Faith-Based Amity Bakery Supports Young Mentally Challenged Adults

Mentally handicapped employees at the Amity Bakery in Nanjing, Jiangsu, squeezed dough to make cookies at an unknown day.
Mentally handicapped employees at the Amity Bakery in Nanjing, Jiangsu, squeezed dough to make cookies at an unknown day. (photo:  Amity Bakery)
By Zhang MengyueMarch 9th, 2022

Unlike ordinary bakeries, the Amity Bakery in China's eastern-coastal Jiangsu Province provides employment mostly to those who are intellectually disabled - "Cuties" (a term of endearment used for people who are intellectually impaired).

Founded in 2007, Amity Bakery is a public welfare project for people with special needs developed by Amity Home of Blessings under the faith-based Amity Foundation.

Founded in 2002, the Amity Home of Blessings is the first non-profit professional institution in Qinhuai District of Nanjing City to serve people with intellectual disabilities. Its Department for Adults mainly provides care and skills training for 16–40-year-old people with intellectual disabilities (also known as "Cuties") and mild mental disorders.

Due to the limitation of their intellectual development, the intelligence of "Cuties" is only equivalent to that of five or six-year-old children, therefore a job that is within the reach of ordinary people is not as easy for them. Due to this disadvantage, few employers would consider giving opportunities to these special groups.

As the old Chinese proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. " It matches the original intention of Amity Home of Blessings which came up with a "simulated workplace" initiative, determined to provide a relatively realistic work scene for the “Cuties” trainees. In this way, with practical training over a certain amount of time, they would be able to have access to potential employers.

Inspired by the local market research in Nanjing and the successful case of Swan Bakery in Japan, in 2007, with Amity Home of Blessings’ funding, the Amity Bakery was officially opened on Huaqiao Road, Nanjing.

However, it was not so much a bakery as a "workshop". In its start-up period, the bakery was not a real business entity with a physical store, but rather just a pure operation room where trainees received training and coaching by special education teachers and baking trainers.

At that time, no one would expect that this small bakery could last over 15 years and become a well-known public welfare brand in China.

After the opening of the bakery, the trainees started from the most basic operation training such as putting on and taking off work clothes, cleaning tables and chairs, and then gradually learned how to beat eggs, mix the dough, and squeeze butter... With the continuous training, the trainees became more and more skillful day by day and gradually gained self-confidence.

In May 2009, a "greatly helpful person" came to Amity Bakery - Mr. Kwong Chun-chung, an internationally renowned baker, also the founder and vice president of the Hong Kong Bakery and Confectionery Association Limited. After learning that there was a charitable bakery in Nanjing that helped people with intellectual challenges to find jobs, Kuong joined as a volunteer and served as the technical director of the bakery who was responsible for product development and quality control of new products. At the same time, Kwong also offered the cookie recipe that he had carefully developed to Amity Bakery for free.

Meanwhile, a company with a good sense of social responsibility was willing to provide a space for the bakery for free. Subsequently, the Amity Foundation helped to purchase high-end dough mixers, blenders, ovens, freezers, and other equipment.

In June 2009, Kwong led the staff and volunteers of the bakery in making Amity's "Eight Blessings" mooncakes. During the Mid-Autumn Festival that year, purchase orders were placed by enterprises and individuals with charitable hearts from all over the country, and the turnover reached more than 500,000 Chinese Yuan (about 79,148 USD).

In that year during a training session, Chu Chaoyu, executive director of Amity Bakery, learned of the concept of "social enterprise" (i.e., achieve social goals with commercial means) that was very popular in the public welfare sector in some developed countries. Impressed by this, he decided to develop the bakery into an economically independent social enterprise.

Later in the same year, Amity Bakery was officially registered as Nanjing Amity Food Co., Ltd., which was transformed into a non-profit social enterprise that aimed to achieve economic independence in the open market and ultimately attain sustainable development. It became one of the pioneer charity projects that were transformed into social enterprises.

In 2010, with the popularity of online shopping, Amity registered a Taobao (NYSE: BABA) store to sell cookies, bread, and other foods with a long shelf life that were suitable for courier delivery. Later, it further launched a variety of gift products, "Fantastic Gift Boxes", to meet the diverse needs of the market.

After opening the Taobao store, dozens of college students from all over China voluntarily joined the operation team and worked on marketing, publicity, and customer services. With the continuous reports by mainstream media, many ordinary consumers also walked into the bakery to buy products.

According to the 2011 Annual Report of Amity Foundation, Amity Bakery achieved sales of one million Yuan (about 158,282 USD) in the whole year, of which the moon cake income was more than 600,000 Yuan (about 94,969 USD), the on-site sales reached 280,000 Yuan (about 44,319 USD), the online store sales were more than 80,000 Yuan (about 12,662 USD), and the total cash donations amounted to nearly 20,000 Yuan (about 3,165 USD).

In 2012, Amity Bakery decided to open a physical store in Nanjing, targeting mass consumers directly. In this way, while expanding the social influence, bread made by the trainees could be sold in the market, and wages could be paid to them so that they could earn income there and as a result accomplish sheltered employment.

At the beginning of 2015, the Amity Foundation launched a public welfare crowdfunding project for a new bakery- "Many People's Bakery" through online channels.

In this crowdfunding, every coffee machine, display shelf, and even every table and chair in the new store were funded by donations from all walks of life. Doners could get a box of delicious cookies, or engrave their names on the donation objects as a return for crowdfunding. This was the origin of the heartwarming name "Many People's Bakery".

In just a few months, with the support of thousands of charitable people, the bakery online crowdfunding project had raised more than 390,000 Yuan (about 61,737 USD). In May 2015, the Amity Bakery outlet (which was also a production center) at No. 16, Dajinyin Road, achieved the goal of crowdfunding and was officially opened.

Kwong, the technical director of Amity Bakery has always put quality as the top priority. In terms of ingredients, Amity Bakery selects materials according to standards above those of the industry. As for using artificial flavors and additives, it is a red line that cannot be crossed.

In the production process, the bakery also insists on being hand-made. The workflow is taken apart into details so that the "Cuties" trainees can truly participate in the bread production and can continue to refine their own professional skills at work.

(Note: The pictures in this article are from the website of the  and the WeChat account of Amity Bakery)

- Translated by Shuya Wang

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