F&B social enterprise for deaf recognised by Singapore Kindness Movement

Minister Masagos Zulkifli (right) and SKM general secretary William Wan (second from left) present an award to Don8uri's (from left) Teo Bee Chuan, Wong Ai Ling and Sylvia Teng. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Social entrepreneur Sylvia Teng was inspired by her deaf friend and business partner to co-found a social enterprise to provide deaf individuals with employment in the food and beverage sector.

The F&B social enterprise Don8uri, which was founded in 2019 by the two former social service practitioners, was among eight social enterprises and charities, 12 ground-up movements, and three Voice of Loving Kindness inducted into the Singapore Kindness Movement's (SKM) Kindred Spirit Circle on Friday (May 20).

This is the first time SKM is honouring social enterprises on Kindness Day SG.

Kindness Day SG, which was inaugurated in 2013 as an annual celebration of acts of kindness, falls on May 20 this year.

SKM general secretary William Wan said: "For the past 10 years, we have been celebrating exceptional individuals who have done their part in building a nation of kindness. This year, we want to shine the light on these extraordinary people and everyday Singaporeans like you and me."

Since its inception in 2012, the Kindred Spirit Circle has inducted more than 150 ground-up movements, which are self-initiated volunteer projects that help promote kindness, Voices of Loving Kindness - individuals who embody the spirit of kindness and graciousness, as well as social enterprises.

"In recent years, we have seen social enterprises and charities stepping up to promote the message of graciousness, and kindness values to the community. We should recognise and affirm that," said SKM.

Ms Teng, who was executive director of The Singapore Association for the Deaf, said: "With our background in social service, understanding of the deaf culture, sign language and the challenges faced by deaf individuals, my business partner and I hope to advocate for social integration of deaf individuals by providing them gainful employment.

"We have the ultimate social mission to equip them with the relevant skills and eventually the capability to embark on their respective entrepreneurial journey to pay it forward."

Don8uri works with various companies to set up live stations serving food at corporate events.

Deaf persons get to take on front-facing roles in serving customers and taking orders.

"I hope my co-founder, who is deaf herself, can share her experience as an entrepreneur, and inspire others in the community. We hope to send the message that they can do any role they want."

The social enterprise also conducts sign language workshops to foster inclusion and bridge communication between the deaf and the hearing, Ms Teng said.

She added that Don8uri envisions Singapore Sign Language being recognised as Singapore's fifth official language.

Another initiative that was inducted on Friday is a ground-up movement offering low-income groups the opportunity to take photographs using semi-professional cameras.

The project's founder, healthcare professional Tan Chin Hock - who is a photography enthusiast - hopes to enable those who are less fortunate to pick up a new hobby and skills.

Since it was started in August last year, the initiative has reached more than 150 migrant workers with photography workshops, guided photo walks and cameras provided for their free use, Mr Tan said.

"I've been very inspired to hear some of the workers share that they hope to become a photographer or open a photography studio in their home countries," he added.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who was the guest of honour at Friday's event at K Bowling Club in 313@somerset, stressed that kindness starts at home and encouraged Singaporeans to show appreciation for their family and loved ones.

"Families also steward the values that we cherish as a society... From an early age, children learn and model after their families, especially their parents, who carry the great responsibility of nurturing and guiding them through life like a beacon.

"This is exactly why kindness must start in our families. It is an important first step towards building a caring society."

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