BK talks to computer shop owner Pornthep Munchoophong, about his decision to employ disabled people to work as repairmen and his take on how we can better help the less fortunate.
Why did you decide to employ disabled people?
As I have a 14 year old autistic son, I understand what other people with disabilities go through, so I just want to help them as much as I can. I used to work with a company that sold telecommunication products but it didn’t suit my lifestyle with my son needing more care than other children. I decided to quit and open a computer shop, Mat Com, near my home, so I could spend more time with my son. I’ve since expanded my business by opening another computer shop called Com Lab at The Mall Bang Kae.
Do you have disabled people working in both shops?
Yes, I do. The first shop is mostly staffed by people who were born less fortunate and left to fend for themselves by their families. In the newer shop, it’s people who have become disabled as a result of accidents. These people used to work as security guards and truck drivers before they were afflicted. They have families to support so they need to work.
Where do you find your employees?
I mostly go to the Rehabilitation Center of Social Insurance in other provinces where they train disabled people to be able to help themselves. They provide special training in specific fields to help the less fortunate make a living. These training courses include computer repairs. I’ve also had walk-in job applicants.
Do they face difficulties while working here?
Of course, certain difficulties arise. Sometimes things can get tough for our staff, but we just have to let them overcome the troubles themselves. We just keep encouraging them no matter how frustrating things can get.
What is a work day like here?
Work is from 11am until 8pm. Staff are allowed a holiday once a week on any day they want. Aside from their salary (from B6,000), they get a B100 daily allowance. I have also rented a house that accommodates most of my employees. A few of them work for themselves, while some send money back to their families.
How can we better help the disabled?
I think the best form of help is through education. Donations and monetary help will also help but not as much as education. People with physical disabilities can be trained at rehabilitation centers but mental strength is what is really needed for them to be able to make a living without having to depend on other people. The Thai government now provides more help and benefits for handicapped people than ever before, but if everyone could lend just a few hours of their time to help train the disabled, I’m sure we would see more disabled people pick up meaningful jobs.