What do you do if you are traveling (or living) in Changsha and you have a sudden hankering for a warm, just-baked baguette? Or a craving for freshly brewed German coffee? You head across town to Number 8 Xiang Chun Alley and tuck into some delicious bread and pastries at Bach’s Bakery.
Once there you will meet Uwe Brutzer and his staff and find far more than bread and coffee. The goal of Bach’s Bakery is to provide an opportunity for young people who live with disabilities—especially the hearing impaired—to learn the bakery trade and business skills so that they can be financially independent and play their unique roles in society.
Uwe and Dorothee Brutzer left their homes in southern Germany many years ago, came to China, and learned Mandarin. Uwe has a relative who is hearing impaired and is a special education teacher; Dorothee, a primary school teacher. When they were asked if they would be interested in helping to set up a sponsorship program for hearing-impaired children in Changsha, they said they would give it a try for a year. Nearly 16 years later, they are still involved in the sponsorship program.
As they worked with the children, they realized there were limited opportunities for the children as they grew up—vocational training is needed to help them become independent, contributing adults. And so Bach’s Bakery began.
The following is an email interview with Dorothee Brutzer.
1. How did you get started running a German-style bakery in Changsha, China?
We have been running a sponsorship program for hearing-impaired children since we came to Changsha. Some of the supported kids went to deaf school. When they graduated it was often hard for them to find a good job. We heard about a bakery with deaf employees in another city and we wanted to start something similar in Changsha. But it took quite a while to find a German baker who was willing to come to Changsha. A colleague started the bakery but had to return home soon afterwards for health reasons. So Uwe took over the work in the bakery. The German baker stayed with us for four years (2010-2014) and trained Uwe and several deaf people.
2. How many bakers and other staff have you trained and where are they now?
We have trained over 20 bakers and shop assistants. Some of them are still with us, some work in other shops, some care for their families or work in another profession now. One hearing-impaired baker tried to open her own bakery which sadly didn’t work out.
3. What are your hopes for Bach’s Bakery in the coming years?
We hope to continue to be a place where you can get high quality and delicious bread and pastries. We also hope to be able to help more deaf people to get a good start into their work life, to be self-confident and happy. We hope to be an example to others, so that more and more people see that deaf people can work well and more people will be willing to employ deaf people themselves.
If you can’t make it Changsha yourself watch this video, made by the Bank of Changsha, introducing Uwe and Dorothee and their work with hearing-impaired children and adults. There are no English subtitles but you will learn much just watching it even if you don’t understand the Mandarin. Or better yet, invite a Chinese friend to watch it with you and translate the commentary. You will both be blessed by the story of the Brutzers and Bach’s Bakery.
Narci Herr and her husband, Glenn, lived for just over 30 years in Hong Kong. They were first involved in working with the church in Hong Kong and then for the last 20 years of their time in Asia they served workers living in China. During that time Glenn traveled extensively throughout China and Narci... View Full Bio