Celebrating Life Bakery founder Manmeet Singh speaks to online editor Colin Armstrong about paying it forward, spreading joy and making a difference in the community.
Whenever someone buys a cake from us, we ask them to nominate someone in Abu Dhabi who is underprivileged or less fortunate to receive a cake on their birthday – that’s our initiative. Throughout my working life here I’ve noticed the hardship faced by labourers and many other workers in the UAE. I’d always thought about ways of helping them and had the intention that when I was able to give back and help these people, I would take that opportunity. This is my way of doing that.
Why do you think this initiative is so important?
We did a survey to ask labourers how they celebrate their birthdays and what we found was that many of them don’t mark it at all because they don’t have friends or money, and in many cases, they don’t even know when their birthday is. It touched me and I wanted this to change. Labourers, security guards, maids, cleaners – these people are working so hard and in many cases have no family around to support them so I thought there is a gap and we can help to bridge that gap.
It has an amazing impact: People can get very emotional and cry because it’s unexpected and the person receiving the cake is overjoyed. There was one occasion where we celebrated the birthday of a Pakistani labourer in Al Ain; he was 65 years old and he had never had a birthday cake before in his whole life. He didn’t know how to cut it or what the candles were for. He was amazed that someone had thought about him and wanted to do something special for him.
We believe that in a few years’ time it will be part of the culture here, and when you celebrate your birthday you will also take the time to plan for someone else, to pay it forward.
How important are social initiatives such as this to the community?
If you are able to do something for someone else, you should do it. Ours is just a small initiative but there are many things that people can do for the community to make sure that everyone is valued and included. There are initiatives to donate clothes and food to labour camps, and that is great; it’s just really important that every person should, if they can, think of one way that they could give back to the community and do it, so that it becomes natural and we all begin to look out for one another.
Our bakery opened in 2016 and since then we have celebrated around 700 birthdays – we’re doing it slow and steady. I don’t think there is a better feeling in the world than knowing you’ve helped someone. It can have such a huge impact on people. It’s a cake, but it’s also a symbol of affection and friendship; it means an awful lot to people. Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated? It seems like a small thought but the impact is huge and we want everyone to feel that the people around them care for them. If you have a birthday coming up then why not share that happiness with someone else?
For more information, visit: celebratinglifebakery.com
WORDS Colin Armstrong