Dignity Kitchen founder Koh Seng Choon helps people with special needs gain a footing in society
On March 20, 2021 (Sunday), the Shin Min Daily News reported on “Dignity Kitchen founder Koh Seng Choon helps people with special needs gain a footing in society”.
The small food stall with big dream to give dignity to special need people started in the kitchen. Founder of Dignity Kitchen Koh Seng Choon aims to build skills of special need people with a forward-looking vision and an inclusive mind by instilling a spirit of self-reliance and developing inclusiveness in society.
Before inclusiveness in society became a familiar slogan, this was such a person who spent more than ten years to prove that tolerance is not only talk, nor is it a matter of patience, but as the old saying says “Teaching how to fish is better than giving fish.” When the special need people masters a skill, then that person will gain dignity and footing in society.
Adhering to the philosophy of providing hawker training for the disabled, mentally ill patients, mentally handicapped (IQ below 70), and groups with special needs such as single mothers, Koh Seng Choon is committed to developing this avant-garde social enterprise model since 2005. He took two years of practice, research, and visits to compile 22 hawker courses, including courses on how to make coffee.
“In Singapore, you don’t see beggars or homeless people, and there are no stray dogs. But are there really none?”
Koh Seng Choon focuses on marginalised and shares four principles of entrepreneurship. One is to instill knowledge and skills in cooking or preparing meals for people with special needs; secondly is to provide employment for people with special needs; thirdly is to integrate their return to society; and fourthly is to create an inclusive society.
When asked about the difficulty of training special needs people, he said frankly: “To work in the food and beverage industry, one must take a hygiene course. This is particularly difficult for the mentally handicapped. A course that ordinary people can learn in one day may take them 3 to 5 days. “However, compared with people with mental handicap, training students with healthy limbs but mental illness are the hardest.
After training, most trainees have the ability to prepare dishes, cook and serve, e.g. cleaning and washing dishes. Koh Seng Choon is confident in their employability, “We look for jobs for them, and if we can’t find jobs, we will open a shop for them, so we have a central kitchen and coffee shop.”
In this way, Koh Seng Choon’s Dignity Kitchen has gradually expanded, from one stall to a building. We currently employ 148 people, of which 120 are people with special needs.
Koh Seng Choon came into contact with HCA Hospice Care by accident, and learned that many terminal illness patients spent the last days of their lives “waiting for death”.
He then tried to cooperate with HCA Hospice Care to help such patients who can still work get jobs, engage in lighter tasks such as making coffee, so that patients who want to work can return to work, reintegrate and give back to society.
Although there is no evidence, he said that there was a brain cancer patient who was originally declared with only one year to live, but his life later extended 3 to 5 years.