3-minute read

Growing Up with Second Chances: Lessons Learned in a Restaurant Built on Empathy


Trinity Poh

Trinity Poh, 19 years old, Student at Bath University, UK

Perched along the serene riverbanks of Chiang Mai, Paak Dang exudes an aura of warmth and inclusion. Beyond its delectable dishes lies its founder K-Lin Lim’s deeper purpose: to uplift and empower marginalised youth in the community. Trinity Poh, 19, a witness to her mother K-Lin's unwavering dedication to this cause, has grown alongside Paak Dang's mission of hope and transformation. Trinity shares her perspective and we gain insight into the ripple effects of compassion and the enduring legacy of social impact.

Read her brother’s experience here.

During my childhood, I often questioned my mother's unconventional approach to hiring staff for Paak Dang. Instead of opting for individuals with prior restaurant experience, she chose to give opportunities to people who had never even worked in a restaurant, investing so much time teaching them English and professionalism. 

At first, I couldn't grasp her reasoning behind this decision. Why not hire experienced individuals and save time and effort? However, as time went on, witnessing the positive transformations in both the characters and work ethics of our staff, I began to understand my mother's vision. Seeing the genuine joy on her face every time a staff member showed improvement deeply inspired me, igniting a desire to be involved in impactful work like hers.

Growing Up in Diversity: Lessons from the Paak Dang Family

Growing up amidst the journeys of the staff at Paak Dang profoundly influenced my outlook on life witnessing firsthand how everyone deserves a second chance and how providing growth opportunities can be immensely rewarding. It instilled a sense of gratitude for what I have and a strong inclination to help those in need. 

Spreading Christmas cheer to the villages up in the remote mountains every year.

Despite being a Singaporean kid living in Thailand, adapting to the cultural differences was surprisingly smooth. Immersing myself in Thai culture, including learning the language, through interactions with staff and customers at Paak Dang provided me with a unique learning experience, enriching my understanding of diversity and fostering meaningful connections.

One of the most memorable moments from my childhood at Paak Dang was our outings with the staff, particularly a trip to Huey Tng Tao reservoir. Sitting together, sharing meals, and enjoying the serene surroundings, I experienced a strong bond among the staff, akin to a second family. It highlighted the importance of community and friendship, reaffirming the significance of Paak Dang's mission beyond just employment.

Empathy, Second Chances, and a Future in Psychology

Paak Dang's journey has imparted invaluable lessons and values to me, emphasising the importance of empathy, compassion, and the belief in second chances. It has influenced my aspirations for the future, driving me towards a career as a psychological therapist. I think mental health is extremely important, after seeing my mother always being there for the Paak Dang staff whenever they had any personal issues they needed help with. I am also motivated to contribute to charitable causes and support the homeless where I can.

Distributing snacks and sweets to the less fortunate

Beyond Profit: Defining Success the Paak Dang Way

I hope people see that a successful business does not have to be all about making money. Paak Dang might not make as much money, or have the best service compared to other big restaurants or chains. However, Paak Dang is successful in its special way. It is successful in bringing joy and opportunities to many people's lives while serving delicious food of course! Paak Dang is a reminder that our past and background don't have to limit our potential. It shows us that with opportunity and guidance, anyone can grow and change. I hope that people will be open to giving others a second chance because everyone deserves the opportunity to become their best selves.

Looking ahead, I envision myself continuing Paak Dang's legacy and my mother's commitment to social impact, albeit on a global scale. As I reside in the UK, I aspire to introduce Paak Dang's authentic flavours to a wider audience, while staying true to our core values of providing opportunities to those in need. Whether through expanding the restaurant's reach or launching products in supermarkets, I want to ensure that Paak Dang's legacy of social impact endures.

Read Trinity’s brother’s take on growing up at Paak Dang here.