Mum lauded for helping neglected kids

Straits Times

GIVEN away as a child and later abandoned by her adopted father, Mrs Mae-Lim Hoon Ann knows what it is like to grow up “without money and to be alone”. The 61-year-old, who was brought up by her adopted mother, spent the past two decades trying to improve the lot of abused and neglected children here. For her tireless efforts, the long-time volunteer at the Singapore Children’s Society won the nation’s most prestigious award for volunteers last night. Mrs Mae-Lim, a part-time liaison officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, beat 14 others to clinch the individual category of the President’s Social Service Award 2006.

The mother of two grown up children said: “I don’t have great wealth or great talent, but I have a bit of talent and time to give.”

Mrs Mae-Lim is a member of the Children’s Society committee that looks into issues faced by abused or neglected children.

Her dedication to her volunteer work is so strong that she took four months of unpaid leave last year to organise a major child protection conference here. Mrs Mae-Lim, who also sits on the Children’s Society board, has this advice for those thinking of volunteering: Don’t expect huge gains or accolades.

She added: “Even if you don’t see the rewards of what you do, it’s okay. “Others can take off where you left off. ”

Fast-food giant KFC was also recognised last night for hearing the plight of the deaf. It hires 91 deaf crew members in its 72 outlets across the island. The company also works with the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), for example, to recruit staff for its outlets.

In fact, two outlets are manned almost entirely by deaf crews. Only the outlets’ managers do not have a hearing disability. The company has to modify equipment for its deaf crew and send its other staff for sign language classes.

Mrs Donna Tan, manager of the KFC branch at the Joint Social Service Centre in Toa Payoh, said she was initially apprehensive at handling her deaf colleagues.

But she overcame these difficulties through sign language, gestures and by writing on pieces of paper.

Mrs Tan said: “I find my deaf crew to be very positive, willing to learn and very serious in their work.

“Some of them, despite being deaf, even manage to chat with our customers.” One of them is KFC supervisor Serene Chow, 40, who is grateful for a job and income. The mother of a teenager said it is very difficult for the disabled to convince bosses to hire them.

Mr Michael Gian, KFC’s chief executive officer, said his deaf staff enjoy the same pay and benefits as other employees.

So does KFC have any concerns that its customers may shun outlets operated by the deaf and hence affect the company’s bottom line?

Mr Gian answered: “We are confident that our customers will warm up to our crew. “So far, response has been positive.”