Cooking classes nourish more than stomachs

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Malibu home tours and cooking classes raise funds for the local chapter of Mending Kids International.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

An international nonprofit providing life-saving surgeries to children in impoverished, developing countries has formed a regional branch, and is holding a series of fundraisers in Malibu through to the latter part of this year.

Each of the four fundraising home tours/cooking classes to take place July through October will benefit the local arm of Mending Kids International (MKI), an organization that garners funds to cover the costs of major surgical operations for children in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

The Southern California area chapter, situated in Burbank, will host its next Tour des Cuisines et des Maisons, a private tour of Malibu homes and kitchens, on July 16. The series of classes, in which participants learn to prepare and serve authentic Provence-styled dishes, are led by chef Christel Shaw from her award-winning recipes.

“It’s very much a community event,” said guild member Mary Dailinger-O’Leary. “We put our aprons on and wear black and white, and serve people.”

Dailinger-O’Leary, along with Robyn Moore and Marchelle Sellers, started the MKI Malibu guild in February. Moore had been involved with the organization for several years.. The Malibu branch, which now has about 20 members, recognized the great need for medical care in Third World countries, especially for infants, toddlers and younger children. In some areas, modern healthcare is virtually nonexistent. “They’re all pretty much life threatening,” Dailinger-O’Leary said of the health care situations in those countries. “The lack of prenatal care in a lot of these countries … they have a lack of medicine. Some countries don’t have MRI machines” at all. The local chapter’s first campaign, a brunch and class that took place earlier this month, brought in more than $50,000, which supported a medical mission to India for Mercy, a 7-year-old Kenyan girl afflicted with three severe heart conditions.” We flew her to India because in the U.S., it would have been $65,000 for the operation,” Dailinger-O’Leary said. “Her father kept calling us every day [asking] ‘Did you raise the money?’” While there, circumstances took a turn for the worse for Mercy, and doctors told her parents that her ailments were inoperable. The money raised from the June 3 event was then channeled to operate on another girl with a brain tumor. The surgery was successful and a full recovery is expected.

Part of the group’s mission is to identify and refer children in need, and dispatch American-based physicians to their countries to perform the surgeries. Each of the upcoming Malibu fundraisers will coincide with helping a new child in need. Monies raised have also been used to train doctors in those nations, so more value can be extracted from the surgeries themselves.

“Now we’re training doctors in other parts of the world so the children aren’t separated or traveling, and it’s not as costly,” Dailinger-O’Leary said.

Guild Executive Director Sellers said there are more than 130 children on the MKI waiting list, spanning 20 countries worldwide.

“They are waiting for surgery to correct holes in their heart, spines that are severely crooked and birth defects that have affected their faces,” she wrote in an email.

Sellers noted that MKI’s surgical mission teams have included specialists from UCLA, Cedars-Sinai and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

There’s also a similar type of wait list to attend the upcoming fundraisers; July’s event is already fully sold out, and local vendors and event planners have poured in, literally, their donations in the form of wine, bread, baking goods, food, tablecloths and other supplies. Local businesses have also donated funds.

The gatherings include a home and garden tour, cocktail hour and a chance to privately submit donations throughout the day. June’s event took place at the home of Malibu residents Val and Jim Cigler; next month’s fundraiser, Dailinger-O’Leary said, will take place at a Point Dume residence, its Hawaiian decor falling in line with the Eurasian cuisine on the menu. June’s cooking demo with Shaw covered a palate of French country: mussels, roasted pork loin and rice pudding.

Upcoming tour dates are on July 16, Aug. 6, Sept. 10 and Oct. 22. More information on ticket and reservations, and how to donate to MKI, can be obtained online at www.mendingkids.org