If you have ever bought a beverage or snack at Temasek Shophouse on a weekday morning, chances are, you would have been served at the counter by Rachael Lum. And if you are a regular customer, Rachael probably already knows your order by heart.
The 19-year-old is a part-time service crew member with Foreword Coffee, a social enterprise café that hires people from five disadvantaged communities: persons with autism, mild intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, deafness, and those in recovery from mental health issues. About 80% of Foreword Coffee’s 18-strong team is differently-abled.
Born with cerebral palsy, Rachael’s condition affects movement in the right side of her body. However, she is able to fulfil her cleaning duties with a diligent ease, proving that any barrier to performing well at work is often a case of mind over body. She is also very good at cashiering and provides great customer service. In fact, most customers are unaware of her condition when they are served by her behind the counter.
So what is a typical work day for Rachael like? Let’s find out…
Rise and shine! Rachael gets ready for work. She had worked at various places previously – from a laundromat to a supermarket – but enjoys her experience at Foreword Coffee the most. There is always something new to learn, which makes work fun.
Rachael is familiar with the route to work, although it wasn’t easy to remember at first. She was previously taught how to get to the café through the use of photos taken along the walking route, which helped a great deal. These days, she knows which MRT exit to take, and what landmarks to look out for in order to get to her workplace.
Rachael’s first task of the day? Prepare the cash register. She counts all the notes and coins to make sure the base sum is correct. She remembers practicing how to count coins quickly and correctly during one of the company’s monthly meetings, when her boss brought a big bag of coins to test everyone’s counting skills. That day was really stressful!
There is usually one or two other colleagues on the same shift with Rachael. Although she doesn’t know sign language, she communicates with her deaf colleagues by writing on paper. Her deaf colleagues even taught her how to sign her own name! Sometimes, her autistic colleagues get upset and need to go somewhere else to calm down. When that happens, Rachael readily covers their duties for them.