Dignity Kitchen: Jobs for Disabled/Elderly

I have been doing my weekly money radio show (Radio 100.3 Wednesdays 8.45 am to 10.15 am Breakfast with Lao Liang) for about three years.

This morning’s show was the most meaningful for me.

We went to Dignity Kitchen at 411 Balestier Road, Balestier Market, to visit and interview Koh Seng Choon, the founder and executive director of Dignity Kitchen, and some of his 30 intellectually or physically disabled staff.

He invested about $200,000 to start this social enterprise in August last year, to train and provide jobs at $5 an hour for those who normally cannot get jobs due to their disbility or age.

I saw and learned …..

… how a blind Malay teenager was trained to identify dollar notes (S$, RM, US$, Reminbi, etc), to be a cashier – he also spoke and sang in perfect Mandarin to the delight of the listeners

… people who could not walk working as waiters, with the aid of walking aids

… intellectually disabled persons doing cleaning chores

… ex-offenders as chefs

… a single mother who was in tears as we interviewed her on the radio programme live together with her blind son, as to how Dignity Kitchen has been such a blessing to them, that they can work together

They have also been running a daily “Lunch for the Elderly” programme, whereby they have been providing free transport and lunch to the needy elderly from the old folks’  homes, so that they have an outing “lunch” experience.  To-date, they have given free lunches to about 5,000 people.

I was so moved by what all these volunteers and workers were doing that i decided not to do my usual money show, and devoted the whole show to talking and experiencing what they were doing.

They will have to close in about two months’ time, because the lease of their landlord will be terminated.

So, if they cannot find another suitable location, they may all be out of business soon.

For a social enterprise start-up which at one stage was losing $1,000 a day, to breaking-even now, it would be a real waste and shame if they are unable to continue.

I asked Koh Seng Choon what is his drea? – and he said “Have an outlet at Changi airport, so that visitors and Singaporeans can see a “Uniquely Singapore” experience of a social entreprise staffed almost entirely by people whom normally nobody would employ in Singapore.

Tune in to Radio 100.3 tomorrow (28 July) at 7 pm, to listen to DJs ChienWen and Limei interview him about Dignity Kitchen and how school children can be involved.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.