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12 August 2014

Baking a way

Baking a way

As one half of Channel 4's Fabulous Baker Brothers, Tom Herbert lives for baking. Growing up above a bakery and being 'raised' in the industry all his life means he is passionate about food, choosing baking college over a generic sixth form education.

The Fabulous Baker Brothers series follows brothers Tom and Henry travelling around the UK in search of the finest produce and locate food establishments in need of fresh recipe ideas.

"It used to be that years ago, on average, a family would spend an hour and a half sitting down together to eat and now it is more like just 12 minutes. Most of us eat on the move and we are less sociable," said Tom Herbert.

"People you share bread with, you want to spend life together with.  For me, this is at the heart of what we want to get across in our show;celebrating food, eating, sharing and a love of people and bringing all those things together."

Tom heard of Tearfund's No Child Taken campaign and, as a dad of four himself, felt compelled to get involved. "I had the opportunity to be involved in something practical, bringing hope in a small way. I want to follow Jesus and go where the need is greatest so I took this trip out of obedience, but it was also extremely fulfilling personally," added Tom.

So Tom went out to Laos to see first-hand the conditions many children are living in and how they are vulnerable to being trafficked. "As someone who has been many places, met lots of people and done many demos and workshops, I genuinely felt that all those moments were building towards this one moment –the most rewarding. I got to share what I am and what I do for real in Laos. These young girls weren't bothered who I was and instead of entertainment or a nice taste, this food workshop mattered to their lives. Meals feed us, of course, but this was potentially life-changing and could prevent them from being trafficked."

Travelling with his 12-year-old son Milo, they thought they would demonstrate making pizza:
"Everyone loves pizza, we thought. However, there was no cheese and it turns out no one really knew what it was. This became a bonding experience for me and Milo, we prayed about, went to a local food market and suddenly God gave us a solution of 'sticky sticks', a simple doughnut.

"What's important to realise is that we don't need expensive kit or crazy ingredients in order to make an impact. We can teach them to teach each other."

As baking fever mounts with the start of the fifth TV series of The Great British Bake Off, Tom and Alliance member Tearfund are calling cooks and baking enthusiasts to turn up the heat on child traffickers, through a very British love of bread and cake.

Tom wants to see friends and colleagues, along with church and community groups, get together to compete in their own Big Bake Off to raise funds for the No Child Taken campaign, working to prevent trafficking. 

In Laos, Tom met a family with nothing. The children were digging through mud to try to find and catch frogs to eat. Their mother and sister had gone to Thailand in hope of money but disappeared. Their dad had lung disease leaving these three to fend for themselves.

"I couldn't believe that this still happens –I felt numb, useless and immediately wanted to do something of worth.  But when I learned that Tearfund's partner unit were aware of them, and they were helping them to go to school and educating families of the risks, I got a fresh sense of hope," explained Tom.

"The horrific reality is that kids as young as 11 are becoming slaves and not coming back. 1 in 3 girls trafficked end up in the sex industry."

When asked what effect the trip has had on him, he said: "It's played havoc since I've been back. Before I had been celebrating BBQ food and eating like a hungry American, but since, me and my wife went vegan for Lent and as a family we took the Live Below the Line challenge. I needed to process it and respond - to feel a bit of hunger and pain. We feel massively grateful for what we have. "

Nick Shenow, project team leader at Tearfund, said: "In Laos education ends for girls at 12 years old so they need an income and ideas they can use to earn a livelihood - a crucial age to prevent them from going to Thailand to seek money or work. It might start with a seemingly promising job offer from a relative in Thailand, which they take up in hope that it will mean change.

"Providing workshops such as beauty, sewing, mechanics or cooking training which raises awareness and enables them to stand on their own two feet. Tom is business savvy, passionate and a man of faith who looks for a sustainable solution. Our work in this area is all about prevention. We do rescue work but it costs far more to rescue than prevent." 

Unfortunately trafficking isn't just happening overseas. Slavery and trafficking are a growing problem right here in the UK. The Alliance is so pleased the Modern Slavery Bill is currently before parliament. This bill is the result of many thousands of voices calling for something to be done. Now more than ever we need to improve the laws around slavery and human trafficking. While the bill is a positive step in the right direction improvements are needed to make sure we have the strong law we so desperately need in this country. 

The most effective way to see this happen is for you to contact your local MP. We can't do this without you. Please join us in calling for a stronger bill. You can contact your MP here.