Ziba Eidizada came to New Zealand two years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan, hoping for a better future for her and her daughter. Now she is turning her love for baking into a career, thanks to a new social enterprise called The Bread Collective.
Over the past couple of months, nine former refugees have been learning the art of bread baking through The Bread Collective programme, supported by the generosity of future employers, community partners, and AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.
The students have not only learned how to bake, however. The programme is providing them with everything they need to be successfully employed bakers in a commercial environment – from transport, uniforms and laptops, to job placements and ongoing pastoral support.
"We can all agree that bread is delicious, nourishing, but, most importantly, familiar to all,” The Bread Collective founder Ana Djokovic says.
“Every culture has an association with bread, as do many religions, and it is something we have all attempted to make, especially during lockdown. On top of that, there is a skills shortage of bakers in New Zealand and so there was a natural fit – the familiarity of bread and a potential pathway into employment.”
But the undertaking is not just about plugging an employment gap.
“This isn’t about giving a job that no one else wants,” Djokovic says.
“It’s about empowering people and creating relationships for meaningful work, as well as helping to establish those professional networks."
Often finding employment opportunities can be a difficult task for all migrants and especially those from a refugee background, Djokovic says.
“But one way to integrate and find your place in New Zealand is through employment.”
The Head of AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, Warren Goodsir, says the school and staff are enthusiastic in their support for The Bread Collective.
"The co-created partnership is a good match as the values and goals of The Bread Collective align closely with the ethic of Hospitality and Tourism where the aim is to create a welcoming place for people to connect with each other, communities, and cultures,” he says.
“Creating these connections through the baking of bread is a timeless tradition where we also have the expertise and kitchens to help Ana bring The Bread Collective vision to reality.”
Alongside the support of the School, the social enterprise programme was co-created with wider support services, input from industry employers, and with the help of this first cohort of students who completed the six-week programme.
It was further supported by TSB Bank, who awarded The Bread Collective a $20,000 Good Stuff Grant; The Warehouse Group, who donated money for clothing; Auckland Transport, who donated towards free public transport; The University of Auckland provided laptops; and a donation from Countdown went towards the ingredients.
AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism provided facilities and expertise, including with baking, social inclusion and social wellbeing, as well as in working together with the refugee community.
For this pilot programme, employers that are working with the students and providing job pathways include Countdown Bakeries and Wild Wheat.
Ziba Eidizada says she enjoyed the course “100 per cent”.
“I am thinking about my future. Maybe I will start my own business, from working in a bakery. I am very happy that my daughter will grow up here.”
It is hoped that another course of The Bread Collective will run again shortly.