Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Project Dignity

22 Sep

Presentation to handicap centre

It was an audence of about of about 15, mainly stroke and amputee. There were also a Mother and a mentally challenged son, a wife with her husband on wheelchair and a couple of mentally challenged elderly person.

The presentation went quite well considering I was 30 mins late. My intention was to share with them the project and then invite them to visit the school. About half agree to visit the school and find out more and the other half were not too sure. I stressed to them that it is not a easy job being a hawker but if they are willing to learn we are willing to teach and find the opportunities for them.

That night when I drove back I was deeply disturbed. Something I called The Mother's Dilenma. Sitting in the audience was a Mother in her early early sixties and accompany her was a mentally challenged man in his late 30's. After the talk she ask me to recruit his son for the school. I looked at his son,all crumpled in his wheelchair and saliva dripping down the side of his mouth.
'Can you collect money?' I asked and show him a $2 note. 'Yes' came the immediate answer and I can see that he is trying to smile. 'But I cannot had' he injected. I thought for a while trying to understand what he mean by 'had'. After some thought, I replied. 'It OK, I will give you a calculator.'

As a mother, there must be many a time that they must have must look at the child and the situation they are in. I tried not to use the word predicament. They must have wondered when and how will it end. There was a beginning when they found out the condition of their baby and they made the decision to carry on, did they really think of the consequence and the responsibilities. There is the financial issues of raising a mentally challenged child and the emotional commitment of maintaining his or her daily needs.

Did they think of their own lives and the quality of their life. I believe the answer is NO. The love of the mother out reason all common sense. She wants to protect,to provide & to care for her child. In the years that follows, she will look back and reflect on her 'decision'. I never believe that the Mother look at this decision as right or wrong. Killing a life is wrong. It is a good and bad decision, for we do not know what the future holds and there will be time when the Mother looks back at her decision as better or worse decision. For I believe there will be period of joy and sorrow in the child's life. Hopefully there is more joy (good decision) and less sorrow (bad decision).

The way Project Dignity is conceived is hopefully to lesser the burden and address the Mother Dilemma. The idea for the management of the stall must be on a team basis, like the blind son and the Mother as a team. Hopefully the child can look after themselves long after the Mother is gone and the child will by them found someone to work with them as a team, maybe a disadvantaged like an ex-inmate.

I stood down to the boy and asked him to come down on Monday. If he and his Mother turn up, then we will have to find a solution.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Dignity

18 Sep

This week many things happen

Different newspapers field different response. In the Chinese paper, I got over 300 calls mainly from people lookng for work & wanting to be trained. On the English version I get over 100 calls & in this case mainly volunteers and even some wanting to donate money. It was funny. I come to conclude that there are really good people out there. I noted all incoming calls and will call back when the school is up and running.

I also come to believe things happen for a purpose. I was struggling with finding the food for stall number two when a call from a company wanting to find a consultant who can take their food product overseas. The food product is Ngoh Hiong - a local delicacy. Meeting with the company (started in 1928) it dawn on me the potential of the product for stall no 2. After some convincing they agree to help me set up stall no. 2. Their food is good & very traditional, my school & students will preserve the heritage

Finding trainee is not difficult, finding the trainee who is willing to be trained and thereafter to restart their life is the difficult. So far I have 4 trainee will need 4 more by end Oct.

Arrange a meeting for the trainees of the blind boy & the mother to meet with their trainers. The ldea is for the trainer to assess the trainee. Feedback is that it is not going to be easy. Attitude & the keeness to learn is very important. The trainee tried the product,tasted the food & even take away. I believe both the mother and his son is ready for the class.

Project Dignity

12 Sep
Another newspaper interview and the article will come out tomorrow. Looking for a Yong Tau Foo trainers. The trainer must be an ex hawker, comfortable to train and willing to work with disabled. Not an easy task,hence the newspaper article.
Why an ex-hawker? Most of hawker training in Singapore is from going to community centre attending classes, the hawker environment is missing. The other training option is to pay $3000 for an existing hawker to train you at their stall worklng for free or nominal, in this situation one do not learn the rudimentary of cooking. There is the other option of working for a hawker and later starting out on your own. Likewise do you really learn cooking & whether the hawker will teach you his/her secret recipe.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Project Dignity

11 Sept 2010

The events that happened

Ms S the Sandwich Teacher
I always thought that Ms S is too good looking to be a teacher to teach hawker to make sandwiches. I was proven right when she came down to view the stall at Balestier. The men starts to stare. For Ms S is German and I believe there is not many German hawker teacher in Singapore. I will await for her concept on how to sell sandwiches at a hawker stall.

The newspaper interview
To overcome the lssue No 4, I need publicity. I need coverage for PD and the most viable option is publicity. Through a mutual friend, Mr Reporter heard of my project & he conducted the interview on site. The newspaper articles came out on the Sunday Chinese newspaper and over the next four days total of 300 plus phone calls were received.

The callers are mainly the unemployed in their 50's and 60's with some keen on teaching. My response to them is that I need to start off with the disabled as I need to fine tune PD's curriculum. If it work on the disabled then it will work with the abled bodied. Maybe I am wrong. The over 300 telephone calls really boost my confidence in PD, I realised that there is a need. I noted all the telephone numbers and will call them after October the 1st. Some sound desperate.

The Renovator
There are people that believe what I am trying to do. Most think that it will be very challenging and failure is a very real option. My renovator is one of them and yet he supported me for the last two sites that I have viewed and he quoted. In this site, he is still supportive and guiding me on the money I need to spent for the site at Balestier.

