Just Where She Is: Alice
Alice's journey began with a simple passion for people, she now runs a fully-fledged wholesale bakery business, cafe and training centre to support and equip exploited women to build a future.
"If they become financially independent, they can provide for themselves and their children, and the generational cycles of poverty can be broken."
Read on to find out all about the work and vision of Luminary Bakery!
1. Favourite TV chef: No one will ever beat Ainsley
2. Film you could watch on repeat: Die Hard
3. Most used cooking utensil: Peeler?!
4. Most cooked recipe: Jamie Oliver's Veggie Chilli is the one.
5. Most underrated virtue: Responsibility. It's boring but I really rate it.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: from how you learned to bake to how you came to found a bakery.
So, I have to confess from the outset: I'm not a professional baker! I trained in Youth and Community Work, and my passion has always been people. I spent some time in Thailand with an organisation which supports women to exit the sex industry and became really passionate about creating opportunities for women who have been exploited or disadvantaged. Sadly, this happens all over the world and is rife in London. East London has an infamous red-light area and lots of homelessness/deprivation, which is disgraceful when there is also so much wealth here. So, some colleagues and I, who were working at Kahaila Cafe on Brick Lane at the time, wanted to do something about it…and this is where the baking came in! My colleagues were talented bakers and we started offering baking workshops in a local women's homeless hostel to see if we could train women in a skill they could then use to build a career. This grew into a more developed baking training programme, and over the years has become the fully-fledged wholesale bakery business, cafe and training centre we have now.
2. Describe the social and economic issues many women face? How does the Luminary Bakery seek to respond to these?
Women living in poverty are at a serious disadvantage when trying to find work. They may not have qualifications because they've been focused on surviving. If they do have skills, their confidence has been so knocked by experiences of abuse, they don't believe they can achieve anything. Many women find it hard enough to build a career, without having to overcome homelessness, trauma or a criminal record.
Luminary exists to support women who are the furthest from the job market, equipping them with the skills and confidence needed to build their own future.
If they become financially independent, they can provide for themselves and their children, and the generational cycles of poverty can be broken.
3. What are the core values of the Luminary Bakery? How does your faith influence these?
Authenticity, empathy, community, fun, and commitment are central values at Luminary - and these are all inspired by our faith.
The verse Micah 6v8 is what we try to live by:
“To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”.
I have this verse tattooed on me as a reminder!
4. How have you seen lives transformed by the work of the Luminary Bakery? Are there any stories you can share?
We've worked with so many amazing women who have gone on to do exciting things, so it's hard to choose just one! They've all made significant personal progress they never thought possible and we love celebrating the wins with them - whether that's starting their own business, receiving their immigration status, getting work or just being able to say something they themselves are proud of.
All are transformational moments we can celebrate.
I know that Luminary has meant an awful lot to them during a difficult time. What's exciting is seeing women who were so shy when they first came to us, now helping out with future training courses and being an inspiration to new trainees.
One woman came to us when she'd just had a baby and escaped a violent relationship. She was really interested in baking and had a real passion for it, but her confidence had been so knocked she didn't believe she could accomplish anything. She came on our training programme and grew in her skills and we helped to build her confidence in herself and her abilities. She then went on to become an apprentice in our business and developed her own products, which we now sell in the bakery. After completing her apprenticeship she secured a job in another bakery straight away.
She's now so much more confident she's almost unrecognisable! We have 2 wonderful ambassadors, Henrietta Inman & Benjamina Ebuehi, who met this lady when she was first on the course. When they saw her recently they both commented on how much she's grown. Her daughter is her motivation to build a career and she is an excellent role model for her.
It's been a total privilege to support her and her daughter. Her daughter is now 3 and sees Luminary as a second home, she calls it 'Lumiberry'!
5. As you look to the future, what are your prayers for the Luminary Bakery and how will you continue to equip and empower women to release them from the injustice they are facing?
We believe we're just scratching the surface with the opportunities we create. We can currently only provide training to 1 in 3 women referred to us, so we want to grow Luminary to reach more. We're looking to open more bakeries across London, growing our celebrations/wedding cakes offering. We're looking forward to Luminary graduates moving up into management positions, and also in investing in more women.
The issues we're trying to tackle are vast: homelessness, domestic abuse, trafficking, sexual exploitation, poverty and criminal activity, and we can't address these alone. We're a small piece of the puzzle, offering opportunities for as many women as we can to recover and find a positive future, which in turn changes the trajectory of their children's lives too.
But wider change needs to happen: government procedures on people moving from welfare in to work (right now it's so hard for our women to make that transition because of the system), improved support for trafficking victims, better attitudes towards ex-offenders trying to have a new start, and work to address the root issues that cause people to be exploited (e.g. eradication of poverty and oppression of women...). There are a lot of problems in our world which need to change and when issues are this big they need a lot of prayer, and a lot of people to step up.
6. All of our More Precious readers have different God-given gifts. How would you encourage those who want to combine their gifts with a pursuit of justice? What advice do you have for getting started?
I would recommend volunteering! It's the best way to utilise your skills in a really helpful way and learn what you're passionate about.
Choose organisations that inspire you because you'll learn so much from being around them. If you then see a gap in what is being offered, see if you can fill it. Try not to jump in naively, but do your research, because there's no need to reinvent the wheel.