After learning of the unfortunate situation of some strangers, entrepreneur and social activist Priya Ganness was moved to act and give people hope with her business – bread.
Ganness, the owner of Happriya Ever After, a small bread business, partnered with NGOs to present Hops of Hope, a bread distribution initiative. The aim is to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, to share happiness and hope with her Happily Hopeful Hops.
She recalled in January her personal circumstances changed so she could not bake as often as she used to. She was distraught as her bread business was her sole means of making a living.
Also, if clients did not pick up their orders or if she was able to make extra bread, she would give it to friends who were out of work because of the pandemic, to neighbours who would knock on her gate asking if she had extra, or to residents of Beetham Gardens where she does community outreach. She was heartbroken that she would not be able to continue to do so.
However, she contacted her friend Nathalie Phillips of Chee Mooke Bakery who gave her the option of using the bakery’s equipment to prepare large batches of her bread instead of a few at a time at her San Juan home.
That was her moment of hope.
“When the couple committed suicide in Princes Town in March it really affected me. I can’t imagine two adults sitting down, going through all their options, and deciding that was the best option when they had two little children. I thought maybe they thought they were in a hopeless situation.”
She said the couple, Steve Jugmohan and Sharlene Ramkissoon, owned their home and had a vehicle. People on the outside would believe they had other options but they could not see a way out of their financial problems.
“As a small business owner, I was looking for a way to do something to give back. We don’t know what people are going through but I want them to realise there is hope. There are people out there willing to help.”
While speaking to Aleeyah Amanda Ali, co-founder and director of The Foundation for Heritage Preservation and Legacy Creation which works with indigenous communities, Ali told her about the many hungry people in TT who were struggling, even for a loaf of bread.
So Ganness decided to bake on April 1, and Ali handled the distribution to women in transition, single-parent homes, and those unemployed owing to the pandemic. They partnered with the NGO, Is There Not a Cause? and called on people to support by sponsoring a bag of hops which cost $25.
With people sponsoring one or two bags of hops each, they were able to distribute 123 bags all over the country including Port of Spain, Santa Cruz, Cunupia, Tabaquite, Mayaro, and Arima.
For the second chapter of Hops of Hope on April 15, again she partnered with Ali’s Redzi the Trini Clown Plenty Tobago Flavour, as well as Kirby Moses founder of the NGO I Am Her TT, and the community-based organisation, 5th Street Families in Beetham.
She explained that through 5th Street Families in Phase 1, Beetham Gardens, she along with other NGOs, businesses and individuals provided school bags, stationery, and shoes for several children. They also provide food hampers with foodstuff the children could make themselves without lighting a stove such as ramen, tin sausages, crackers, and peanut butter to keep the children in school and fed.
This time, they included the elderly in their distribution lineup and will be heading to Beetham, Brazil, Ecclesville, Mayaro, Guayaguayare and a few other locations.
The third chapter of Hops of Hope is scheduled to take place on April 30 and she welcomes anyone who wishes to partner with her. She hopes to target more of the vulnerable including elderly homes, people with special needs, orphanages, and rehabilitation facilities.
“I believe in sustaining initiatives. When transitioning from one situation to another, one day or one hamper is nice but is not much. You need sustained help.
“I want to do it in at least three chapters to build the momentum, to encourage other people to get involved for it to be a movement of hope – not just giving bread but for other small businesses in other communities to do something as well.”
She wants people to replicate the idea of helping people but does not want them to use her brand as one other organisation tried to do.
“The pandemic left a lot of people hopeless, frustrated, in debt, without options. So I want to encourage people to form networks and, when doing hampers or donations, support small businesses by buying from them instead of big chain stores.”
Ganness told Sunday Newsday the hops recipe used for the initiative was based on her Happily Hopeful bread – the very first bread she made when she was going through a dark time.
Early in the pandemic, she was unemployed and she and her son Raiden Harragin ran out of bread in the house. She only had some cups of flour and a few other ingredients in her cupboards so she put them together, including oats, rosemary, basil and parsley, and made a loaf of bread.
It came out great and they called it Happily Hopeful.
“That was the very first bread that I sold. That’s the one that gave us hope that maybe selling bread was an option to survive this pandemic, pay rent and take care of my son. That was my pivot moment. So it’s an honour to me to do that bread as my hops.”