An Australian baker has started a baking project aimed at teaching refugees to how to bake.
Artisan baker Paul Allam founded the Bread and Butter Project after being inspired by a visit to an orphanage in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border.
He was invited to teach refugee women how to bake bread and help establish a social business to support the women and the orphanage.
“When I came back to Australia, I was… thinking about that model and how that model would be great in the same sort of setting, helping out refugees that came to Australia,” he said.
“So I got a group of friends together and we made it happen.
“I was never thinking that as a baker, I could transfer my skills to helping out as an engineer or a doctor could.”
Mr Allam, who has been baking for over 18 years, has been running a separate commercial bakery in Sydney for almost ten years now.
“We transferred all the recipes (from the commercial bakery)… as well as the accounting and understanding the market and the customers,” he said.
Bread from the Bread and Breakfast project is being sold on a wholesale basis and the bakery is funded by its profits.
While the response to this social cause has been “overwhelmingly positive”, Mr Allam says running a not-for-profit organization is not easy.
He had to deal with many challenges, including engaging people from different backgrounds, from the boardroom to the bakery.
“For me, it was a real learning process.”
Mr Allam says the main aim of the project is to employ and train asylum seekers and refugees in the art of baking.
“So it’s about getting these guys jobs once they finish a one year traineeship,” he said.
The trainees are also coached in literacy and numeracy during their traineeship.
At present, there are five trainees and Mr Allam hopes to take in more if sales of breads pick up.
“It’s driven by production, which is driven by sales, which is driven by market demand… as soon as the general public buys more bread, then we put more trainees on,” he said.
Mr Allam who works on a voluntary basis, finds it very humbling to read stories about trainees.
“The work culture in the production room is really impressive on a day like Friday when we have very huge numbers and pulling out good bread and the guys really work hard,” he said.