Meet Anne-Claire, a young French woman living in Shanghai since July 2016.
Anne-Claire and her husband precipitately moved to China soon after the birth of their second child. The couple quickly made arrangements to prepare for their new life, took their parental leaves and left Germany, where they had been living.
For Anne-Claire, moving to China implied putting her career aside for a while… She had graduated from l’INSA in Lyon, France, where she was trained as an electrical engineer. She met her German husband while studying in Canada, and then followed him to Stuttgart.
In January 2010, she launched her career as a Project engineer, working for a German company, which, at the time, was affiliated to the French group EDF. Anne-Claire also joined a Trainee Program, which let her to work in both France and Germany. This experience made her increasingly aware of the challenges fostered by cultural differences within a corporate setting. She admits that fitting into the German power plant’s labor community wasn’t always easy for a foreign 22 year-old! Anne-Claire shared, “After working in coal mines for two years, I decided to put down my site helmet and start working towards holding more managerial positions”.
Anne-Claire gradually shifted her focus by first working as a Technical project manager. She eventually took on a role in communications, as she sought more human interactions in the workplace. This transition enabled her to continue developing her career, while building a family with her husband.
However, Anne-Claire’s life really shifted when she moved to Shanghai over the summer of 2016. At this point, she had to find a new life balance, becoming the homemaker in a new city. Once the initial euphoria of moving had settled down, Anne-Claire’s spirits were quite low. Then, she discovered la Ruche, which enabled her to reflect on her accomplishments and aspirations.
Anne-Claire stated, “Once settled in Shanghai, I needed to find ways to develop both my professional and personal aspirations. I left all doors open to new opportunities. It was a sort of forced ‘reset’, which offered me the opportunity to really question what I wanted to do with my time in China.”
Anne-Claire discovered Shanghai Young Bakers through another young mother she met at a Shanghai Accueil’s ‘welcome gathering’ in Qingpu. Anne-Claire was instantly seduced by Shanghai Young Bakers’ program, which trains marginalized Chinese youth to become professional bakers and pastry makers. At the end of 2016, Anne-Claire sent spontaneously applied for a role at Shanghai Young Bakers.
Anne-Claire and Shanghai Young Bakers’ team hit it off straight away. By Chinese New Year, she began volunteering with Shanghai Young Bakers, acting as the organization’s representative amongst the French and other expat communities in Shanghai. Her main objective was to increase SYB’s visibility in those circles and promote the organization’s various fundraising activities (markets, baking classes, Bakers Baskets…).
Since, Anne-Claire has been volunteering two to three days a week, and has now also become a point of contact between Shanghai Young Bakers and corporate actors interested in supporting the organization.
Anne-Claire explained “Given international corporations increasing desire to engage with and support their host Chinese communities, I try to find the best ways for companies to cooperate with SYB. My role is to inform them about how their gestures contribute to supporting our program. For example when companies sign up for our weekly Bakers Baskets (baked goods – bread or cakes – delivered to offices), employees enjoy delicious products on a weekly basis, while the proceeds go directly towards funding our program.”
Anne-Claire is efficient in her work with SYB to ensure that her volunteering does get in the way of her family commitments. Thankfully, while Anne-Claire is volunteering, her daughter can attend Qingpu’s French primary school, while her 18 month-old son is handled by the German garderie! Thanks to Shanghai Young Bakers, Anne-Claire is smiling again and has regained her dynamism.
Anne-Claire worked throughout her studies, and started working full-time when she was 22. Therefore, prior to moving to China, she had never had the opportunity to volunteer for a charity organization, or invest herself in a charitable or humanitarian cause.
This first volunteer experience with Shanghai Young Bakers has brought a lot of joy into Anne-Claire’s life. She is thrilled to be working in a multicultural environment, and most importantly, she is touched by SYB’s ability to help disadvantaged youth become employable by teaching them critical skills.
Although Anne-Claire thinks of herself as slightly introverted, she is proud to have step foot into this new environment. Volunteering with SYB has enabled her to integrate a local Chinese community, which she can help, and engage with them despite their cultural differences. She is also glad to have found the courage to leave the expat bubble. ‘I didn’t move to China to live in little-France or little-Germany!’, she states.
Managing to shift from the corporate world into the nonprofit sector definitely requires some degree of flexibility. While corporate environments tend to be more stable, with defined departments and roles, non-profits often employ their own methods and structures, which can be adapted according to volunteers’ schedule and personas.
Thanks to Anne-Claire’s managerial experience, she is a great listener and observer. This enables her to sometimes offer insight to adopt new working methods or suggest structural changes. She shared “In the corporate world, a lot of pressure stems from the need to meet objectives and produce results, based on a time-cost-quality format. Now, at Shanghai Young Bakers, I set my own objectives in order to be most efficient, engaged and committed. I am so pleasantly surprised by this experience!”
Anne-Claire’s one piece of advice is the following: “One should always dare to discover new things. Everyone has something to offer to its local community, and we can all find ways to give a little something back to China in return for all the wonderful experiences it has brought us”.
A few figures to illustrate Shanghai Young Bakers:
12 French volunteers working with the Jeune Chambre de Commerce in Shanghai launched Shanghai Young Bakers in 2008. The volunteers noticed China’s growing interest in French bakery and pastry, and realized they could meet the rising demand for bakers and pastry chefs by training marginalized Chinese youth. The first batch of SYB students arrived in 2009.
Gradually, the training program evolved into a 1-year training, which incorporated France’s ‘alternance’ training system, by which students alternate on a two-week basis between studying at our baking center and interning in international 5-star hotels and high-quality bakeries across Shanghai. In 2017, SYB worked with 17 partner hotels and bakeries, which reflects the training’s quality and employers’ approval of the program. Every year, approximately 30 students graduate from SYB, having already secured jobs upon graduation. Finding jobs enables the students to fund their own living expenses and support their families. By now, SYB has trained 212 bakers and pastry makers, that all share and spread their common passion for French cuisine across China !
SYB is very grateful for its partners’ support, namely Lesaffre and Solidarity Accor Hotels. We also appreciate the support of our 7 partner NGOs scattered across China, which help us recruit the students that can benefit the most from SYB’s program.
How companies can support SYB?
Want your colleagues to finally get a chance to taste delicious French breads or pastries?
SYB offers a range of services to companies seeking to act responsibly and support a local charity.
Ever in need of a birthday cake for an office celebration? Finger food for an event? Macaroons to celebrate the end of a successful project? These are all great opportunities to request SYB’s catering services. Our products are “home-made” and baked by professional bakers and pastry makers, trained in France. We only use high-quality ingredients, of which most are imported.
SYB can also deliver Bakers Baskets to your office every Thursday afternoon. These baskets are filled with products that our students baked during their classes. SYB’s Bakers Baskets are ideal to transform your habitual afternoon breaks with your colleagues into responsible and tasty ‘afternoon teas’, or what the French call “Gouters”.
SYB also organizes corporate team building sessions in its baking center in Shanghai. These baking classes are a great alternative to bowling or karaoke outings. Our baking center has already hosted numerous companies for meaningful and entertaining activities.
In addition, SYB can work with companies to organize charity fundraising activities in their offices. Often, we help volunteer employees organize a baking sale (bread and pastries) within their structure.
In the event that a company is interested in sponsoring Shanghai Young Bakers, SYB also offer opportunities for employees to meet SYB’s students and engage with them during ludic activities.
All proceeds from these activities are used to fund SYB’s charity program.