Saturday, February 25, 2012

Project Dignity

Today is 25/2/12

The last entry which I wrote was about what happen on 1st Feb 2011 and was written in 25th June 2011. From this you can tell I was trying to find time to chase up in June 2011 and thereafter I fell back in recording.

It is over one year and a lot has happen in the one year.

Where do I start?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Project Dignity

Today we do a Chinese New Year lunch treat for the elderly. 80 elderly from a nearby home. This is the first time we do 80 elderly and all vegetarian. Challenging. But I always believe with challenges the process and the people get stretched and hence more learning. With every new challenging event, stretches the skill base and abilities of the team. I got a good team and they have come to accept that what we do is unique and the sky is the limit. They are setting the boundaries. With every challenges it boost their self confidence. Now we do 80 elderly the next is 120 elderly......

My students are shy and not communicative. Their disability inhibit them to open up and socialize. I am not just talking about physical disability alone. I have an idea on how I can get young and old to overcome their shyness and be more vocal - get them to sing in public. The idea comes from watching the students from S P Jain dancing and singing without any inhibition. How can they do it.... because they work in group. I guess if you know why you are doing something, you can overcome any self inhibition. First must train the blind boy to sing and entertain and if he can do it then he can get the rest to do it as well.

The sponsors are great, there was gifts and ang pow for the elderly.

Our teaching approach has to change to adapt to these intellectual challenge kids. The class room approach of lecture did not work. They just do not understand. I know they tried. They take notes and when I check their notes, it is all scribbling and marking. They are trying from some of the characters they noted. The cooking class is also too difficult to comprehend. We need to breakdown the teaching into smaller bite. The approach has also to be one to one and use practical and motivational approach. The carrot and stick method. The stick is their $30 allowance and the carrot is the praises. They do well we praise them and when they don't we take away one red ($10 note) piece of paper. Take away one piece get them angry, take away two pieces make them cry.

Case of the spoon amd fork - Using ordinary cutlery to teach addition and subtraction. One fork is 5 cents and a fork and spoon is 10 cents. For division and multiplication we use cutlery and a serving tray, for example there are forty person coming for lunch we use a tray and to divide and multiply to get the number of serving per table seating. Sound complicated.... it is not.
Case of the coin drawing - We teach bythe students drawing the coin on their exercise book as we believe that by drawing they can remember and it work. So if we write $1.50, the students will draw on the paper different combination of $1.50. Somehow it connect with the brain better by hand motion (drawing) than just looking at the coins and linking from the eyes (sight) to the brain. It works after two weeks and with student KH, he go home and practice.

Case of the finger counting - Go back to basic. Two hands is one dollar, one hand is 50 cents and one finger is 10 cents. Folded finger is 5 cents. Sound complicated..... it is the calculator. This method still need sound fine tuning, as we still need to link the wording on the coin to the fingers.

Today we have a no show of elderly coming to lunch treat. First time for us. Very disappointed. The home just called to said that they are not coming. Our lunch treat for the elderly program is still very new and some of the homes we approached are not so receptive to the idea of organizing their elderly to go out. An outing for the elderly required a lot of logistics like from getting the elderly ready, bringing the essential required for the outing (pampers, spare cloths, medication etc) to having enough volunteers to help out. Some of the home either they do not have the resources or cannot be bother to do it. Many of the elderly in homes across the country do not always get a chance to go out excursion and have a good time. Some of these homes only have outings once or twice a year. The better organised home have at least once a month. It has all to do with the organisation and the person in charge.Today's just has poor management.... Unfortunately for us, we have to pay for the bus and the wasted food.

It is about time that I need to consider giving a formal contract to my few trainers. At the moment they are like the students on $30 per six hours work. I need to have a team of trainers and these few person which are well trained to manage the stalls will need to go on salary basis. One of them has to go, reason is limited funding and do not have enough budget to take all five of them. Must talk to them on the terms and conditions. Start formal employment on 1st March.

