For the past two decades, Kiang Choon Tong has manned his porridge stall on the first floor of Amoy Street Food Centre – until a nasty fall forced him to take a two-year hiatus in early 2019. “I fractured my shoulder and had to undergo surgery. After the operation, I decided to take some time off to recuperate,” the 73-year-old hawker tells us in Mandarin.
During his break, Choon Tong leased his stall to a vegetarian food hawker. Three weeks ago, Soon Heng Porridge was back in business – much to the delight of his regular customers. The reopening was largely motivated by his participation as a mentor in the Hawkers’ Development Programme by the National Environment Agency.
The initiative encourages new hawkers to join the trade by equipping them with skills to run their own stalls. This includes an apprenticeship with experienced hawkers like Choon Tong. “I’ve always been active [with NEA activities]. When I heard about the programme, I wanted to sign up,” he says. “They had two participants who wanted to learn more about selling porridge, and I agreed to take them under my wing.”
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