When Wenter Shyu and Sam Butarbutar, the co-founders and owners of Third Culture Bakery, had the idea to make personal safety kits following the recent increase in violence against Asian Americans, they thought they would need a few hundred kits.
Now, the local bakery is aiming to make more than 5,200 safety and alarm kits to distribute for free at community sites such as senior homes and COVID-19 vaccination sites in San Francisco and Oakland Chinatowns. People of color, individuals over 40 years old, transgender individuals and other members of the LGBTQ+ community will have priority.
The kits include a personal alarm, pepper spray, lanyard, wristband and instructions in more than six languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
“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,” Shyu said in an email. “We wanted to give people something more tangible and tactile.”
The bakery hopes to raise the $30,000 needed to complete the project through sales at an event April 3 and April 4 celebrating their fourth anniversary, and through community donations on their website. They have already completed 800 kits, according to Shyu.
After announcing the project online, the company received positive feedback from the community that reinforced their goal of distributing the safety tools to those in need, Shyu added.
“Being an Asian American living in Oakland and the Bay Area, I feel like the violence and hate against Asians have always been there, but I think there has definitely been an increase in these acts in the past 5 years,” said Alex Chuong, an Oakland resident, in an email. “I think it will make a big difference for the vulnerable populations in our communities to feel like they have a way to protect themselves.”
On March 19, the company announced on Instagram that distribution would begin within the next two weeks and called for volunteers to help assemble the kits.
Shyu and Butarbutar began selling baked goods in 2016, inspired by their upbringings in Indonesia and Taiwan. In a post on Instagram, they said they hope these kits will help people feel safe from violence in their everyday lives.
“One thing that the vulnerable people in our communities need to feel safe is to feel like they have a voice and that they are being heard and that the rest of the community is looking out for them,” Chuong said in an email. “I think we need to relearn how to value these people in our communities.”
Due to misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Third Culture Bakery’s anniversary sales event will be held April 2 and 3. In fact, the event will be held April 3 and 4.