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Francis: Inspiring local man with disabilities

29th March, 2016


KOTA KINABALU: Francis Xavier Kimjin, 32, was born without legs but he is living proof that with an iron will, he not only can stand on his own metaphorical feet but also do well enough to help others.

The resident of Kg Dabak, Penampang, near here did not let his handicap to stop him from training as a chef, multimedia editor, a village tuck shop owner, a motivational speaker in sharing his personal life’s journey to inspire others, and more recently as an entrepreneur on handcrafting useful household applications with the humble PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes.

Met at the Bazaar Music #5 here last Saturday, Francis spoke candidly amidst numerous PVC creations about his life, his crafts and his big heart.

Born to a family of seven, Francis paid tribute to his loving mother who has constantly encouraged him to be independent by adapting to his handicap. It was her who took a photo of his first PVC creation, a laundry rack, before he posted it on his Facebook and unwittingly opened a new path to the creativity and business.

“I was in a supermarket looking for a laundry rack,” Francis recalled the beginning of his enterprise which is less than two months old. “The racks were expensive, so I decided perhaps I could make one myself.”

He did make one, and as they said the rest was history. He went on to produce TV racks, coffee tables, baby chairs, shoe racks and of course, laundry racks. His orders come from the Kota Kinabalu area, as well as Sandakan, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, and Ranau.

“Within an hour of posting my first laundry rack on Facebook, I received about 100 Likes. The photo of my laundry rack apparently went viral and before long orders started coming in, and I have been kept busy ever since,” said a beaming Francis, who has since enlisted the help of two nephews to fulfil the orders.

Francis said being born with his condition perhaps made it easier for him to live with it, “but it would be silly for me not to have wished that I had legs like normal people”.

“My mother made me realised long ago that I just have to work harder than others because I don’t have what others have. Now I don’t see it as a handicap, but as a blessing, because if I had legs I’d probably be dreaming of becoming a footballer and not the creative juices that enabled me to launch my new business,” said Francis.

His idea of sharing his blessings is to help especially the elderly, orphans and the disabled. He had identified a number of such needy neighbours whom he visited regularly with groceries and cash.

“I estimate that I give away at least five per cent of my income,” he said with a broad smile.

Aside from his new-found enterprise, Francis has a tuck shop located in front of his mother’s house.

“It’s a small business which brings in a small income, but it provides a service to the villagers.”

In an era of high living costs, people are encouraged to develop multiple streams of income, and Francis is no exception.

He has his PVC crafts, his tuck shop, and occasionally receives orders for pastries and audio-video editing.

Francis, who left school when he was in Form 2 to work as an apprentice mechanic, also expressed gratitude to the Cheshire Home here through which he learned about benefiting from charity and being charitable.

He was sent to Sri Lanka as part of the Young Voices Asia Regional Meet and Media Training Workshop where he learned everything about the media industry, including video and audio editing, and broadcasting.

The Sri Lankan stint was inspiring. “That experience taught me a lot and as a member of the Young Voices, we fight for the rights of disabled people in the country. As you know, in this country, the welfare of disabled people is still not very well taken care of although it is not as bad as before.”

“For example, there are still many buildings which are not OKU-friendly (OKU stands for orang kurang upaya, or disabled person) and we are trying to raise awareness in order to change this.”

The affable man from Dabak not only has fire in his belly for his fellow OKUs but also a passion for baking. He possesses a Level 3 certificate (Malaysian Skills Certification) in pastry making and has worked in a pastry shop for five years before calling it quits to run his village tuck shop. In 2011, he came third in a culinary art competition and also won the Maggi Chef Award in the same event.

While he is philosophical about his physical handicap, Francis is realistic about the challenges and sometimes prejudices.

“Moving around is difficult, and I am grateful to my family members who have been patient and helpful.”

On prejudices, he recalled how his application to obtain government help to start his tuck shop went awry and eventually did not materialise.

“I couldn’t get any help, and I started my tuck shop at only 80 ringgit that I had in my pocket,” he said. “I bought some Maggi noodles, sold them and went on to get more noodles and other supplies … that’s how I started.

As a token of his gratitude to the Cheshire Home and the Welfare Department which helped him for many years, Francis sets aside time to be involved in their charitable activities, including sharing his experiences.

“I like to share because I want people, especially young people who spend too much time idling, to realise that there’s much they can do for themselves and help others, especially when they are able-bodied.

“I want to showcase myself as an example that we can improve our lives as well as that of the unfortunate, if only we try.”

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