Owners of Third Culture Bakery — Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu — began their food journey together in 2016. Inspired by their upbringing as third culture kids — their main mission as bakers was very clear: bring iconic Indonesian and Taiwanese pastries to America as a symbol of diversity, inclusion and acceptance. Nearly five years later — Butarbutar and Shyu are more concerned than ever as hate crimes and gun violence towards the AAPI community spread across the continental U.S. With a new mission in play — the queer Asian-owned bakery is finding ways to protect fellow Asians from future attacks. And it includes a very loud keychain alarm and pepper spray.
“We started the safety kits as an idea between my partner Sam and I because we knew that we didn’t want to just donate money but wanted to offer a tangible item to make people feel safer and secure,” said Shyu. “We wanted to give people something more tangible and tactile. We thought it would have just been a few hundred but when reaching out for pick up locations, we received requests of 5,200+ safety kits” Shyu said.
As part of the initiative — Butarbutar and Shyu are celebrating their business anniversary in April by hosting a fundraising event and creating these safety kits they will give away for free. Designed to protect those who are most vulnerable — the safety kits include resources such as one (extremely loud) keychain alarm, one keychain pepper spray (within all legal limits for self-defense), a lanyard and wristband and translated directions/explanations in multiple languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and more).
“Each kit costs $8 [to make] and they will be passed out at senior homes, vaccination sites, and more locations in both CA and CO, where our Third Culture Bakeries are located. We are currently at 800 safety kits and will likely need to fundraise an additional $30,000 to meet the demand,” explained Shyu.
“Ever since we went public with this information on our website, social media and our newsletter, we didn’t realize how many more stories there were of people in need. More and more people started telling us how they wish they had these kits when they were attacked or when their family member had been attacked. We didn’t realize how great the need was for these kits as the demand was so much greater than what we initially thought. It has really touched the community and the response has been tremendous” said Shyu.
To accompany the delicious, buttery Mochi Muffins — donations towards safety kits can be made at the Third Culture online shop. For more information on ending AAPI hate crimes — go here. To follow along Third Culture’s journey to ending hate crime and advocating for diversity through baked goods — visit its bright and colorful Instagram or check out its website here.