Charles Nyakurwa, Deaf Hands at Work
Nearly 1.8 Million South Africans are deaf or hard of hearing, with no common language, limited means of income, and no way to connect with the hearing community around them. What’s more, a shocking 75% of deaf people in South Africa are illiterate. Charles Nyakurwa founded his social enterprise, Deaf Hands at Work, to combat the alienation and economic hardships that most South Africans living with disabilities face on a daily basis. Having a younger brother who is deaf gave Charles the drive to focus his entrepreneurial energy, skills and knowledge towards making a social impact. Deaf Hands @ Work was officially launched in December 2011. Its mission is to create employment for skilled and unskilled deaf individuals, irrespective of racial denominations and nationality.
Deaf Hands at Work offers training and job creation for the deaf community using South African Sign Language (SASL) to bridge the communication gap. Alongside creating employment opportunities, Charles is promoting community awareness and breaking down social barriers. The long term goal is to create a strong, motivated, qualified workforce from previously unskilled and semi-skilled people with disabilities. Charles aims to eventually achieve recognition and influence as a disability brand, with DHW offices spreading throughout South Africa’s 9 provinces. Deaf Hands is currently employing and paying 13 people, has moved to offices in Fishhoek and has a second storage facility lock up alongside the house in Masi. He has achieved registration as a Not for Profit organisation and has complete accountancy systems in place thanks to support from Ernst and Young
They are breaking even during winter which are the slowest months for their biggest earners (carpentry and painting) and several of his tradesmen now have formal qualifications.The sewing project is now launched and they’ve landed a contract to sew kit for the SA paralympics team.
According to Charles, “Just one employed competent deaf individual can change the entire community reframing how people perceive disability as an inability. He or she can be a role model to a deaf child and a source of valuable inspiration.”