People with learning differences all over the world struggle with finding jobs to support themselves. This is because for people with learning differences it may be very difficult to perform basic skills needed to qualify for a job. However, non-profit organizations help people receive these opportunities. One of those organizations is a bakery in Gaithersburg, Maryland called the Sunflower Bakery.
The Bakery trains young adults, so they can find work in professional bakeries. The bakery’s programs train about sixty students a year where they learn sales, and basic kitchen needs, along with skills in pastry, baking, and front of house operations.
Executive director Daphna Raskas helped explain the beauty of this organization and how they teach their students these skills. She said that the students learn techniques of being in a bakery by doing a lot of hands on activities instead of watching or just listening, which helps the students learn much more easily. “We let people show what they can really do” She said. She also explained that the students follow a curriculum and have homework just like they would in school. This made it easier for the students to learn because it was very similar to something they were used to.
After the students graduate from the program they are in, the bakery hires them for a certain period of time as employees where they learn to work under a boss and manage their income. After that period of time is up, the bakery helps them find a job they can work at.
This bakery does more than effect their students however, it also has an effect on the entire community. It does this by creating an example for the community of inclusion, and proves to people how a person can have a positive effect on someone in their daily lives. Along with helping these young adults, the bakery’s goal is also to spread the act of inclusion.
The Sunflower Bakery was founded about a decade ago by Laurie Wexler and Sara Portman Milner who both had a background of working with people with learning differences. The bakery was originally run in the kitchen of local synagogue Beth Shalom and then later moved to its current location “the organization is based on jewish values” Raskas explained. It later opened Café Sunflower in the Jewish Federation building where even more students could work and where customers could dine.
The bakery has been successful for about a decade and continues to thrive. The bakery itself will move to a new location this summer. The new location will have four times the size of the old one, and will be a five minute drive from the cafe.
Sunflower bakery has been helping people for so long and continues to have a positive impact on the community.