travel bursary reports
Wow. What a year?! Although I’m super excited to share with you what I’ve been up to over the past 12 months - the lessons I’ve learnt, stories I have, restoration I’ve seen, work I have done – I’m also daunted by it. Daunted because I have SO many ‘best bits’ to try and fit into one report. But what a great problem to have eh?! To write this report I looked back over my monthly ‘prayer point and update emails’ to pick out the best and most important moments, and have been utterly blown away by a) How awesome our God is – a God who has provided time and time again, has answered prayers, equipped, blessed abundantly, challenged and grown me and never left me to tackle anything alone. A God who has brought us joy, endurance and strength. And b) How blessed I’ve been to have had such an incredible year; doing what I love, with purpose and people who are now my closest friends.
I will, if you don’t mind, break my report up into monthly sections and use bullet points as I’ve found this to be super useful in fitting a lot of information into a small space. I’ve also included links to photos and videos from throughout the year and if you do nothing else, I would encourage you to watch the videos. So here goes!
In September I:
- Worked 3 days a week in the café, mastering everything apart from making coffees: cutting cakes, working the till, making and toasting sandwiches, cleaning up, warming pastries, clearing tables, forming relationships with regular customers….
- Introduced ‘Cake of the month’ to Luminary Bakery and Kahaila. I designed one new product that got sold for that month and then I changed it up for the next month. It gave us a seasonal product list and me some creative freedom away from making the same cookies and biscuits every week.
- Developed some of Luminary bakery’s existing products (such as the peanut butter cookie) so they’re easier to make and had an improved appearance.
- Got stuck in at Kahaila church and got to know people there. It’s a lot smaller and very different format to most churches – we have good coffee, worship which isn’t always sung, and then the talk is broken up by getting into groups and discussing the topic. It was a little uncomfortable and took some getting used to but I was learning and taking away things from it each time.
- Started writing for the Luminary blog and took over the Instagram account.
- Would say, hands down, the best thing was working with the women from vulnerable situations, getting to know them and teaching them to bake. That may sound like the ‘worthy’ answer, the answer I should be giving, but honestly, it’s been so. Flipping. Amazing. I really love it. I love the challenge, the women, the way they are so eager to learn and the potential I can see they have. They turn up for 6 hours every week and for that time the bakery becomes a place where they are valued, encouraged, taught, stretched and safe. My favourite part of those 6 hours is when they take what they’ve made out of the oven and package it up to take home. I feel privileged to watch the pride they have in what they make, and in the knowledge that we could actually sell what they bake. It’s really special.
In October I:
- Helped run a charity auction to fundraise for Luminary Bakery and the other projects Kahaila support. It was a great evening of cocktail dresses, candle-lit tables, competitive bidding, live music and posh Scandinavian canapés.
- Went for ‘coffee training’ and could officially call myself a barista.
- Was featured in 2 different newspapers! It was fun (and a bit weird) spying our picture over people’s shoulders as they read on the tube.
- Learnt more about myself than I think I’ve learnt in the last few years. As cliché as that sounds, I don’t think I realised how little I actually knew.
- Properly settled into Kahaila Church and started to form great friendships with some girls there.
- Taught the ‘Luminary Ladies’ on the course how to make a Victoria sponge cake and carrot cake muffins. The women were growing in self-confidence and skills week by week.
- Time flew by the quickest and it was definitely the best month so far. 4 months in, 8 months to go. Settled and no longer the newbie. Thankful for what had been and so excited for the future.
- I experienced my first Thanksgiving. Kahaila got packed out with staff, customers, locals, friends and family for a massive bring-and-share feast. There was great food, great people and great conversation. It was a moment when I saw just how powerful a sense of community can be and the way Kahaila is working to create that.
- I baked 2700 of ‘Rachel’s glittery gingerbread’ snowflakes. We were giving them away for free with each hot drink we sold at Kahaila. That’s a whole lot of cutting, rolling and baking, and lot of coffees.
- I started getting involved at church in our other café in the Olympic village in Stratford on a Sunday morning. It's had a small group vibe and family focus.
- I was really challenged about seeking intimacy with God first and foremost.
- I was photographed by a volunteer’s boyfriend, Tom, for Luminary’s website. Tom’s presence was such a blessing in the bakery – most of the women we work with come from situations that make them very weary, if not scared of men. Tom and his girlfriend Aine were a brilliant example of what a healthy, loving relationship can look like and we had a ‘wow’ moment when all the women went to hug Tom goodbye one week. That never would’ve happened 2 months earlier – Amazing!!
- I developed deep and rooted friendships.
- I cooked Christmas dinner with the Luminary Ladies and they were awarded their food hygiene certificates. It was a huge milestone in their time on the course and brought some of them to tears. They were proud, we were proud of them, and it was an all-round special occasion.
- I taught the women how to ‘rub in’ ready for pastry month of the course. We had no flour on our palms thank you.
- I really invested in my relationship with God and was utterly blown away by the ways He was working around, in, and through me.
- Along with the grey weather of this month, these four weeks were the toughest yet. That’s not to say I didn’t had lots of great experiences, or that God wasn’t with me every step of it, it was just more of a challenge and a bit more, well, grey. A main contributor to this was the sudden death of an 18 year old guy who used to work at Kahaila and was a part of the community. It really shook up the café, the church, customers, and staff. Having to take coffee orders from regular customers in tears was tough. However through this God drummed home and emphasised such an important truth: He goes before us. He prepares us for trails we face. Events like this don’t take him by surprise.
