Heart and crafts of a 10-year-old

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Ten-year-old Martina Fraschetti is anxious to interrupt as her mentor and I chat away but can’t quite find a gap in the conversation. So she scribbles on a board and waves it in front of us.


“You need to find your passion early in your life,” it reads.


Martina has certainly found hers – cooking and crafts. She’s already developed her own brand of sauces for pasta and pizza and makes an array of products from coffee grounds sourced from the city’s cafes.


She started making “Martina’s” sauce for her school fair in January, based on her grandma’s recipe back home in Italy. “That’s Italian!” is highlighted on the label, also designed by her, around the jar.


“A lot of people would come to my home and have pasta and say, ‘Wow, this is really good sauce,'” she says. “So I thought that maybe I could make some and sell it.”


She made 60 jars and took them to the Japanese International School fair in Tai Po. The HK$30 jars were sold out in just a few hours and she hopes it is the start of a genuine business.


But another brainchild of hers has already found a market online, after she realised the city’s cafes were throwing away vast amounts of coffee grounds.


“I wanted to do something that was unique and no one else was doing,” Martina says.


She rang two major coffee chains, Pacific Coffee and Starbucks, and managed to persuade both companies to give her their grounds. She also gets the grounds from the coffee shop in her new school, Renaissance College in Ma On Shan.


With them, she makes a body scrub, lip scrub, insect repellant, fridge deodorant, scented sachets for shoes in vanilla or cardamom and candles housed in old Nutella jars – when they’re lit they smell like cookies with marmalade inside, says Martina.


“Time passes quickly when I make all these little things,” says Martina. “When I cook and I cut I don’t feel two hours have gone.”


She has set up a website to sell her wares and following an exhibition at school earlier this month, she received seven orders. She is holding a second exhibition tomorrow.


“You can create something out of recycled materials – instead of spending money buying something to make something else to make more money,” adds Martina, who moved to Hong Kong in 2008.


Jacqueline Nilsen, Martina’s mentor and founder of art workshop Paint the Music Now, says it is important to “open up the world” for children to let them see different possibilities and find their passions.


“One thing that’s lacking today is that kids don’t really develop their passions because there’s a lot of competition out there and parents want to lead them to what they know brings in money,” says Nilsen.


She says in a fast-changing world, many jobs that are popular today might disappear when children grow up and that the right thing to do is not to push the children into law or business schools, but to observe and discover what they enjoy doing, encourage them to excel and send them to the best schools in those areas.


Arts and music are the easiest options to promote children’s creativity, but many Hong Kong parents have lost the point behind the arts by sending their offspring to piano or ballet classes regardless of the child’s own interests, says Nilsen.


“You don’t follow the leader when it comes to your passions, you find your own passions, and we are all different,” she says.


“I think we would really see Hong Kong take a new direction if most parents focused on their children’s gifts and passions.”


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