Had a long conversation with a visitor today. He asked why Dignity Kitchen is not registered as a charity. As a charity he can donate and then can claim for the tax. This issue crossed my mind from the very beginning when I conceptualize this social enterprise in 2006. Project Dignity is not registered as a charity neither it is by guarantee or as a society. It is private limited company. The decision was a tough one. It was a long story.
My first consideration was to have Project Dignity formation as a public company limited by guarantee - has no share capital, no shareholder just members and has a very complex reporting format annually. I drop the idea because I was not able to convinced people to take up the membership. Even though it has tax exemption there are certain restrictions and also the issues of "profit" in term of definition and distribution. I also drop the idea of Project Dignity as a society because it is not a society structure. You need 10 people to register a society. I have also considered a co-operative formation. Finally a charity trust, this is an expensive option and the regulatory requirement will put me back by thousands of dollars before I can even think of setting up a social enterprise. By the way getting trustee (the people that look after your trust) for the charity trust are not free and they want to be paid.
Most people misunderstood that the definition of "charity status" and "Institution of Public Characters" (IPC) which is a non-profit organisation (charity trust, guarantee company or society) with a charity status. Even getting IPC is a completed process and process control needed will require resources that small start up social enterprise ill afford.
At the end of the day it has to do with TAX exemption.
For Project Dignity as a Private Limited company, I have plan for the future which if everything work out as planned will be a more interesting path which other social enterprise can emulate .......

Project Dignity

Three people down with flu. This is important when you are dealing with food and critical when it involves people with disabilities. They have to rest.

KH and QA training is not as easy. There are three primary role in a hawker stall - cooking, serving and cashier. The most difficult for the two of them is cashier's role. They are good with the POS machine and to them it is like a gaming console. Their weakness is their sense of money. They cannot differentiate and do simple arithmetic. In terms of differentiation they can differentiate the dollars notes but not the coins. Addition and subtraction is difficult when you cannot differentiate the coins and as a hawker you need to do it and do it fast. We innovate in terms of teaching aids to help them. For the money issues we went back to basic and use hands and fingers to teach. For the arithmetic we use forks and spoons, one spoon or fork is 5 cents and two is 10 cents. Later we progress to division and multiplication using trays and fork/spoon. We even got the other hawkers to help out. Both KH and QA have to use cash to buy their food, not allow to use cards purchased from the Centre management. The ladies at the drink stalls even took time off to teach boys when they buy the drinks.

Last day for V and R. They are our first dropouts. Two reasons. One is hawker work is not for everyone and two is that they did not tell us about his epileptic fits. It will be difficult to be in a hawker environment when you have fits. My learning from this episode in terms of training is that better managing of people with disabilities especially those who suffered their disabilities when they were abled at one time. If you are born blind from young you do not experience the sighted world and hence you cope with the disability. When you however are disabled in your 20's or 30's, there is a phase of acceptance and training have to be very different, more time consuming. It remind of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Dying - Denial / Anger / Bargaining / Depression / Acceptance

Looking at the accounts. There a state of equilibrium when the outlay/spending balance off with the income generated. If you draw a graph of money(vertical axis) vs time (horizontal axis), the curve of your investment will keep falling until a stage where the curve will stablise around a certain figure- this is the state of equilibrium. From this stage you have to make the curve goes upward. This mean that your business entity is generating a reasonable income. You are still bleeding but at least it is slower. Not hemorrhaging :-)

Chinese New Year coming, it is time to thanks many people who has help us from the beginning. Bought several boxes of oranges and barbecue pork and personally deliver to those people who has help us.

Conducted the interview for elderly for this next batch of students. In the selection of these students (unlike the intellectually challenged), the main criteria is attitude. Not experience or age. Interview of 11 elderly ranging from 60 yr old to 82 yr old. How do you tell attitude? It is the way they ask question - the mindset of wanting to learn more and the willingness to work on it. I am not worried if the question centers around money as I believe I pay better than McDonald. They do not want to work shift, want to work with friends, the travel distance cannot be too far...... selected 2 out of the 11 for the next batch

Team building is not a one off event of climbing trees and felling off into the trusted arms of your colleague. Cheapest is dinner celebration like christmas lunch and reunion dinner. Treat your employee like family.