The case of the leper
I do make mistake. One day in the food court a lady in her 50's came up. She is a friend of the cleaner and was told about Project Dignity. We talk & I explain the details to her. After my presentation there was a long pause. All the time we were talking her hands were below the table. She is very keen and then I notice the gloved hands. She has a form of minor leprosy. She noticed my discomfort.

Later on. I spoke with one of my friends who owns a food court chain (I have several industry expert who I go to to seek guidance) He advise me that she do not qualified. I have to break the news to her.

On 6 Sep
The man with fits decided to drop out. To be precise it is the family who felt he should stick to his existing job and get $22 per day. I guess as a parent myself I can appreciate the feeling of the Mother who wants security for the son and the siblings who believe in his ability to support himself. At least the reqular income of $22 per day from placing paperclip is assured. I felt sad as I thought this is what he wanted and I truly beieve he can do it if I can find him a good partner. I even spoke to a Doctor friend at SGH to understand fit.

The caregiver will know best.

The Student Mr V
'Please keep us in mind' . This was part of the sms message from Mr. V on the eve of Hari Raya. He and his wife was suppose to be my 4th & 5th students. About two weeks ago I receive a call from Mr. V who was an officer in the uniformed services. About a year ago, he had a medical problem which caused him to be going blind. He eventually lost his sight. he wanted to seek some advise on one of his business idea and in the conversation I told him about PD. I explain PD to him and asked him to think about it. I wanted to train him to do sandwiches and salads in one of my stall. We ended the conversation and he told me he want to discuss with his wife. A few days later, he called and he is very enthusiatic about the idea of starting up a business with his wife. (The wife is actually working part time and looking after him.)

This morning Y has a seizure and when into surgery. We are suppose to meet the coming Thursday(The eve of Hari Raya) on the work details. He is keen and together with his wife may actually work. He was sighted before his illness and do understand the food prodect better. Now I have to wait and pray for him. When u are blind from young and when u are blind in your early 30's, it is very difference. Depression set in. V is still in high depency ward.

I will definitely keep him in mind.....

To be continued

Friday, September 3, 2010

Project Dignity

19 Aug

Today I interviewed some of the students for the school. Many thanks to Servehope for arranging the interviews.

The first interviewee is a boy or a 32 years old man called PH who suffers from fits. He came with his sister & the sister's godma. The interview starts with the introduction to Project Dignity. You can tell from the look of PH eyes that he is engrossed but sure whether he likes it or not. The sister explains the inabilty of the brother.

When she finished I turn to PH and asked 'Do u know what we are talking about?'
He shaked his head and the sister said answer the question and continued with the history of the brother and the concern of her Mom. (I have come to understand the predicament of the people or caregiver surrounding a disabled. As the caregiver be it the parents or sibling grow older, the disabled child grews as well. The worry comes when the caregiver cannot care any further).

Again I turn to ask the boy 'Do you know what we are talking about?'.

There was a long pause and he nodded and cried. 'I want to do this'. There was another paused as he wiped his tears with the back of his hand. 'Uncle Seng Choon, I cannot carburator'. He studded and his left hand pointing at his right palm. 'Uncle Seng Choon, I cannot carburator' He repeated earnestly. 'Oh' I exclaimed 'you mean' I paused without completing the last statement.

'Not to worry I get you a calculator'. At that moment, I emptied my wallet a two, five and a ten dollar note. I have to be sure. I cannot allow my passion to help cloud my objectivity of whether he can do the work. 'What is this plus this?' showing a five and a two dollars note. 'SEVEN' he shouted and a big smile spread across his face. I believe I can try to help him work in PD.
The next interviewee is more challenging - Blind man.

When Servehope spoke to me about a blind man wanting to learn the hawker trade, I told myself it will be quite challenging never heard of a blind man in the hawker trade.

His case involves the Mother as well. Mother care very much for her son and worried that the son will have a problem to look after him after she passed away. The worry is very real as the son do lacks skills to provide for himself and is just learning computer skill. I ponder the situation for several days without calling her. What can a blind man do as a hawker?

The idea comes to me (it is always good to talk to friends) when a friend show me the $2.00 Singapore note, there is a two dots on the top right hand corner- Braille on dollar note. Actually not many people know about this feature.

The interview was an emotional one. For a start I boot up my computer and explain to the Mother. The blind boy in the meantime kept touching the computer interrupting the Powerpoint Presentation. At the end, I decided to switch to a word software and allow him to do some typing. He typed.

'What can you do as a hawker?' I asked. He sway his head. 'Can u collect money?' I enquired further. He smile. I took out a $2, $5 and a $10 note. 'How much is this?' $2 dollars' he replied. Then the $5 and the $10. 'very good, 3 out of 3' I handled him a 4th dollar note.'this is not a Singapore dollar' I explained.

'Yes lt is a US$ 1 note'. You passed. The next gesture surprised me. He took out his hankerchief & wipe his tears. A blind man cried, the tears of eyes that cannot see.

Questions follows with more questions, not from the Mother but from the blind boy. Finally he said 'I want to do this' turning towards his Mother.

'I really don't know whether this will work. I am willing to try if you are willing to give it a try too. ' I explained. 'Yes' came the reply.

As we were walking out. He hold my hand and his face move towards my face making sure I heard what he is going to tell me. There was a pause and the word 'Hope' came out of his mouth. The word cause a shiver down my spine. I felt a sudden surge of emotion down my throat.

To be continued