Three years ago, when Ji Xian came to Dignity and Services, he was a timid guy.
Today, the 24-year-old is no longer the same person. Ji Xian is responsible, independent, and thoughtful. He is even able to look after someone who needs special care.
Ji Xian, who has difficulties in his speech, first enrolled into a 'Supported Living' programme by NGO Dignity and Services (D&S) some time in 2015.
The programme was initiated by D&S so that persons with learning disabilities could stay away from home in a house over the weekend as the NGO strives to provide a community and a sense of belonging for the underrepresented group.
Here, Ji Xian and the other members of the programme learned how to be independent through the various activities that they do together, which were designed to develop their skills and encourage decision-making.
While there are no drastic changes in terms of his speech, people around him do realise that the Ji Xian they see today is different in so many ways than how he was years before. He is confident, and is able to look after his peer who needs more attention than he does.
It's also a no small feat that Ji Xian has been able to hold a job at D&S' Bake With Dignity, a bakery located at Leisure Commerce Square in Bandar Sunway, Selangor that provides employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
Ji Xian along with 10 other individuals, all of whom are persons with learning disabilities, are employees at Bake With Dignity
Most of them work on a part-time basis with the exception of Kevin, a high functioning person with learning disability, who is currently working at Bake With Dignity as a supervisor.
He was previously employed at another establishment before he decided to work with Bake With Dignity two years ago.
Individuals like Kevin have better chances to be employed as they are "higher functioning" but most persons with disabilities often find themselves with little hope of securing a job.
While they may have the skills to take up a job at a "normal workplace", it wouldn't matter because under normal circumstances they wouldn't have a superior who could direct them and train them according to their abilities as a person with special needs.
This is where Bake With Dignity stands out. Dedicated parents (known as 'coaches') will not just guide them in their work, but they also have the knowledge and understanding of how to supervise the special bakers in the event of a possible meltdown.
Employees will not just be confined to working in the kitchen as they would have the opportunity to help out as a front line staff such as serving customers at the cashier, if they are comfortable to do so.
Bake With Dignity has come a long way since its inception in 2007
It all started when a parent decided to teach her son with autism how to cook and bake, a practical skill that could be useful for the latter in the future.
In a matter of time, it birthed the project known as 'Bake With Dignity' where members would bake together over the weekends during the 'Supported Living' programme at the D&S house.
Little did they know that after seven years, the small project that started from their home would grow up to become a social enterprise that would create more job opportunities for individuals with special needs like Ji Xian and Kevin.
As D&S continues its efforts in empowering more persons with learning disabilities, it is aiming to raise RM14,400 to purchase new baking equipment that will be used for Bake With Dignity
Dignity and Services has set up a crowdfunding campaign on NGOHub's platform, in which monetary donations can be made.
You can make your contribution and keep up with all the latest updates for Bake With Dignity and view the campaign's progress on the platform by NGOHub. SAYS is the official online media partner of NGOHub.
Ultimately, Bake With Dignity's goal is to become a self-sustaining social enterprise, where profits are generated to cover basic business operations while providing employment opportunities for persons with learning disabilities.
You can also show your support by purchasing baked goods from Bake With Dignity
At the moment, Bake With Dignity is operating primarily on a baked-to-order basis, which means that they would only bake after an order is made to eliminate as much wastage as possible.
Walk-in customers may still find fresh baked goods in the store, although the selection is likely to be minimal and in limited quantities.
Orders can be made via WhatsApp, via email to [email protected], or on Bake With Dignity's online store.
Be a part of social change by supporting Bake With Dignity's social cause today through your contributions to its campaign on NGOHub's crowdfunding platform!
Meanwhile, another NGO based in Shah Alam is also doing amazing work to ensure that the urban poor in Klang do not go hungry: