The annual appeal for funds could give a shot in the arm to the Hong Chi sheltered workshop A group of disabled workers is hoping Operation Santa Claus will put them on the road to success by funding a 10-tonne truck to help boost business. The Hong Chi Association wants to buy a $390,000 delivery truck to bring in more work so it can pay higher wages to its mentally handicapped employees. The association is one of the beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus, the annual fund-raising effort of the South China Morning Post. This year's campaign will be launched next Thursday at Government House. Fong Lung has spent 15 years working at the association's Jockey Club Hong Chi Sun Chui Workshop - a sheltered workshop which gives the mentally handicapped a chance to earn their own living. Like many of his workmates, his job involves simple processing, finishing, assembly work and stock checking, which he finds the most difficult. 'I can only count small amounts of goods. I am not good at counting over 100,' said the 33-year-old who has a mild mental handicap. Mr Fong sometimes also helps pick up and deliver goods to his clients with the workshop's light goods vehicle. But the van can only accommodate a small amount of goods, which is why the association is hoping for a bigger truck. 'If we can have a cargo truck, it will make our job much easier and we can get more job orders,' Mr Fong said. Workshop manager Elisa Tao said there was an increasing demand for pick-up and delivery of goods. They had lost some promising job orders due to the limitations of their existing vehicle, she said. She said the workshop spent $200,000 last year on hiring delivery vehicles. If it had a larger truck of its own, the cost of running it would only be $60,000 a year. 'If we have our own truck, we will be able to offer more competitive rates to our clients, and therefore better salaries to our workers,' Ms Tao said. The association is also appealing for employers to take on mentally handicapped people it has trained with various skills. Mr Fong, who earns about $3,000 per month, attended some cleaning classes over the past few months to prepare himself to work independently in the open job market. 'I'm hard-working but no one hired me,' he said. Chairman John Budge said the difficult economic situation made it more challenging to find jobs for people with a mental handicap. 'Many Hong Kong people are having a hard time finding jobs now, but it's even harder for people with mental handicaps,' Mr Budge said. The Hong Chi Association was established in 1965 to promote the welfare of mentally handicapped people in Hong Kong.