Picture a 15-year old boy with an ailing mother and five younger siblings needing financial support. Many years later, this man, Subramaniam a/l Munisamy or Mani for short, has a thriving plumbing and renovation business with two full-time workers and several part time employees working for him. “With my earnings, I was able to buy a bigger lorry, car and some property including a house which I gave to my mother,” says Mani.
Mani came to SHELTER in 1981 and he stayed till 1982. In 1983, with the help of SHELTER, he was accepted into Negeri Agro Industrial Training Centre (a vocational school), to pursue a certificate course in plumbing. After completing the course, he worked in a company for seven years as a quality controller. Mani also took on plumbing jobs after office hours to earn extra income. Having no transport of his own, he travelled by mini bus, lugging his heavy tools along. He saved enough to buy a motorbike in three years and subsequently, he was able to buy a small lorry.
He decided to go full time into plumbing but found that running the business wasn’t always smooth sailing – during low periods he had to supplement his income by collecting cardboard boxes, paper cartons and newspaper in order to sell them. Mani also picked up renovation skills in carpet laying, welding, wiring and house painting. “I learnt those skills mainly by observation – as in the case of carpet laying, I went ahead with this business without any practical experience,” Mani said.
Just seven months ago, Mani took in a 17 year old boy from SHELTER 3, “Samy*” is a very slow learner and finds it hard to remember the different types of the plumbing tools. “I have to teach him over and over again,” says Mani. “He has no concept of time or money but he is good in doing manual tasks.” However Mani perseveres in the task of coaching and mentoring Samy. He hopes that in time Samy will be able to work independently and perhaps, set up his own business.
Mani is one of SHELTER’s first success stories. His success has a lot to do with his drive. But SHELTER has a part too – in providing him the direction and opportunity to develop his skills. Now Mani has gone one step further. . .in giving an opening for other SHELTER boys to learn a skill and to be self-sufficient as they prepare to leave SHELTER.
*Name have been changed