SHANGHAI, China –Tiantian, 25, comes to the Shanghai Enrichment Community Center from Monday to Friday to learn calligraphy, handcrafts, drawing and baking. Although she suffers from a mental disability, just like everyone she needs friends, love and encouragement.
Thirty Ford volunteers from Ford China and Ford Asia Pacific came to the community center on September 12 and joined Tiantian and another 10 similar students for their normal baking lesson. For the community students, some of them had never met a foreigner before, so they felt a bit nervous and shy at the beginning but after breaking down into different groups with a few Chinese volunteers and non-Chinese volunteers, they started talking and the smiles from Ford volunteers melted their hearts.
The snack everybody was going to bake was kept as a secret till the last minute. When people arrived in the baking kitchen, the ingredients and equipment were already placed in order, then the day’s baking product was finally revealed – not cookies or muffins, but traditional Chinese pineapple cake! Students and volunteers started making the cake under an experienced baking teacher’s detailed instructions. They were happily mixing the flour, adding the butter, sugar and milk-power.
Tom Flack, director of Purchasing, Ford AP, was certainly the star of the afternoon because of his wonderful baking skills. Lots of people from other groups were attracted to come and steal his tricks of making a nice dough base for the cake.
He said, “This experience brought back many memories for me personally. As a boy, I spent years working with children with special needs at a school in the U.S. where my mother was a principal. I was very impressed with the facility and truly enjoyed the interactive format. More importantly, the genuine joy I saw in their eyes made my day. I had to give away a few cooking secrets, but the smiles were reward enough.”
Tiantian said, “I’m so happy that Tom is in our team, I think we will bake the best cake among the groups. He also showed me where his home is, it’s a place called Michigan.”
“This is the first community service event I participated in in China. I was not sure what to expect but I found the event very worthwhile and rewarding. I was very pleased with the professionalism and dedication of the staff at the community center and even more impressed by the enthusiasm of the students themselves. They were very engaging in all the activities, including baking, and I was very happy I could give something back to the community and to these students on my baking team,” said Paul Meredith, another purchasing director of Interior, Ford AP.
The groups soon prepared their cake dough bases and then put the filling in the dough and made the cakes in different moulds and the shapes they like – some people made a house, others made a flower, while the most special one was the Ford logo! While the cakes were cooking in the oven, the centre organised a blindfolded obstacle course team to kill time and help build team spirit.
“Baking provided an enjoyable and rewarding activity for all, including those Ford team members who had never baked before! I particularly enjoyed the blind-folded obstacle course which we did while our cakes were cooking, as it required us to work together and allowed us to laugh at our own expense,” said Chris Kuchel, senior strategy manager, Ford AP Purchasing.
“It was a very rewarding day for me and I hope it was also a rewarding day for the students and teachers at the community center. We appreciate our company offers such opportunities to help the people and community in need and, just as importantly, bring the happiness to ourselves by caring for others,” said Benjamin Ma, strategy specialist of new markets, AP purchasing.
“This was a great opportunity to work within the community as a team. We learned, we worked and we had fun together. A perfect example of ONE Ford working as an involved company in the community,” said Keith Cooper, vice president of Purchasing, Ford AP.
As a thank you present, community centre students gave some small handcrafts they made to Ford volunteers.
“I really had a fun day today with many new friends from outside, I hope I can bake with them again,” Tiantian said.
“Every time when I participate in a Ford Global Week of Caring activity, to go to a community and provide help and support, I always feel that I’m not the one who’s offering help but the one who gains help from them. We truly had a great time together and the smiles and strong characters from those people really taught us so much. Their skills and joyful attitude really move me a lot, I would love to join similar events in the future,” said Amy Liu, executive assistant to Dave Schoch, president, Ford Asia Pacific.