By METTILDA JOHN and HELEN TEH
DIGNITY & Services is an advocacy movement speaking and acting on behalf and alongside persons with learning disabilities. It helps to create a society where persons with learning disabilities enjoy dignity and respect, equal rights and opportunities to lead an independent and meaningful life.
In 2006, the organisation set up a project called OPTIONS with the concept of Supported Living, a project for individuals with learning disabilities to enjoy regular short breaks from their homes and to learn basic life skills. Supported Living is a transitional model which aims to equip individuals to live independently when their parents or caretakers are no longer around.
As Dignity & Services began to progress in this project, it found that these individuals were leaving school at around 19 years old and had no plans for the future.
They did not know how to prepare themselves for employment, or know where to seek help.
Persons with learning disabilities, amongst the whole disabled population, present particular challenges when seeking employment in the market. Dignity & Services feels that a social enterprise is the best way forward.
A juice stall called ONE TWO JUICE was set up in 2011, in collaboration with Selangor Dredging Bhd under their Corporate Social Responsibility goal. Today, it has two full time employees and four part time staff with learning disabilities; earning an income in compliance with the Malaysia Employment Act.
The ONE TWO JUICE stall situated in the courtyard of Wisma Selangor Dredging enjoys a very high level of visibility. This has no doubt helped enable a positive change of attitude by demonstrating that individuals with learning disabilities can learn and lead productive lives.
After starting work, these six individuals have been able to address their depression, low self esteem and also able to supplement their family income. They are also encouraged to use public transport to get to work and by doing so, they have enhanced their independence.
BAKE WITH DIGNITY, another employment project led by Dignity & Services was born out of a partnership created by two parents with sons with autism. It was set up with the purpose of creating paid employment and training individuals with baking skills particularly for those who needed a shelter environment.
The baking project is currently in the midst of expansion in order to enable more individuals a chance of paid employment and to become more economically independent.
STARTING A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
To start up a social enterprise, key factors such as identifying the individual who has expressed interest in setting up a business, a corporate partner, a suitable disabled-friendly location, business plan, training, orientation programme and high level of support from the supporting non-governmental organisation should all be taken into consideration.
For more information about Dignity & Services please email firstname.lastname@example.org