The skill to create life altering goodies is what BMS World Mission’s Freedom Bakery offers the women who choose to leave Bangkok’s red light district and make a new life for themselves.
Former fashion production manager, master baker and cake decorator, and BMS mission worker Sarah Brown never thought she would be teaching, encouraging and inspiring women who used to work in Nana Plaza’s bars and brothels. Now Sarah spends her days reminding them that they are worthy and deserving of respect and dignity. She does this by teaching them the skills they need to create delicious and beautiful pastries.
Before the actual baking lessons begin, her students learn about food and hygiene and health and safety. “Anybody who wants to be part of the project has to take these two modules before they even start the training,” says Sarah.
The future bakers learn how to make cakes and decorate with royal icing. Although the work is increasing in difficulty, Sarah is very proud of their progress. “Their confidence is building up all the time,” says Sarah. “The difference between last week and this one, in terms of their skills and confidence, is visible.” Next they will learn to craft the beautiful sugar flowers we all love to see adorning our cakes.
Sarah loves watching her students grow and blossom and by the end of the 12 week course she is confident that they will be masters of their craft. Teaching in Thai however is proving to be a very challenging task. Although she has lived in Thailand since 2012, giving instructions in the language is a different matter. “As you can imagine there are words that I’m still grappling with. A lot of baking words are not really used in the Thai language because cake decorating is relatively new,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t even know what words to use.”
The teaching days are long – over six hours with a lunch break in the middle. By the end, Sarah is exhausted. But despite the long hours focused on baking, this is the very thing that helps her relax. “Baking keeps me going. I love teaching and have done it for a long time now,” she says.
Thankfully, Sarah and her team’s hard work has not been in vain. Word of the tantalising treats has spread and people are coming to satisfy their sweet tooth. The Freedom Bakery has been asked to make a cupcake wedding cake in shades of sky blue and white, with small pastel pink flowers on the side. A lace coating will finish off this stunning delicacy. Sarah and her team are also working on some Valentine’s Day treats. The bakers will be making an ombre cake, cookies and cupcakes, all with a 14 February theme.
Seven years ago Sarah asked, “Lord, why have you opened my eyes and heart to such pain and suffering?” She had just finished teaching a course to a women’s group at Crisis SkyLight, where some of her students were prostitutes, domestic violence survivors, addicts and those with mental illness. It seems that this is God’s answer.
Please keep Sarah, her team and students at the Freedom Bakery in your prayers. Pray for improved language skills, strength, perseverance and wisdom as she teaches. You can support the Freedom Bakery and help Sarah and her team to continue empowering and inspiring their students.
We will be suporting the work of DIGNITY and the FREEDOM BAKERY with our LENT project.