KohSengChoon – founder of Dignity Kitchen, a social enterprise which supports people from disadvantage backgrounds, and with mental, physical, intellectualor social disabilities, by providing them education and jobs. They also organize free city tours and lunches for elderly people.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
I trained over 400 people with disabilities. We offered over 40000lunches to elderly in the last 6 years. As entrepreneur, I provide employment for 60 people. My success would be seeing people coming back to our food court. The transformation of disadvantage people who start to earn money, make a living. They get their dignity. Their own money to spend. And they also come back and pay for lunches for elderly. They understood the logic behind this place. It’s very touching.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
The biggest challenge is not money. The biggest challenge is empathy. People’s perception of those with disabilities. When I started I gave people here badges where it was written:“I’m blind”, “I’m mental”. What happened? There were zero buyers. Clients got scared: mental people cooking? For two weeks we had no sells, everybody run away. Finally, one guy even told me: you have to be mental yourself to make mental people cooking for us. He thought it’s funny. But it was not. The mental guy cried in the backroom. What did he do wrong? He just wanted to make a living. And just because we show others they are mental or blind, people don’t buy. He cried. I cried. We took out the badges. That was when I learned that the biggest challenge is empathy. Everywhere, not only in Singapore.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
I want to open next dignity kitchen. Write new curriculum for our trainings. Find partners, I don’t have enough money. And then we need to integrate people with disabilities with the rest of society. It’s one of the things we do in the food court. Inclusion, integration. It’s not enough to work with people with disabilities. We have to prepare and educate also their coworkers, their bosses. All the society.
Would you like to add something else?
People with disability… they are not disabled. They are enabled in a lot of ways. They can do things which you can’t.
Kindness has no religion. Kindness has no politics. Kindness is blind to the color of your skin and the nature of your disability. Kindness cannot be preached, it comes from the heart.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.