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About the Dignity Mama stores

While there are selfish customers who are not afraid of taking advantage of people with special needs, they are few and far between, said Mr Koh Seng Choon, executive director of Project Dignity.

"This happened several times, when the customer underpaid or took an additional book without paying. But generally, people know that mentally challenged children run the stall and they treat them with kindness," said Mr Koh.

The Dignity Mama bookstores sell used books, which are collected, cleaned and sold by mentally challenged youth while accompanied by their mothers.

Each store sells about 40 books daily, most of which are children's books. The stores also sell snacks and souvenirs.

BUSINESS MODEL

Said Mr Koh, whose organisation trains people with special needs to become hawkers: "I set up the stores to support such people and adopted a business model that allows the best qualified people to look after them - their parents."

He said the two bookstores currently employ six people with special needs, each assisted by his mother.

Mr Koh added that another six parent-child pairs are on Dignity Mama's waiting list.

He said: "Most of them are above 21 and getting gainful employment is challenging. Working at Dignity Mama allows them to earn a living and have a parent to look after them at the same time."

The first store started in September 2012 as a pushcart at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and is manned by two people. Another opened in January at the National University Hospital Medical Centre.