- I helped some of our Luminary ladies to lead baking classes in the women’s homeless hostel where they live. It was definitely eye opening and a challenge but so empowering for them to be teaching others what they had learnt.
- I helped organise our second bring and share supper club for Kahaila church, community and customers.
- I had an evening of training by Beyond the Streets on working with women involved in the sex industry.
- I was taught a huge amount about what having an undivided heart for God looks like.
- I taught the women on the course to make quiche, chocolate fudge cake and banana bread.
In March I:
- Fell in love with camomile tea and used it as inspiration for March’s #COTM : Honey and camomile cakes.
- Was taught by God how to ‘stand firm’.
- Showed our new logo to anyone and everyone who would look.
- Was so content. I found my place and knew it’s where I was supposed to be. I loved being able to say ‘I’m actually doing what I want to/feel called to/enjoy doing’.
- Was the first baker to work full-time for the bakery, making the shift from baking 2 days to 4 days a week.
- Started supplying The Moveable feast, Lady Dinah’s cat emporium (a hipster cat café…) and Holy Trinity Brompton’s café with cakes.
- Held the last session of our first 6 month Luminary baking course.
- To say I was tired would be an understatement. And yet I felt so joyful - this month was full on but so life-giving.
- We held our first Luminary bakery graduation!!! Four of the women who had completed the course were awarded a Luminary Bakery certificate along with an OCR certificate for Living and Life skills. It was such an incredible and emotional evening full of supportive friends and family, cakes they’d made and lots of tears.
- We were filmed for this really informative video made by OCR to promote their accreditation of our Luminary Bakery course. It’s a small snapshot into what I was doing, and you’ll get to finally put names to faces.
- Luminary bakery had a stall at the Renegade craft fair on Brick Lane and it was such a success! We made 3x £££ than we planned and gained over 75 new Instagram followers. It was a massive learning curve and overwhelming at times, but God was faithful and people bought a lot of cake.
- I designed April’s #COTM, the rhubarb and elderflower upside-down cake. As a result of Renegade the Blackcurrant, lavender and mascarpone cake was also created along with raspberry and lemon friands
- We kicked off our second Luminary Bakery course with 7 new women and a lot of anticipation.
In May/June I:
- Appeared in yet another film about Luminary bakery.
- Got to know the new group of women on the Luminary bakery course better. They were an absolute dream and such a blessing to us. I taught 4 lessons and was so encouraged by their level of skill and eagerness to learn. They were also really supportive of one another; there was a great environment of encouragement amongst them.
- Baked for Tom's shoes. Like THE Tom’s. After making them 100 cupcakes for an event, we now supply their new cafe with cakes, tray bakes and biscuits every week.
- Was reminded that God’s way of doing things is always people-focused, not task-focussed.
In July/August I:
- Had the joy of seeing the first two Luminary ladies I teach being employed by the bakery and working alongside them!! The other two women have also re-entered employment with other organisations. This was a HUGE milestone and what we were working towards since Day one!
- Worked my last Kahaila café shift.
- Was given the opportunity to join a tiny group pioneering a new church service and to lead a small group within Kahaila church.
- Was featured in this brilliant video for and including everything that Kahaila’s about.
- Helped host two bring and share supper clubs– a medieval feast and Caribbean carnival. They were full of life and laughter and we had one of the Luminary ladies we teach coming along and getting involved.
- Gained an amazing new boss and lost a little freedom.
- Praised God that we had one of the Luminary ladies coming to church for the past 6 weeks, fully engaging and loving it. YES God!! This is why I do what I do.
- We signed the lease for our own very own bakery premises in Stoke Newington! We are STOKED! (Planned move in date November 2015)
- Our second group of five Luminary Ladies graduated from the baking course resulting in new jobs, working for us or setting up their own businesses. (Our third course starts October 2015)
- We put our skirt-suits on and catered an event in the London Walkie Talkie building, making lots of corporate contacts for more catering opportunities.
- We have baked our socks off preparing to exhibit at the Cake and Bake show London (2nd-4th October) this weekend.
- I finished my internship and started a new chapter: the gap-life. After an amazing amazing year, a realisation that I was doing exactly what I want to be doing and confirmation that Kahaila is where God wants me, I have decided to continue to work for Luminary bakery, train as a pastry chef at Westminster Kingsway College, and live in East London. So although I’m still very much 19, underqualified and overeager, I’m entering the world of a working woman. Council tax, new flat, contracts. It makes me go EEEEK with excitement and EURGH with the realisation that these adulty things come with time consuming paperwork and a need for knowledge they never teach you.
I really hope this overview of my internship with Kahaila and Luminary Bakery has conveyed what a truly life-changing, Rachel-shaping year this has been. I cannot put into words how thankful I am to all of you at the Timios Trust who have supported me both spiritually in prayer, and financially – It’s no lie to say I couldn’t have done it without you! So thank you. Thank you for taking a risk by supporting someone on an unconventional gap year, for your interest and encouragement in my work in East London and for your travel bursary to fund a portion of my Oyster card. I have been so blessed by your generosity, time and kindness.
Read our reports from those we have supported through bursaries!