With a pile of white Christmas felt stockings, packets of baked goods and bottles of coloured and glitter glue before them, clients from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) sheltered workshops have been working hard over the past month to decorate and pack these stockings in time for the festive season.
The voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) has taken on about 5 to 10 per cent more projects for 150 clients from its three sheltered workshops during this period – compared with the same period in the past two years – as part of efforts to actively search for more job opportunities for them.
Apart from a general increase in consumer spending at this time of the year, Ms Ng Rei Na, senior manager for social enterprises at MINDS, said the organisation had also seen more companies requesting volunteering and corporate social responsibility opportunities.
“We saw a unique opportunity to marry the two demands and create projects that satisfied both needs,” she added.
For instance, when Standard Chartered was looking at conducting art-and-craft activities with its elderly beneficiaries, the bank chose to order stockings and decorative materials from MINDS. This provided more work for the latter’s clients as they helped arrange and pack the materials for these handicraft sessions.
The project felt like a beneficiary helping another beneficiary, noted Ms Lee Woei Shiuan, StanChart’s executive director for Asia governance, who has been volunteering with MINDS through the bank.
Leveraging on the festive season helps draw attention to the work the clients can do, said Ms Lee, 42, adding that it is also a good first step towards building a steady stream of projects for these VWOs.
Through these festive projects, Ms Ng said MINDS’ clients are also meaningfully engaged in their work and able to earn an allowance.
Securing projects for the organisation’s clients has not been an easy task as most manufacturing, packing and assembly jobs have shifted out of Singapore, she added. The number of clients at MINDS’ sheltered workshops has also continued to grow every year as more graduate from their schools.
“With less than 5 per cent of our adult population able to secure open employment and with most of our clients staying in our (employment development centre) programme throughout their lives, we need to find more jobs for everyone,” Ms Ng said.
Similarly, the sheltered workshop run by the SPD – a social-service provider and advocate for the disability community – has seen a 15 to 20 per cent increase in work activities for its clients. These include packing goodie bags and festive products, such as Christmas decorations and party ware, and putting price tags on festive goods.
For the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, however, the year-end period is usually a time when it receives fewer projects as its partners tend to be preoccupied with stock checks. To make up for the shortfall, the organisation’s workshop has over the past three years continued its annual project of packing festive cards.