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Inmates cook up a storm in Changi catering kitchen as part of training, rehab programme, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – When father-of-two Faruk was sentenced to seven years and 10 months’ jail in 2017 for drug-related offences, he did not expect to find a passion for decorating cakes or learning how to fold pastries while behind bars.

The 38-year-old, who declined to give his full name, spends six days a week in a kitchen as part of his work programme during his incarceration in the Changi Prison Complex.

While his family has yet to try his creations, the former mechanic hopes to make his sons, aged 12 and 13, their favourite strawberry cheesecake, when he is released.

“My family was surprised that I could bake cakes. I could see from their faces that they are happy I’m learning because I have never done this kind of thing before,” said Faruk in a phone interview on Wednesday (Oct 7). “(In the kitchen,) I learnt how to be patient, relax, and come up with more ideas to decorate (the cakes).”

He hopes to work in a pastry shop after his release.

About 30 or so inmates are chosen every year to work in The Changi Tearoom, after they have attended correctional programmes that support their rehabilitation.

They are chosen based on interest or prior experience working in the food and beverage sector. Other programmes include tailoring workshops and working in call centres.

Located in the prison complex, the catering kitchen serves as an industry-standard training ground for offenders.

It is managed by YR Industries, a subsidiary of the Yellow Ribbon Singapore. While the public can usually order catering services from the kitchen, it currently serves only prison staff in the light of Covid-19 safety measures.

Another offender, who wanted to be known only as Michael, said he refined his skills in The Changi Tearoom kitchen.

He is serving a 5½

In a new podcast, Boston’s Brazilian house cleaners share stories ‘swept under the rug’

Heloiza Barbosa in the studio to record a recent episode of the "Faxina" podcast.
Heloiza Barbosa in the studio to record a recent episode of the “Faxina” podcast.Courtesy Faxina Podcast

In the 1990s, Brazil native Heloiza Barbosa was working toward her doctorate in education at Boston University when she took a job as a housekeeper on Martha’s Vineyard. One evening, her employer offered extra hours working a special event. Barbosa arrived to find the guest of honor was Salman Rushdie. “I read his work!” Barbosa told the owner. “Shhhh! Don’t Speak! Work!” was the response. In March 2020, this was the first of many stories featured on the “Faxina” podcast. The show, created and hosted by Barbosa, is focused on the experiences of Boston-area Brazilian house cleaners. Reached via phone at her home in Brookline, Barbosa spoke about the podcast’s origins and its multilingual reach.

Q. What motivated you to start a podcast?

A. About two years ago I was thinking about publishing a collection of short stories I was writing in Portuguese. Beyond the book, I intended to interview a former professor of mine who was a victim of torture during Brazil’s military dictatorship [1964-85]. So when I went to see her in my hometown of Belém, I began to chat with anyone in the street out of a sense of nostalgia. I was shocked by how unaware people were of Brazil’s recent history, especially young people. The youth did not even believe there was ever a military dictatorship. That helped in the election of [Jair] Bolsonaro, a man who once paid homage to a torturer from the military era in the halls of [Brazil’s] congress.

When Bolsonaro was elected I moved away from the book idea. Not everyone in Brazil has access to them; they’re very expensive there. So that’s when I decided to do a podcast because it’s a format