The experience of volunteering for Shanghai Young Bakers
I started volunteering for Shanghai Young Bakers from March this year. There are several kinds of volunteer jobs you can choose to do in Shanghai Young Bakers, such as translators, photographers, and promoters in the markets. Amongst those the most needed one in quantity is volunteering in the market to sell the bakery the students made during the current week, meanwhile promoting the social enterprise part and gaining more awareness of the program. I can still remember the first experience I had with SYB: I went for the morning shift at Tianzifang market, stood for around 3 hours, talked a lot but didn’t sell much. I bought half of a toast with walnut and black sugar in it when my shift was over. It was so delicious that I regretted very much I only bought half.
Then I got involved deeper. I built a good relationship with the markets coordinator Wuhao, and was at the market with SYB selling their products nearly every weekend. I got to know more of the program, about how they started and developed it, what criteria they use to select the students, how they trained them to adapt to a totally new environment, how the graduates’ lives were. They built a sustainable receiving and giving model by selecting the excellent graduates to train and advance their baking skills in France, and having them come back to teach the new students. Nearly all the ingredients they use are directly imported from the French sponsors, only except eggs and salt from China and Sugar from Korea. And currently SYB’s got around 25% of the program supported by social enterprise part containing Markets, public classes, team building events, catering, bread & cake baskets, and professional training and services. The deeper I got involved, the more faith I had in this program. When Wuhao’s internship ended, I had the honor to take the offer to be the new Markets Coordinator for a year.
I always believe that no matter it is a paid or a volunteer job, believing or not in the program and product makes a huge difference. Shanghai Young Bakers is a program that I know really benefits the youngster enrolled in it. During the 8 months working closely with the team and the markets, I see how they interact with each other, how close they are, and how much change SYB program made on the students. I learnt a lot from the team, the students/ graduates and the customers in the market. And a very important thing to a foodie like me is, SYB’s got the best baguette in Shanghai! And the best French pastry! They are so awesome that I gained 4 kilos since March!
Besides the 4 kilos’ weight I am still struggling with, I got to know how a foreign NGO operates in China as well as the operation of the markets. The frequent exposure in the markets got me information about a lot other local and foreign NGOs and knowledge about the minority, the underprivileged group and the invisible part of the society. I made a couple of friends who believe in the same thing as I do through the SYB activities; the conversations I had with them are gradually changing my life. I learnt to communicate with different kinds of people while coordinating the volunteers and selling products/ our program in the market. Most importantly, I believe more and more firmly during these 8 months, although this is not an ideal world we are living in now, there are people who believe in themselves trying their best to better it. If you join us, you are one of them.
Joy Lin, Markets Coordinator