Can't live without cookies? Always find yourself munching on boxes and boxes of cookies during one of your Netflix binge-watching sessions?
A small bakery lying in a lorong
by St. John’s Institution and St. John’s Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur might be making all your favourite cookies, and they are really, really special.
Silent Teddies has been baking thousands of pineapple roll, cashew nut, and chocolate chip cookies. Here’s the thing: it’s staffed entirely by the deaf
Yes, you heard that right! It’s the only bakery in KL whose staff members are all hearing-impaired.
How the bakery was founded
Unfortunately, being a deaf student in Malaysia means that you're being ill-equipped as government schools don’t usually provide sign language lessons.
And so, the Society of Interpreters for the Deaf set up the Community Service Centre for the Deaf (CSCD), a school where free education is provided to children and youths who are hard of hearing.
As they graduated from the school, however, securing jobs in the corporate world was difficult as employers were unwilling to hire them.
As an interpreter for the deaf and lead volunteer of CSCD, Cindy Leong was greatly aware of the issue. So she came up with the idea to set up a bakery.
“It started as a self-help project. We wanted to help them get jobs and learn entrepreneurial skills as well,” she said in an interview with Rojak Daily
An opportunity came up when a landslide damaged a single-storey house next to the CSCD.
“A St. John’s gardener lived there and when he moved out because of the landslide, I asked the La Salle Brothers ─ they owned the house ─ if we could use it and turn it into a bakery.”
Of course, they said yes.
With a RM60,000 donation from the Latin American Ladies Association of Malaysia and a helping hand from Hong Leong Foundation who sponsored classes at Taylor’s School of Culinary Arts for a few trainees, the Silent Teddies Bakery was set up in 2010.
They started by baking pineapple tarts. Recalling the first ever orders - it was for Chinese New Year, she noted - Cindy said: “It was about a total of 100 hampers.”
With the help of Cindy’s interpretation, head chef Khew Yun Loi recalled the early days: “Cooking the pineapple was so tedious. Nowadays we get (the pineapple filling) from the suppliers instead of mashing it ourselves. We got so many blisters.”
According to the Silent Teddies Facebook page, the bakers once had to roll 80,000 pieces of pineapple jam paste ball to make 2,000 jars of pineapple tarts during the festive season. Tedious, indeed.
It’s Not Easy to Run a Bakery With So Little Money
Then in 2012, they landed their first major client when they partnered with AirAsia to provide 10,000 cookies monthly on selected flights.
These days, the bakery is receives many orders and procurements and it looks like business is booming, but Cindy admitted they are overwhelmed as they only have one three-tiered commercial oven.
“All the equipment here is sponsored or donated,” she told us, pointing to Two gleaming fridges which look brand new.
“Even these are second-hand,” she said.
In the early days, CSCD received many donations from the public and could afford to sustain the bakery. These days, it’s the other way around as public funding decreases and the bakery receives more procurements.
The monthly costs of maintaining and operating CSCD and the bakery run up to RM12,000, she told us.
“It covers the electricity, water bills, and the repair costs as it’s an old building.”
“Well, DBKL came and fixed the slope which was damaged because of the landslide. But there are still some trees between us and St. John’s. We did contact DBKL to help us cut the tree down but they said it was not public property.
And one day, half of one tree fell onto our school’s roof one day. So whenever it rains, it leaks.”
Profits from the sales also pay the bakers’ wages, as they pay them about RM900 monthly. Cindy added that the bakers work six days a week, from 8am onwards.
During the festive season, they even work on Sundays to rush out the orders they receive.
But the good thing is, according to Cindy, some corporations also send volunteers regularly as a part of their corporate social responsibility.
“They usually help with packing the cookies and other products,” she elaborated.
Asked how the public could help, she said, “Well, if you want to help the school, you could help by sponsoring a new roof. If you want to help the bakery, donations of a new oven or some baking ingredients would help.”
When they’re not baking cookies, they’re baking muffins, bread, and cakes. Every product is halal and free of preservatives, Cindy added.
If you want a taste of their super delicious cookies or other yummy baked goods, or you just want to help them out, you can make an order online at their Facebook page
or contact Cindy Leong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do help out anyway you can, because the good people at Silent Teddies Bakery are trying to help the less fortunate make a living.