Train the trainer

SYB student becomes baking teacher in Tibet

Passang Lhamo: Teaching blind youth how to bake

Two years ago, Passang Lhamo lived in a remote village in Tibet, unaware of the fragrance of freshly baked bread. Today, Passang Lhamo is a baking trainer in Shigatse. Her students: blind Tibetan youth.

In August 2011, 20-year-old Passang Lhamo came to Shanghai on her own to join the one-year bakery training of Shanghai Young Bakers. Her plan was to go back to Tibet upon graduation to become a trainer at Braille Without Borders (BWB).

Similarly to SYB, BWB aims at alleviating poverty and empowering marginalized youth through vocational skills training. BWB’s Bakery School for the Blind was founded in 2010 by a Dutch baker with the aim to train blind and partially sighted students. It also serves to provide additional revenue to the organization. However, since the Dutch baker left BWB baking school has been lacking in equipment and qualified trainers, which was why they reached out to SYB to develop their program.

To that aim, SYB welcomed Passang Lhamo, one of BWB’s sighted staff, as part of their 2011-2012 class. In addition to bakery classes at SYB, she did an internship at Grand Mercure Hongqiao. Another BWB member, Tse Drolkar, spent two months in SYB so that she could improve her bakery and teaching skills and help Passang Lhamo. This “train-the-trainer” program was a first for SYB, which hopes to help more organizations in the future.

“I didn’t know how to make bread in the past, however after several months’ learning, I started to have a good command of baking and to enjoy it very much.”, said Lhamo.

In July 2012, Lhamo graduated from Shanghai Young Bakers and went back to Tibet to start her new life. Unlike her lonely trip to Shanghai, this time, she was not alone anymore. Three trainers, two past SYB graduates from the class of 2009 and 2011, the top six students from the 2012 graduating class, as well as SYB’s program manager and interns were part of the journey. The trip included technical assessment and counseling, bakery workshops, specialized training for BWB staff, and experience sharing.

One of the challenges was to adapt BWB training center so that it could be used safely by visually challenged students. SYB teachers also adapted their recipes to the local taste, by using Tibetan butter for instance.

Adron from BWB said excitedly: “Our kitchen had been left unused for many years. Now here you come and we can finally make good bread! Yesterday I was so excited that I didn’t sleep all night! Thank you, SYB, I hope we can continue our cooperation.”

BWB bakery training has now been running since summer 2012. Although Passang Lhamo and Tse Drogar face some challenges such as developping blind friendly methods to control the ovens and use digital thermometers, they have the immense pride to teach their students that they can, indeed, “be blind without being disabled”.

Click here to watch SYB & BWB Tibet Trip Video.