We have worked with our partner Zambia Deaf Youth and Women (ZDYW) to start up a car wash enterprise to help deaf young people to get into employment and earn a living.
Research shows that over half of adults with disabilities in Zambia are unemployed. Deaf people face particular challenges in the job market, because of poorer schooling and barriers to communication.
The car wash enterprise is well located on a main road into the city of Kitwe in the Copperbelt Province. It is on the site of ZDYW’s multipurpose centre, which includes a community school for deaf children.
The concrete foundation and steel shelter have been built, the water pump, drums and drainage are in place, a pressure machine has been purchased, and the car wash is open for business.
Three deaf young people are employed in the enterprise currently and trade is steadily increasing.
For these young people, the enterprise represents a livelihood and independence from parents and guardians. It also enables them to gain in confidence and learn customer service skills.
A hearing volunteer who is fluent in sign language is on hand. However, the deaf young people and clients tend to communicate using “logical” signs, for example, to indicate “wash car outside only” or “inside and out”.
According to customer feedback, this cleaning service is both competitive and high quality. The hospitable attitude of the deaf service providers is encouraging the clients to return too. Such positive interactions should serve to change negative perceptions of deafness in society.
The car wash enterprise has not only generated income to cover operating costs of wages, cleaning products and electricity. It has also supported ZDYW’s Jennifer Memorial Special Community School, which fosters the learning of deaf children from surrounding disadvantaged areas.
The enterprise has contributed towards school resources, including staff, stationery and uniforms, as well as a school feeding programme.
Thank you to our individual and organisational supporters who have made this project possible!