands it’s really hard to get bakers,” said Ariota.

“At the moment we are short-staffed, but who knows, maybe a couple of them (visitors) might show an interest in baking and becoming bakers.

“If they do that would be good,” he added. “That’s something for us to look forward to.”

Autism Cook Islands programme manager Kat Jensen said the organisation’s visit to the Bakery “is their first ever in the Cook Islands”.

The visit is part of the transition programme within Autism Cook Islands that helps get children ready to join the workforce, whether that be in employment, voluntary work and/or work experience. 

Members of Autism Cook Islands with Avarua Bakery general manager Kervin Ariota during their visit on Tuesday. PHOTO: SIAN SOLOMON/22051723

Jensen says the idea is to take their “transition group” into the community to different businesses to look at roles that might interest them in the future. 

“Family and/or transition networking is about strengthening the parents, developing a connection between the parents who understand what they are going through and with their children,” said Jensen. 

“It also provides social stimulation for the children with the other children developing their social skills as well.

“Most importantly we are out in the community so (that) people in the community can meet our children and develop inclusion.

“We are so grateful to Avarua Bakery and Kervin for the invite and for allowing us to come and visit.”