Mongkol Pinkaew (Cherry), a 37-year-old, has mobility disabilities of a paraplegic nature and is a wheelchair user. She has managed to overcome many obstacles and earned a living as a souvenir vendor in Pattaya’s Walking Street, Chonburi for more than six years before being hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. She had to make big adjustments and look for other ways of earning a living to survive during this difficult time.

Pattaya Walking Street has completely changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 from a vibrant street into a quiet place with no tourists who are Cherry’s main customer group. When the government imposed lockdown measures and closed all touristic venues, including markets and shopping malls, Cherry decided to return to her hometown in Kamphaeng Phet Province. She saw this as the right decision because she could not imagine living in Pattaya without being able to earn money during the lockdown.

Cherry has spent almost all her savings during the lockdown with no income. She tried to earn money from selling small merchandise when first returning home but was unsuccessful because the area is not as commercial as Pattaya. She then turned to document typing and online fiction writing instead but could not make enough money to live on. 

Cherry was thrilled when she heard about the Vulcan digital skills development training provided by Vulcan Coalition and the Social Administration Foundation in partnership with UNDP. It is part of the COVID-19 Socio-economic Response and Recovery Project, financially supported by the Japanese Government. She believes this information management opportunity for people with disabilities to develop AI technology is very interesting since it can be done from anywhere through an online platform. Also, the fact that she graduated in computer and business management has made her even more enthusiastic about participating in this training course.

Following her training, Cherry has gained a better understanding of AI technology and digital work. She can now earn an income by working from home, although not a large amount, it is enough to support herself and her family by reducing her expenses such as travel and room rental. Moreover, working from home also allows Cherry to spend more time writing online novels, her favourite activity. 

Cherry has now been hired as an AI trainer by Vulcan Coalition for a period of one year and will be given the opportunity to participate in up-skill training such as low-code, website design and simple software connections. These skills enable those without programming knowledge to create websites or applications themselves. Given the high demand for digital skills in the labour market nowadays, the knowledge and experience Cherry has gained through this project will provide her with a door-opening opportunity to work with other large companies in the future. Vulcan-Social Administration Foundation’s attempts to collaborate with many organizations will help to drive the employment of people with disabilities in different sectors. 

Cherry’s story is another reminder for Thai society to give more consideration to people with disabilities. This group should be given greater access to a wide range of employment opportunities and professional skills development, in line with the changes in the working environment of the digital world.

Story in Thai version read here. 

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Written by the Social Administration Foundation and Vulcan Coalition

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