A Voice for the Deaf

A Voice for the Deaf


Imagine living in a world where you are silenced and outcast – with no common language, limited means of income, and no way to connect with your peers. According to Charles Nyakurwa, this is the reality for many deaf people living in South Africa today.

Training and job creation for the deaf

Charles has been chosen as the latest UnLtd South Africa award winner for his social enterprise, Deaf Hands @ Work based in Masiphumelele, Cape Town. His project 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’ dream is to promote community awareness and break down social barriers for people living with disabilities.

UnLtd South Africa has recognized Nyakurwa for his determination to make a powerful social impact in the deaf community. The award consists of a package of financial and non-financial support to the value of R50 000. UnLtd South Africa’s latest competition, which was launched earlier this year, saw a variety of promising applicants causing the judging panel to deliberate long and hard before choosing Charles – proof that the social enterprise sector is growing and gaining momentum in the Western Cape.

According to Louise Willington, CEO at UnLtd South Africa, Charles was given the award by the judging panel because of his passion for his cause and because he is doing something practical to change the world for the deaf community. “Charles is extremely enterprising, you can see that throughout his life, and his experiences growing up have created his desire and commitment to change mindsets around disability. We look forward to supporting him and seeing Deaf Hands @ Work blossom into an established social enterprise,” says Willington.

Unlimited Support

UnLtd South Africa is a nonprofit organisation that finds, funds and support social entrepreneurs, using a model developed in the UK that has spread to India and Thailand. UnLtd South Africa seeks to help early stage social entrepreneurs on their journey by providing financial grants, mentorship, training and networking opportunities. Charles is the latest of a series of award winners who are celebrating success in the Western Cape thanks in part to UnLtd South Africa’s support.

A born entrepreneur

The definition of a self-made man, Charles grew up in Zimbabwe and had a successful academic career despite being orphaned at age 7. Through his youth he was involved in entrepreneurial endeavours and ran a small shop to put himself through school.

Growing up with his younger brother, who is deaf, had a major influence on his outlook on the world and his attitude towards business. The family did not have access to the appropriate equipment to measure the full scale of his brother’s hearing loss that made it impossible for him to get the quality of care and education needed for a young child with a disability.

Frustrated by the fact that his younger brother, a bright boy who is full of hopes and aspirations just like him, was ostracized purely based on being deaf – Charles made it his mission to break the silence and affliction of the Deaf Community.  Unfortunately, a lack of resources and care for the disabled is not uncommon. Nearly 1.8 million South Africans are deaf or hard of hearing and a shocking 75% of deaf people are illiterate. Charles’ background in economics gave him the vision to create a business that could begin to solve the problem.


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. 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 prime status as a disability brand with DHW offices spreading throughout South Africa’s nine provinces.

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.”

For more information go to www.unltdsouthafrica.org

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  • Charlse’s work is tremendous and inspiring, may he receive all the resources and support system deemed necessary for this project to prosper.