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TAN CHIOU JUN
Yap Kon Song shaping a rattan stick at his home workshop in Rawang. — Pic by Azrol Ali.
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HE was only 14 when his right leg was crushed by a big stone while helping his parents to mine iron ores.
Yap Kon Song, however, has never allowed his disability to pull him down.
In fact, Yap, now 58, persevered to start his own rattan furniture business in the outskirts of Rawang.
As his leg was badly crushed, doctors were unable to do much.
He was hospitalised for three months and was brought home to recuperate.
He felt useless and purposeless as the incident happened at an age where he had dreams to study well and make it big in life.
But Yap’s immobility allowed him to reflect and adapt to his helpless condition.
Six years later, at 20, his brother got him a job at a factory that manufactures rattan.
Yap worked relentlessly for 10 years but as the timing and nature of the job got too tedious and uncomfortable, Yap decided to quit and find another job.
He tried approaching many rattan manufacturers as that was the only skill he had mastered but he was continuously rejected due to his physical condition.
Yap persisted and self-taught some repair skills.
He then took a bus to Pudu, purchased some raw materials and returned to start his own rattan furniture repair and sales business.
Apart from operating in one location, Yap gathers his strength to peddle an old bicycle —lugging along repair tools, rattan peels and sticks and thinners — to provide door-to-door repair services.
He often loses his balance and falls of the bicycle.
“I am used to it. I can’t sit and wait for people to come and help me so I’ll just pick myself up and continue my business,” says Yap.
“I’ve got customers from all backgrounds. If they have a broken or old rattan furniture, they either stop me at their doorstep, call for my services or pay me a visit,” says Yap.
Despite the hard work and complexity of the job, Yap doesn’t charge exorbitantly.
“Depending on the condition of the furniture, I usually charge between RM10 and RM30 that include material fee for one piece of furniture,” says Yap.
“I don’t think life is unfair to me. I earn enough to feed myself and I have a roof over my head. I have no other expectations in life,” says Yap who lives on simple meals.
He does, however, worry about the lack of awareness among people and customers who cheat.
“Damaged rattan furniture can always be repaired. A lot of people don’t have that awareness and would usually discard old furniture and buy new ones.”
“Repair jobs are getting scarce. Prices of materials have also increased so it is difficult to see profit,” says Yap.
He adds that RM200 could get him at least 8kgs of rattan peel few years ago but he can only buy 25kgs for RM1,000 now.
Yap also finds it hard to do business during the rainy season.
“Then, there are customers who will visit me for repair jobs and promise to pay later but will never turn up,” says Yap.
It hurts every time people laugh at his disability or scold him when he works or moves at a slower pace.
“But I don’t take it to heart. I am more concerned about earning money responsibly so I have no time for people who are critical of me and I don’t worry about what others think of me.”
“At least, I can still work, eat and have a good night sleep. I am just lucky to be alive,” says Yap.
Yap currently lives with his sister in Rawang and is reachable at +60163022178
The Rakyat Post contributed a small sum to aid his business.
Those who wish to reach out to him can contribute to his CIMB bank account (Account No: 7014460390) under the name Yap Kon Song.
Watch his story here: