In truth, 2016 has been a great year for this blog. I had sampled some of the best establishments around, and met a lot of great chefs and food owners
But nothing has really meant more this year than my visit to Dignity Kitchen in the Serangoon Central.
Hidden almost inconspicuously on the second floor, the entrance is practically deceptive. Resembling more like an office door, walking past it and into the main area reveals a food court of sorts.
It is, in fact, a hawker training school with actual hawker stalls in operation run by the handicapped and the disadvantaged.
|The Tea Uncle|
Some of these folks that are here working and learning have physical disabilities. This tea uncle, for example, is deaf but he has managed to work out a system using hand gestures and simple sign languages to take orders and serve out beverages efficiently.
More importantly, the trainers here at DK are full of enthusiasm and encouragement to each and every of the staff here and that has helped to give them the much needed boost to succeed in their areas.
|The Pastry Aunty|
This pastry aunty used to be very shy and reserved due to her hearing impediment, and had a hard time finding a stable job and holding on to it. But she has a deep passion for baking and she finally found her place in DK doing the things she loves most. That is, baking for people.
Now, she is more confident of herself and she carries with her an intense sense of joy that is palpably reflected in her smile.
|Lunch For The Elderly|
Besides training the disadvantaged, DK also does a regular Lunch for the Elderly programme where they work with corporate companies like Telechoice, whose staff will come and volunteer to help serve food for the elderly who arrives here on selected Fridays for a complimentary meal prepared by the DK staff.
All these happenings are already by themselves, acts of genuine courage and highly inspirational. But I have left the most inspiring one for the last.
The photo at the beginning of the post is that of Roger who is 46 this year. He used to be in accounting working in the corporate echelons. Unfortunately, due to a stroke, he lost the ability on one side of his body and can only really perform with one hand these days.
It is sad to be struck down with such a disability in the prime of your life, but despite this setback, it is clear that Roger is not letting it bring him down.
|Rojak made by Roger|
Quite the opposite, he is working hard every day to make a living and has somehow managed to make rojak with just the use of one hand. As anyone will know, rojak can be quite a tedious process as it requires a lot of cutting and chopping of the ingredients.
Roger is singlehandedly doing all the cutting and chopping by himself, and that itself is an amazing feat. But what is more surprising, is the final part of the rojak making process where he has to mix in the prawn paste and toss the salad.
He does it so well that it is comparable to most other regular rojak out there, and in some instances, he even bests them. This is no small feat in itself. But coming from someone who is physically challenged, it just warms my soul.
Roger is not the only one who has bounced back in DK. Almost everyone who is here when I was there displays the same strength and motivation on their faces. They work harder than most regular hawkers I see, and they carry with them a sense of hope that is so rare these days.
|The Dim Sum Crew|
It is true that sometimes, we take things for granted. We forget how fortunate we can be when we have everything at our disposal. And it is this sense of complacency that sometimes mask our compassion and empathy for the simpler things in life.
I am glad to have made this visit to Dignity Kitchen where I can see the same compassion and empathy being showered upon these beautiful people, so determined to have a second go at life.
This Christmas, it is not just about having your turkey and ham. It is not just about exchanging gifts with our loved ones. It is not just about singing carols and watching Christmas movies or catching The Force Awakens in the cinemas.
This Christmas, it is about sparing a thought for these brave hawker warriors who require double the effort that regular hawkers need to complete their tasks. And a sense of pride that is beaming on each of their faces then whey they present their food to their eager customers.
It is about cherishing the simpler things. Because, unlike you and me, simple can be difficult to achieve for some.
This Christmas season, have a meaningful and thoughtful day by coming down to Dignity Kitchen and visiting these beautiful and courageous people.
Merry Christmas from The Silver Chef.
267 Serangoon Avenue 3