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20 year old Supakorn Gesmankit from Special Olympics Thailand is the first Special Olympics athlete to be employed at UNIQLO, following UNIQLO Asia Pacific’s CSR partnership with the Special Olympics Asia Pacific region office, initiated in five countries – Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. This opportunity from UNIQLO Thailand follows UNIQLO’s global CSR Policy of hiring at least one person with disability per store.

UNIQLO is a Japanese casual wear brand for women, men and children, and Asia’s largest retailing shop, with more than 800 stores worldwide. Supakorn will be working at the UNIQLO shop in Central Ladprao Branch, north of Bangkok city. He was introduced at the shop’s staff meeting session on May 27, where he attended orientation, working for four hours. UNIQLO will assign a staff member to be Supakorn’s mentor during first three months to support his duty. His six hour shift will be in the morning, from 7.30 am to 3.00 pm (break time 1.30 hours), working from Monday to Thursday. After Supakorn’s four month work probation, his working hours will be extended to eight hours. On May 31th, Supakorn is scheduled to sign the employment contract and starting work on June 10th. He will also receive the same benefits as other staff.

According to Mrs. Rachaniwan Bulakul, National Director for Special Olympics Thailand: “In Thailand, it is not easy for people with intellectual disabilities (ID) to get a job, simply because employers do not expect a person with ID to be capable of performing any task properly, let alone of being capable of any responsibility. In order for companies to employ disabled persons, they need additional preparation to their organization, for instance building ramps or investing in staff for a buddy-system.”

“For UNIQLO to volunteer this initiative is a boost to Supakorn’s social skills and confidence, allowing him to succeed in life.”

Supakorn graduated at high school level from Rayong Special School. He currently lives with his father and grandmother in Bangkok. He has been involved with Special Olympics Thailand for more than eight years. In 2008, Supakorn received Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) training, a course that empowers athletes to contribute to the movement and their communities. From ALPs training, Supakorn supports Special Olympics Thailand activities in various roles: Emcee, Volunteer, Public Speaking, athlete escort for Healthy Athletes screening, athlete spokesperson for media and sponsorship meetings. Earlier this year, Supakorn was in Pyeongchang, Korea, competing in snowshoeing for the Special Olympics World Winter Games. These accumulative experiences have increased Supakorn’s confidence and life skills.

“With this pilot project, Special Olympics Thailand aims to recruit more athletes to work with UNIQLO Thailand in Chiang Mai province, by September 2013,” says Mrs. Bulakul. “It is in the process of recruiting athletes for employment, coordinating with UNIQLO’s HR Department to identify the required staff qualities. We select trained ALPs with extensive experience as volunteers and sends athlete resumes to the company. Special Olympics Thailand will continue to support our athletes to get a job and earn income.”

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