What’s for Dessert? – Giving Bread

What’s for Dessert? – Giving Bread

Grégoire Michaud Published 24.01.2011

There are several resolutions you might have taken for 2011. Like most, and understandably, you’ve made choices that will eventually benefit your self. Loosing weight, stop smoking or my favourite one baking more bread at home, may all be on your list. Gladly for us, destiny decided on one of our resolutions this year, when Celene Loo approached us concerning her organisation: Giving Bread. The name says it all; the charity collects bread and distributes it to the less fortunate and elderly, such as those living in cage homes.

A Homegrown Charity

The news headlines in Hong Kong of late have been full of stories relating to waste, from articles about waste disposal sites and shortages and the impact on the environment and the community that these sites have, through to the massive amount of food waste that Hong Kong’s food industry generates everyday. Talk about a Fragrant City!

In my view there are too few efforts from establishments, while some are recycling food many are not. And, while the government initiative of transforming food waste into fertiliser is now in the beta stage (until 2014) this city still has plenty of food to spare.

When Celene asked if we were interested to help, we were straight away moved by the idea, and especially for us in the pastry kitchen, knowing how much effort it takes to produce our daily bread, it really made sense to participate. When meeting with Celene I found a person breathing a genuine sense of charity, with a huge heart and a very profound sense of humility.

Giving Bread would not accept a money donation, it has to be bread, which Celene will collect by herself. She then spends her Friday night at home sorting the breads, slicing the large loaves in portions and carefully packing them into individual little bags for the convenience of distribution. The next day or two she gathers supportive friends and organises the giving in random areas – for example in public housing estates. She also drives around town to collect and receive leftover bread donations from small bakeries and independent restaurants.

Taking Part in the Real Giving

I really wanted to see where all our efforts were going to be materialised and frankly, being enthusiastic about giving bread to the charity, talking on radio or tweeting away messages of support was the easy part. Joining the crew of volunteers on a chilly Sunday was very humbling to say the least. In the past I have joined other charity events, but now I see it with a different perspective. What Giving Bread is doing makes my previous charity events look like “charity-tourism”, going places to show face and give ourselves a good pseudo tap on the back saying how much we care… but not really. Going in the field with Celene and the great crew of volunteers was not for the fainthearted – it was a day filled with intense emotion.

While giving bread was the main purpose of the day, visiting “cage” homes (click here for images from Life magazine) left me with deep sorrow, seeing human beings living in conditions worse than dogs was a hard sight; it is just plain wrong.

After the cage homes, we were wandering the streets and parks of Yau Ma Tei, distributing bread, followed by a visit to an estate with many elderly occupants, and a street sleeper shelter located in the same area. Celene and the team of volunteers were just going anywhere bread would be welcome and trust me we could have distributed another million bags of bread!

We were not always immediately welcome to enter certain premises, but with a bit of insistence, Giving Bread action was very welcome by everyone. Knocking on random doors at an elderly estate was like playing the lottery, when someone would open the door: Jackpot! We would be thrilled to be able to give bread. We saw yet again, how our society is leaving the less fortunate behind and how family values are fading away when a Grandma told us how she was happy to see us, as her family would very seldom come to visit her.

The cutest quote of the day was when an elderly lady asked if the croissant we gave her was edible! She thought it was a decorative magnet because it looked so pretty. Again, isn’t that a lesson of humility, reminding us what world we live in.

After (on the same day) I went for dim sum lunch in a crazy busy shopping mall restaurant and couldn’t eat, I was just staring into space…words can not describe the feeling…

How to Help

Actively helping Giving Bread was a great way to start a day, and really, you should try!

Please visit http://givingbread.org or email givingbread@gmail.com for more information.

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