Freedom from Torture - Baking a difference

Baking a difference

“The bread group made me feel like me again…I was so traumatised, so lonely, I tried to commit suicide. Without the bread making group, I don’t think I would still be here today” - Freedom from Torture client

Blog by Sarah Owen, Director of Clinical Services at Freedom from Torture

Our bread making group is part of a holistic programme of therapies we use at Freedom from Torture to bring isolated people together and complement individual psychotherapy. It’s held at our London centre weekly by a specialist Psychological Therapist. Each member of the group has in common their daily struggle with the effects of torture; the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, grief and depression on their new life in the UK.

Baking bread together might seem a very simple concept, but it has incredible results: it can take people's minds away from their nightmares, and remind them of their childhoods, their mothers, and their home. 

Recovery from torture isn’t just about sharing your problems with a psychotherapist, it’s about learning to trust people again, gaining confidence and interacting with others. Even trying new ideas by adding different ingredients, herbs and seeds can be a stepping stone for our members in overcoming their fear of failing. Even the physical act of making bread – working the dough and shaping it – can help relieve tension and anxiety. Members have made new friends and grown in confidence, as Max shared with me:

“The big challenge is not baking the bread, the big challenge is engaging with people and being yourself. Baking helps you, just to clear your mind and what you get is not negative, but positive thoughts.”

Max attended our bread making group two years ago and he recently asked to share his story with you to explain what a huge difference our group has made to his life. Max was born in Ethiopia. At just eight years old his family sent him to live in the Caribbean with a loving foster family, in the hope he would have a better, safer life there. Eventually he went to university and became a nurse.

However, Max never forgot his biological father and brother back in Ethiopia. So he went back to Ethopia, not knowing that he was about to be tortured at the hands of the government.

While he was staying with an old family friend, the guards came in the night for him. He was locked up in a cell, beaten and forced to work hard labour all day in the hot sun. After months of torture, one guard helped him escape through the fence. Max gave all his money to an agent who promised to take him somewhere safe, he had no idea where he would end up. When Max arrived in London, he didn’t even what country he was in. He said,

“I was scared of everyone…I didn’t trust anyone…I felt like I was in a hole and I would never get out. The bread making group helped me so much. I would say to anyone please make sure other people who have been tortured can have the opportunity I had.”

Finally, I want to share with you his bread recipe. He has named it after his origin, International. It is ideal for gatherings with your friends or your family members. It can also harmoniously complement your daily breakfast or work as the base for any sandwich. It can also satisfy the most demanding bread lover, since it is equally delicious if consumed plain.

Please support Freedom from Torture’s current appeal if you can help support this bread making group and other projects. Even £10 could help survivors like Max to travel to the group.

Max's International Bread


  • 500g plain white flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • tsp salt
  • 120ml water


  1. Sift the flour and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add the dry ingredients and the butter.
  3. Knead the dough until it becomes soft then add the water gradually.
  4. Knead it for further 10 minutes.
  5. Rub your hands with oil and roll out the dough on the work table in a 1cm thickness.
  6. Cut out 12 round shapes out of the dough.
  7. Put the shaped dough on an oven tray and put it in a preheated oven at 200ºC for 25 minutes.



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