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Mission District bakery helps abuse survivors gain independence by teaching them to bake

CBS SF Bay Area 4/1/2023 CBS San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO -- People usually go to a bakery in the Mission District for delicious treats but one particular spot is also a place that many people call a safe haven.

Silvia Salazar is one of those people. She says she was lucky enough to get out of a toxic relationship in time years ago. But starting over alone as a victim of domestic violence has been quite challenging for her, especially because she doesn't speak English. For her, finding the Center of Economic Independence for Women and Youth was like finding a new family.

"It's a bit difficult, because you feel alone and like you have to start over," Salazar said.

Bri's Creations baking class in the Mission District. CBS © Provided by CBS SF Bay Area Bri's Creations baking class in the Mission District. CBS

The program was started seven years ago by Karla Garcia, the program instructor and owner of Bri's Creations. In addition to learning to bake, decorate and sell their creations, dozens of women like Silvia have found a place of belonging where they can heal through baking.

"You're giving them a key to open a door, and they can see a better future. That makes a difference. You start seeing their changes. How they value their liberty and how they can see a new way to get money, because most depend on their husbands," explained Garcia.

Garcia said the classes she teaches also include advice on how to live independently afford to take care of their kids. The program is aimed at learning to achieve financial independence. In Silvia's case, selling pastries is not a full-time job, but still a big help financially.

"This experience has been beneficial because, although I work cleaning houses and babysitting, this project has also given me a chance to have a second income," Salazar said.

For her, this is the beginning of a new life. Her happiness and enthusiasm are apparent when she talks about her delicious creations.

"Well, here we have our final result of a crispy rice encapsulated in chocolate with a small decoration that somebody can serve at a quinceaƱera party or a first communion," Salazar said.

Her dream is to open her own bakery. And just like Karla, she also wants to give back to her community and help other women build a new life, one dessert at a time.

Through the program, participants also receive a one-year membership from the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which can provide vital support to getting a new business off the ground. More information about the training program is available at the Bri's Creations website.

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