September in South Africa is Deaf Awareness Month and, while our Rainbow Nation has 11 official languages, sign language is not one of them. This month at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship South Africa, we’re shining a spotlight on Deaf awareness through social enterprise, I Love Coffee.
I Love Coffee is one of the few businesses that trains and employs Deaf youth and helps drive social upliftment and economic opportunities within the Deaf community. And what better way than through a good cup of coffee? The young social enterprise, which was established in 2016, recognises the potential of a good cup of coffee to bridge the communication gap and get people to interact. This has helped drive I Love Coffee’s purpose.
“I now have full support in my work and love the relationships I have with my Deaf teammates and even the hearing staff,” says Thobeka Ketiswe, a barista. “I have learnt a lot and feel more confident in serving and communicating with customers.”
Deaf Awareness Month aims to highlight Deaf people, the challenges they face and the accomplishments they have achieved. The South African public are encouraged to learn about Deafness, the Deaf community and their culture, and sign language. And, at I Love Coffee, baristas, chefs and waiting staff are all eager to help customers learn the basics of sign language to order their daily fix.
To date, I Love Coffee provides in-office coffee bar and food services to Virgin Active South Africa and Publicis Group Africa national head offices in Cape Town. The company also has retail cafés in Strand Street, Cape Town, and at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg.
“Over the past three years, we’ve built a business model that works,” says co-founder Gary Hopkins. “We’ve learnt how to work with [corporates] and we want to teach South Africa how better to work with the Deaf.”
This month, why not enjoy a great cup of coffee and learn to sign at the same time? Head over to one of the following I Love Coffee locations for your fix:
City Centre: 78 Strand Street
Cape Town City Centre
Mon – Fri 8 am – 4 pm
Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital
6 Jubilee Road