The Impact of COVID-19 on Bramber Bakehouse

Hollin Preston

The first moment I realised Covid-19 would significantly impact Bramber was a couple of hours before picking up ingredients for our March workshop.

As you may know, we partner with Waitrose & Partners and they supply ingredients required to run our baking workshops. Every month we take a shopping list to our local store and we collect what we need to bake during that workshop.

Our March workshop was on the weekend of the 14th and this was in the middle of the panic buying. Toilet roll was as precious as gold and people were acting as though we were in the middle of an apocalypse, remember that? As I was waiting for the final shopping list from our baking team, I had a sudden thought that I was about to enter a local supermarket and take ingredients that were already in short supply.

At the same time the infection rate was rising around key cities in the South East and we were concerned for our ladies who not only lived there but needed to use public transport to reach us.

There had been a brief discussion on our team Whatsapp about what should be done, but I was quite determined to go ahead with the workshop. However, having seen the bare shelves of other supermarkets it suddenly dawned on me, less than 48 hours before we continued our 5th set of the workshops, the severity of the situation our country had found itself in. I called Lucy to discuss what we should do, and we agreed the safest and wisest decision was to cancel. This was made both for the team’s safety and the women we work with. 

When the country went into full lockdown the following weekend, we then cancelled our final workshop in April. This meant the cohort didn’t complete the course, didn’t get their graduation and we didn’t get to say goodbye. We have had our fair share of difficulties to get through in every workshop, but we have never cancelled one. It was a heartbreaking decision. 

Since then we have been in contact with our current cohort. This has been a welfare check to see how they are and if they had any immediate needs. Thankfully, they are doing well and some even using the time to put their baking skills into practice – as you may have seen across our social media. We are also in discussions of how and when the women will be able to finish the course. This will depend on when the Government allows more free movement. Whenever this happens, we will be there with our lovely ladies. 

In August of last year, we recruited a new board of trustees to help us develop Bramber to provide more workshops so we can impact more women. We have big plans of how to do this. You may have read my previous post about The Future of Bramber. This will cost money. It was a big task before Covid-19 but now it is considerable one. When a country’s economy suffers the vulnerable suffers more. This is likely to mean an increase in survivors of human trafficking needing services like ours.

We do not expect the demand to slow but to increase significantly.

As a team we are pushing forward with our future. We are excited about what Bramber Bakehouse will become, but we understand the task is harder. This doesn’t put us off. We have plans in place of how we are to continue to achieve what we need to in order to reach many, many more survivors. We have recognised that Covid-19 will make this more difficult, but we are more than up for the challenge. Please join us on the journey- it will be quite a ride! 

If you would like to support Bramber Bakehouse on a regular basis to continue the work and reach more survivors of human trafficking please click here