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An extraordinary bakery for refugees in Uganda

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  • The ADAMÂ Bakery at Oruchinga Refugee Settlement

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

For the past year and a half, I’ve been volunteering to train refugees in baking at Oruchinga, the oldest refugee settlement in Uganda. To date, I have made three trips, totaling two months. Working together shoulder to shoulder, eating together, laughing and baking together, playing with the children—it has been such a life-altering experience, for the refugees of course, but equally for me. The refugees come from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, countries rife with war and civil unrest; each of them carries deep trauma from the unimaginable horrors that forced them to leave their homelands. They all have compelling stories . . .

And now they have a foothold—the bakers, almost all of whom are women, have skills, a small salary, and bread for themselves and their families (these are profoundly beneficial, not least because they receive just $3.48 per month from the UN for subsistence). Most importantly, these beautiful people are empowered. A further rippling repercussion is that we have distributed many thousands of buns and loaves to the most vulnerable people in the settlement—the children. The elation on their faces when they receive bread is indescribable, as is the abject despair we see on the faces of those whose pounding bellies go without when the bread is gone . . . A foundational commitment of the bakery is the Feeding Friday initiative, the bringing of breads to as many of the children as possible.

Speaking personally, I have been on six continents during my baking life, and I have never—never—been in a country more compelling than Uganda.

The original bakery space provided a good start, but it was not suitable for the long term. A village elder, who believes in the refugees and the mission of the bakery, offered a long-term lease on part of his banana farm, and a large space has been cleared. It is a great location, being in the main village of the refugee settlement. Now the women will not have to walk so far to and from work (many with a young child strapped to their backs), and it will be much easier for local people to access the products. A building has been erected that will serve as a kitchen, making hot foods to sell, and now it is time to build the bakery space.

The projected cost for the construction of the bakery and purchasing of equipment is approximately $20,000. The contribution you make to this GoFundMe campaign will be used solely for those purposes. If more than enough is secured, the extra will go to ingredient procurement, salaries for the refugees (they earn about $53 per month), and other bakery expenses.

And please note: There is a 2.9% GoFundMe fee for each contribution and a very modest bank fee for the transfer of the collected funds to Uganda, but there are no hidden administrative costs that will be taken from your donation. Also, my personal trips are entirely self-funded, so your contribution goes directly to the people who need it most. (In order to avoid any potential personal tax liability, please understand that I am not able to offer any form of gift to you; as the IRS requires, contributors will not receive goods or services as a result of their gift). Please feel free to pass this email along to anyone you wish, as well as to your Facebook and Instagram accounts if you have them (I do not). Your generosity will have a life-altering impact on the lives of the refugee bakers and the children of the settlement.

Where there is Bread, there is Hope . . .
With deepest gratitude, thank you.
Jeffrey Hamelman

When I conceived the idea of starting a GoFundMe campaign to build the bakery at Oruchinga, I knew that the projected cost would be about $20,000. It seemed audacious to request such a huge amount, so I thought that I might request just $10,000. But, sheepishly, I requested the full $20,000. We received that amount in less than 48 hours, and soon we will break ground on the bakery! The gratitude I feel to all who have donated comes from the bottom of my heart. Now I am feeling sheepish again, because I have increased the requested donations to a total of $40,000. Here’s why: during my three visits to Uganda, the power went out on average three or more times per week, sometimes for an hour or two, sometimes for an entire day. All the baking was done in a wood-fired oven, but we also have a mixer, a refrigerator, and a bread slicer, and when these are inoperable due to the loss of electricity, production is not possible. No children fed, no bread sold to the community. In the new bakery space, the long side of the building will face south so that solar panels can be installed. If we receive the additional funds, they will be used for the purchase of a generator and/or solar installation, infrastructure to ensure that a reliable water source is available, and an increase in the Feeding Friday initiative so that even more children will be fed. I still feel sheepish requesting more donations, but I do so because I know the lifelong impact a fully-functioning bakery will have on those dear bakers, their children and their families, as well as on all the additional refugee children who will be fed through the Feeding Friday initiative. Thank you in advance if you can help with this enlarged fundraising request—coming from one baking community to another. If you can’t donate, thank you for your emotional support. Truly, globally, we are all in this together.
Once again: Where there is Bread, there is Hope.
Thank you,
Jeffrey Hamelman

(Jeffrey Hamelman began baking at 6:00 AM, Wednesday, September 1, 1976 and it has been his life's work ever since. He gets immense pleasure from sharing his knowledge and experiences with bakers from around the world, and of course, learning from them.)

Sawing wood for the oven (click for video)

The first day of baking!

We make bread!

Pink shoes (click for video)

Happy boys!

Team Leader Angella and smiles everywhere

Team Leader Sophie getting the children ready to receive bread
(click for video)

A Spontaneous Dance of Gratitude for the Bread
(click for video)


Jeffrey Hamelman
Hartland, VT

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