Can baking relieve mental anguish? It certainly did for social entrepreneur, Pei Rong.
We had the honour of participating in Bakery Wellness‘ first ever baking workshop. It was an eye-opening (and delicious!) experience. But what touched us most was seeing the close pairs of father and child, mother and daughter, sisters; recovering persons and their loved ones working together, in tandem, on the fun task of baking. For those few hours, it wasn’t about the daily struggles of living with mental illness.
Our baked goods were sold for a good cause, with proceeds going to Silver Ribbon Singapore, the mental health charity of their choice. Here’s our conversation with Pei Rong, founder of Bakery Wellness.
Bakery Wellness is a social enterprise that supports mental wellbeing. Would you mind sharing with us on when and how this idea first came about?
In 2015, I had to resign from my learning support educator role which I enjoyed, and went through a harsh breakup. Later on, I was diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder.
During Lunar New Year in 2016, I started off by selling homemade pineapple tarts to friends and relatives during Lunar New Year. It was from then on that I began to gradually rebuild my confidence, and hope in life. That’s how Bakery Wellness is born! :)
What do you hope to achieve through this venture?
Bakery Wellness is to educate, inspire and restore life. It’s an awareness movement for people suffering from mental condition to empower their stories through baking. This inspires the others to destigmatize about mental health.
Baking is a therapeutic way to enhance one’s quality of life, rebuild confidence and relieve anxiety. We want to provide an alternative way to promote mental wellness.
Education plays a crucial role to understand about mental health and mental health knowledge begins with us and others.
As mental disorders are difficult topics to talk about, hence we educate the public about mental health issues through social media, baking events and talks.
What were some of the milestones or unforgettable moments you’ve experienced through Bakery Wellness?
The first unforgettable moment was there were two visitors came down to buy cupcakes from my event at Young Entrepreneurs Fair. One of them left a positive review on my Facebook page mentioning that ‘My buddy and I had a great time giving the cupcakes a try. I chose to sample “Tough” and left him “Life”. We figured if we are having a tough time, maybe it’s time to head out to Bakery Wellness and talk it out.’
Another unforgettable moment was the recent event I conducted was The Baker’s Mind. There was a pair of participant (caregiver and her son in recovery from mental condition) who thanked Mary (volunteer leader) and I for bringing them to an expensive Japanese restaurant. It was their first time eating there. They were looking forward to their first baking class!
To me, I thought that restaurant, café and etc are common for everyone to eat there. The price for that meal was comparable with café food pricing. It strikes me not to take things for granted. I learn to appreciate the meals I am able to pay for which not many people can afford to.When they mentioned they were looking forward to my baking class, I know I have achieved the outcome of the project!
Why is mental health important to you?
Without a healthy mental health, we cannot function well in life. It can affect everyone around us such as our loved ones, work and relationship.
We need to take care our needs first before others. This allows us to reach our full potential in all aspects of life.
Do you have any advice for people who might be going through a mental health struggle?
The first step is to seek help. Although it is difficult to find support at first, it is okay not to be okay. Remember you are not alone in this journey. There is hope in the journey of life.
Peirong is a a self-taught baker who loves to bake and a social entrepreneur who advocates for mental wellness. She is also an early childhood educator. She believes that “since I have survived through my worst times, there is nothing else I am fearful of. The only thing I am fearful of is not living truly of myself. Time is limited. I have mission to fulfill in my life that is to impact lives through baking.”