In 1985, a small group of Chinese Christians established the Amity Foundation as a public foundation in Nanjing, China. With the motto “Love in Action,” Amity Foundation committed itself to promoting the holistic development of the social sector in China. To accomplish this goal, Amity has built partnerships, both local and abroad, that serve the social sector from education and health to rural development and the underprivileged. In 2007 Amity founded Mainland China’s first bakery run by mentally disabled people. Recently, I got the chance to talk to Mr. Chu Chaoyu, who established the Amity Bakery and also serves as Director of Amity Foundation’s Social Service Center.
Q. How did you come up with the idea to start Amity
A. Amity Bakery is actually a project under Amity Home of Blessings (AHB). AHB started its operations in early 2002 with a mission to care and educate mentally disabled people ranging in age from 16 to 40. By providing various professional job skills training programs, we hope to help mentally challenged people to be more integrated into society and even live an independent life. At present, the most common training offered to mentally challenged people in China is life skills training, enhancing their ability to care for themselves. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that they are among the underprivileged people in China and are not viewed as valuable in society.
Q. Why do you think Amity Bakery is suitable for mentally
A. First of all, [I think] the whole baking process involves a lot of procedures, from fermenting, molding, baking to the final packaging. For each recipe, there is a simple repetitive operation, and this is very suitable for people with mental disorders because for them the most important thing is to develop a work habit. Though this sounds very normal for us, it is a breakthrough for the mentally disabled to step into society and get a job.
Q. At present, who are your primary
A. In 2008, Amity Bakery started selling its products in a small supply mainly to meet the need of other branches under Amity Foundation. We provide bread, cookies, and biscuits for some Three-Self Churches in Nanjing. In addition, during holidays, we also provide products for our volunteers to give as gifts when they visit orphans and the elderly. Starting in 2009, Amity Bakery began receiving limited orders. One of our biggest successes is “Amity Moon Cakes” (a traditional snack eaten during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.) We do want to explore more opportunities outside of the Amity Foundation in 2010.
Do you think Amity Bakery is more like a nonprofit organization or a
social enterprise? What do you think is the core strength of the bakery?
A. I regard Amity Bakery as a social enterprise though it is a nonprofit organization. Although our revenue is very small and can barely cover the operational costs and we are still largely depend on outside funding support at present, our goal is to be self-sustaining in the long run. We don’t want to win our customers by touching stories of mentally disabled people, but by the excellent service we provide.[I think] the core strength of Amity Bakery is our product research and development. As I mentioned earlier, we have professional baking technique support from Hong Kong Baking Association. At present, we have developed over 20 kinds of bread and biscuits.
Q. How many staff run the bakery?
A. Right now we have three full time staff, two of which are responsible for training the students in baking. The other is our administrative manager. We also have more than 20 students at AHB, receiving basic skills training in baking. All of them are very likely to become staff at Amity Bakery if they pass our evaluation process.
your plan for Amity Bakery in 2010 and in the next five
A. 2010 is definitely a year for market exploration. On one hand, we will continue to raise public awareness for helping mentally disabled people and creating an amicable environment for them. On the other hand, we are going to hire market and business development experts to help us seek more opportunities and bring in more customers for Amity Bakery. We are also planning to open our first store in Nanjing. In the next five years, we hope to build up our own brand and open Amity Bakery chain stores in Nanjing that will be financially self-sustaining.
A. As I mentioned above, we plan to begin market promotion in 2010. We need market and sales experts to join our team and help realize our goal. Apart from that, as we are still in the start-up period, we still need financial support to purchase equipment and other raw materials for baking.
Find out how to help the Amity Bakery by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.