Our Stories: Washing away the blues

Washing away the blues

  #60Stories

For the past 18 years, an unassuming petrol station along the often-busy Telok Blangah Road has seen speckled cars enter its premises and leave sparkling and spotless.

“Best car wash in Singapore. Very diligent in their work,” says one Google reviewer.

“They may be different, but they will put their best effort on every wash,” says another.

The exceptional work these comments are alluding to comes from MINDS Wash – a manual car wash service provided by persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs). Dressed in bright green t-shirts and orange safety vests, the well-trained MINDS clients provide a full suite of car washing services seven days a week. They perform their roles with laser focus and often leave no mark behind.

MINDS Wash is a long-running collaboration with the Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) that aims to give MINDS clients an avenue for employment, and simultaneously serves as a platform for the public to learn about PWIDs and their capabilities.

The MINDS Wash team – service with a smile

Skilled and meticulous employees

The service has thus far amassed a loyal group of customers who regularly return to the Telok Blangah outlet for their car-cleaning needs. According to Training Officer (TO) Jumaslan Bin Awe (who goes by Maslan), many of these customers have built a relationship with the MINDS clients there over the years, often stepping out of their cars to chat with them at the drying station. These small and friendly interactions are always appreciated by clients who work tirelessly throughout the week.

Although the altruistic aspect of patronising MINDS Wash is certainly a motivating factor for its faithful clientele, the quality of its services is what brings them back for years on end. Maslan says that many first-time customers are surprised to learn that the staff are capable of performing these tasks so well.

“They were focused and precise in washing and cleaning my car and also bade me goodbye with kind smiles. Their services supersede all other SPC car wash outlets I’ve been to,” posted Kim Ang on the MINDS Wash Facebook page.

“This team was friendly and took pride in washing the vehicles with love and respect,” added user Hazel Lim.

MINDS Wash clients working hard to ensure that every vehicle leaves with a sparkle

All of MINDS Wash employees are trained to wash vehicles meticulously and ensure that cars leave the washing bay thoroughly cleaned. The price of the service ranges from $4 to $12 depending on the size of the vehicle you drive, with the revenue going towards providing wages for the clients.

We always keep an eye out on their well-being by making sure their attire and items are in proper condition before they start work, and responding to any of their needs during working hours.

Maslan
MINDS Training Officer

Making the workplace better for all

As with every job, our clients at MINDS Wash do face certain challenges at work. For one, their job requires them to work under Singapore’s unforgiving heat (and occasionally relentless rain) throughout the day, which can take a physical toll on them over time.

The little things go a long way – shaded areas, trolleys for heavy buckets and non-slip boots help to prevent accidents and reduce fatigue

Sometimes customers may even try to take advantage of clients by falsely accusing them of damaging their vehicles. When this happens, clients understandably get upset, and TOs like Maslan will step in to address the situation.

In spite of these challenges, both MINDS and SPC staff do what they can to make the workplace better for MINDS clients.

“(We always) keep an eye out on their well-being by making sure their attire and items are in proper condition before they start work, and responding to any of their needs during working hours,” Maslan says. He adds that TOs often buy cold isotonic drinks, give them breaks, and cover their duties whenever they look like they need a rest from taxing work.

Giving value back to the community

The role that companies can play to support the inclusion of PWIDs is understated. When PWIDs are given the right training and support to perform well at their jobs, it serves as a catalyst for society’s perception of them to change.

The partnership with SPC allows MINDS to raise awareness of (PWIDs') presence to the motoring public and walk-in customers, and also provides opportunities for the public to support and interact with PWIDs.

Annie Yew
SPC representative

Since 2004, SPC has supported the MINDS Wash project by providing the operational space and paying for all its required utilities. Their efforts have gone a long way in encouraging the development of PWIDs as independent and self-supportive individuals. To illustrate that, more than 30 clients who were trained at the outlet eventually progressed to work in Open Employment programmes.

Annie Yew, a representative from SPC, says that the company’s goal has always been to help integrate PWIDs into society, and to show Singaporeans just how capable they are. 

“The partnership with SPC allows MINDS to raise awareness of its presence to the motoring public and walk-in customers, and also provides opportunities for the public to support and interact with the PWIDs.”

Our social enterprise programmes build strong essential skills for PWIDs to propel their careers forward, and create purpose and joy at the workplace. After close to two decades of successful operations, the MINDS Wash initiative is testament to the fact that PWIDs can perform tasks efficiently and contribute meaningfully to society with the right training and opportunities.

As such, we are always seeking corporate partners to collaborate with to promote the social inclusion of PWIDs. If you are passionate about making workplaces more inclusive and are interested in creating job opportunities for our clients, we’d love to start the conversation with you. And, of course – if you are ever around Telok Blangah, drop by to give your car a scrub. Our MINDS Wash clients will ensure your bumper glistens, and your patronage is sure to put a smile on their faces.

As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we would like to encourage a deeper understanding of people with intellectual disabilities and autism in the community, and how we can empower PWIDs to meaningfully integrate into and contribute to society.

Support our MINDS Wash team and visit us for your next car wash here.

Learn more about Social Enterprise programmes like MINDS Wash that provide employment and training opportunities for our clients here.

Be a friend of our MINDS community! Explore volunteering opportunities or consider donating to our cause.

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NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to [email protected] or call 849607358