You have heard the saying: Jack of all trades, master of none”. Charles Nyakurwa is truly the exception to the rule. He is indeed a “Jack of all trades”. The only difference is that he has a stubborn habit of succeeding at what he puts his mind to, no matter what.
In 2011, this young man joined the team at The Foodbarn as a runner that we found difficult to understand due to a broad accent and diction that made it impossible for him to actually serve anyone. This story does not begin here though…
Charles was born on the 25th December, 23 years ago in rural Chipinge, Zimbabwe. At the age of seven, he, his younger Deaf brother and his sister were orphaned and left to be raised by their grandmother, who struggled as a subsistence farmer. Charles finished his A- levels at the top of his class but his brother never received a formal education due to being deaf. In 2007, disillusioned with the political situation in Zim, Charles set his sights on finding work over the border to provide for his impoverished family. With no money, he crossed the border and immediately started looking for work.
Standing at a BP station and practically destitute, he was picked up by two men seeking extra workers. Seeing the potential in him, they decided to start teaching him some carpentry skills. As soon as Charles had a means to feed himself, he enrolled at Damelin where he completed a Building Science diploma whilst working to send money home and finally sending his brother to school at the age of 17. Charles speaks very emotionally about the day his brother could write his name for the first time. It was at this point that Charles headed a project to build a house near Monkey Valley for a friend of Franks, Adi. Through Adi, Charles ended up working at the Foodbarn. He also enrolled himself at UNISA to study a B COMPT degree which he will no doubt complete this year with flying colours.
It seemed that even this would not come easily to Charles. With the broadest smile on his face as a permanent fixture, we decided to invest in his future by slowly teaching him how to be a waiter, how to speak correctly, how to carry himself and how to appreciate excellent food and wine. We discovered that his desire to learn everything was unquenchable. In the meantime, his marks at UNISA were outstanding and after 3 months of training his performance on our floor was met with delight from our clientele. Charles received three complimentary letters in his first month as a waiter!!!! Many waiters never receive any in their entire career.
His brother, Peter, who could now read and write, became an inspiration to Charles and so his ambitions to be involved in the Deaf community were born. Not happy with making a difference in the life of one person, he decided to learn sign language. Once he could sign fluently, he decided to host a luncheon as a gift to himself for his birthday for Deaf people. For the first time, our menu was introduced in sign language! Charles paid for this himself but he drew the attention of prominent people in the Deaf community and he certainly made us want to somehow be involved in his mission.
DHW or Deaf Hands at Work Pty Ltd in December 2011 after winning a Social Entrepreneur competition. DHW seeks to create employment for skilled and unskilled Deaf people irrespective of race or denomination. The long term goal is to achieve prime status as the leading employer of Deaf people and create a household disability brand status on a national level.
Charles speaks passionately about sensitising hearing communities to the plight of the Deaf and to have SASL (South African Sign Language) recognised in schools and finally as an official language.
In February this year, Charles was dealt a cruel blow when a fire destroyed everything he owned including all his tools, his text books, computers and everything he and his family owned. Astonishingly, he showed up for a night shift at the restaurant that day with a smile on his face. Charles tells us that he was more determined than ever to pick himself up and give himself a year to get back to where he was. That night, he made double his usual tips.
Today, Charles employs 13 deaf people in various sectors. He has teamed up with Bernina to teach Deaf people how to sew. He has a small group of Deaf men who provide panelbeating , carpentry, garden services, car washing, maid services for people that have Deaf children, the list goes on. He has also started a t-shirt clothing line with his striking logo in order to create awareness.
There are 1.2 million deaf people in South Africa.
Not all Deaf people can lip read.
Deaf people are allowed to drive in South Africa and insurance companies do not classify them as “high risk”.
Deaf people are not “Deaf and Dumb” or stupid. MENSA has many deaf members.
It’s easier for a hearing person to learn how to sign than a deaf person to learn how to speak.
In 2011 Charles became a dad to little Charles junior. At just a few months old, Charles brought the baby in to The Foodbarn displaying his dads’ incredible smile and sense of style. Charles is a great dad and is taking care of his son amidst the million other things he does well.
The Foodbarn is truly proud and honoured to have witnessed the transformation in the last two years. Charles, we salute you and are proud to be associated with your brand. We extend a warm welcome to people with disabilities and endeavour to create a safe environment for anyone who wishes to dine with us, regardless of the disability.
On the 8th of September, Charles is heading up a 200km walk for deaf awareness. The walk will span 3 days and the first leg starts at the Foodbarn deli. There is even talk of Pete and other staff members participating in the walk, if they get time off!
For further information:
Facebook: Deaf Hands @ Work Pty Ltd
Email : info@DhwSA.co.za
Website : www.DhwSA.co.za
Tel : 021 785 7737
Cell: 073 653 7675
Physical address: 1700 Sobukwe Street
Postal :P.O.BOX 2263 Sun Valley, 7985