A Plate of Goodness

Cleaning and waiting tables may not be the dream job for most youths, but for Emil Ng, it’s a badge of honour.

“I’m a steward,” he says matter-of-factly. “I like my job.” It may not be visibly apparent, but the 21-year-old is a special needs youth and he works at Iron Supper Club, a restaurant with a social mission to help those like him.

Five mornings a week, Emil takes the bus and MRT from his home in Pasir Ris to his workplace at MacPherson, arriving at 8am. Once he is there, he fetches the bleach, brushes and mop, and starts his daily routine of sprucing up the place before it opens to the lunch crowd. “I like to keep everything clean,” he says.

When customers enter, Emil hands them the menu and helps with the orders. “I take orders if there are only two customers. Otherwise, it’s too complicated,” he explains. As the lunch crowd thins, he clears the tables, washes the dishes and organises the cutlery, putting them back on the shelves where they belong. He never misses a step.

Restaurant as Incubator

Walk into Iron Supper Club and it looks like any other restaurant. Apart from the taglines on the placemats and in the menus, there is no tell-tale sign that this as a social enterprise that employs and trains people with special needs. In reality however, the mission-driven restaurant offers jobs to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Iron Supper Club is an incubation space for special needs individuals,” explains Bernard Chan, a volunteer who serves as Operations Consultant to the business. The restaurant was started by a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who wanted a business that concurrently serves the greater good.

Stories of kindness brings to mind big-hearted individuals helping others, but Iron Supper Club shows how businesses too, can act above profit motives to care for its employees. With guidance and lots of patience, these special needs individuals perform remarkably, overcome adversities and get ready for other jobs and roles in life.

Emil too, is working towards a goal. “One day, I hope to learn cooking and cook for my family,” he says. His is not a far-fetched dream. Emil’s colleague, De Chun, another special needs youth, started as a steward before assuming the role of a barista, and is now an assistant chef in the kitchen, thanks to the opportunities given to him at this social enterprise.

It Goes Both Ways

At Iron Supper Club, empathy runs both ways.

“I like working with the people here; I like Chef,” says Emil, referring to Chef Chong, a veteran chef who is also an experienced job coach for special needs individuals. “Chef has a more tiring job than me. If he asks me to help, I will help him right away.”

“It’s very important to help others,” he adds.

For someone always perceived to be on the receiving end of help, Emil’s message is simple, yet powerful. It is within everyone’s means to help, and there are many ways to lend a hand, a shoulder or a listening ear.

If you need ideas, why not check out the SG Cares app for ways to volunteer or donate. Who knows? You may touch the lives of someone, somewhere, and brighten their ordinary days, in extraordinary ways.

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