“At the end of the day… We don't dream our lives. We live them!” - this inspiring quote by Anthony Ianni, a Person with Autism (PWA), is something easier said than done for most people. It is especially hard for PWAs in Singapore, where for them, opportunities are scarce.
Autism is a spectrum disorder characterized by a deficit in social interaction, communication, and unusual or repetitive behavior. Despite the fact that there are an estimated 50,000 people in Singapore are thought to have autism, many of us still know little to nothing about the condition - a sad fact which often leads to misunderstandings and stigma. PWAs are often given strange looks or harsh comments in response to their awkward behaviors - like sitting too close to someone or spontaneously making sounds. “Life in Singapore was not made for PWAs” - Naomi Higashida, an author with severe autism, describes his life akin to being from another planet; he feels like an alien and unused to the strong gravity on earth.
The majority of those with autism who graduate from special needs schools find it difficult to find work - often for indefinite periods of time - leaving them in limbo. In Singapore, there are existing organizations that hire differently-abled people such as PWAs - initiatives the government has been very supportive of. However, in speaking to those at the forefront of these organizations, we were told that a great need to help PWAs still exist. Simply put, there are far more PWAs in Singapore than there are opportunities. Most of them never get the chance to learn new skills or to be a part of a community. As a result, they often exist on the fringe of society; isolated.
Our response to this urgent need is Feed52. Our vision begins with taking the first step towards empowering PWAs to be socially integrated and cause positive social change. In the pilot phase (6 months) of this project, we will be developing a proof-of-concept to empower PWAs to be able to leverage technology to operate in a tailored kitchen environment. The kitchen and the operational workflows will be managed with the intent of building an inclusive work environment that will meaningfully engage the PWAs to engage. In this project, the cooked food will be given to marginalized communities, such as migrant workers or low-income families. This allows PWAs to engage in making meaningful contributions to society, while also developing a platform for them to learn basic life skills.
This project cost of $20,000 will go into buying ingredients, equipment, off-setting training costs and attaining certification. This will produce an estimated 6000 meals. This pilot, when completed, will be reviewed and future plans include the possibility of the incorporation of the working model into schools or continuing as a social enterprise.
PWAs often find themselves on the margins of society. We invite you to partner with us to invite PWAs in - rather than keeping them at arm's length. Contact us to find out more about how you can help empower PWAs through financial support or volunteering. Come alongside us and build a more inclusive Singapore, produce more opportunities for the PWAs around us and give them a chance at living with greater dignity.