Submitted by:  Jacobus Myburgh

I have read some amazing stories that were posted on this group and it is truly inspiring.  It gives me hope and courage that our country is a country like none other!  I have decided to make use of this opportunity to maybe share a little bit of myself, because on this group that is what we are doing: sharing something that is a part of us personally.

South Africa is a country of opportunities and sometimes you must work for it and sometimes you must work even harder for it than others to reach the same level.  Let me explain why I say so:

I was born in 1988 to my happy parents, Wilma and Rassie Myburgh.  It was only later in my development years that doctors finally figured out that I have developed an allergy for Tartrazine and all milk products.  Unfortunately, at the time of the discovery, it had affected my hearing.  I practically lived at the hospital as there was always one or the other infection.  One such infection made doctors scratch their heads – inside my ear was an infection that is found in fire burn victims in the 3rd degree.

Antibiotics and drips became my food.  My hospital stays were so frequent that I basically failed Grade 1.  I attended my awards ceremony at the end of the year with special permission as I was in hospital again at the time.  I will post a photo of me where a shy younger me attended the awards ceremony with the hospital bangle still around my arm.  That night I continued my stay in hospital.

To make a long story short, I was given an opportunity to do Grade 1 and Grade 2 in the same year the following year.  Yes, I was a special needs child in a special needs class.  That class closed after 6 months and I was placed back in the normal school system.  The hospital stays did not end, but they could see that I tried to be the best I could be, and I stayed in the normal system until I matriculated.

 I always saw myself as becoming a writer.  I had always had this dream.

I developed a love for reading when I was in Grade 1 and after I was able to read, my mom says I could not stop.  I would devour one book after the other.  A book (or two) a night before bedtime was the best.

I always saw myself as becoming a writer.  I had always had this dream.  Although I was, of course, bullied at school and teased for the fact that I was different and wore these two enormous devices in my ears.  I wanted to be normal,  and managed to get through my teenage years without it.

As I grew older, I realised the need for these devices and unfortunately, the older ones no longer worked well.  I managed to get a new hearing aid in 2011.  It worked like a charm.  That following year I graduated with a National Diploma in Journalism.  In the same year, I got a job at a local newspaper in Johannesburg after successfully completing my 6-month internship at a huge national daily newspaper in the Eastern Cape.  I recall the many times I was told that I will not be a great journalist because one needs not only be a great writer, but also a great listener.

 People with disabilities have shown that they can thrive and a place like South Africa is affording such people with opportunities and I thank you for your warm heart. 

Sadly, one morning my dog ate my hearing aid.  This forced me to show the naysayers wrong.   With practically no hearing in my left ear and some 70% hearing in my right ear I decided to not only become a great writer, but also to not only listen to what my interview subjects were telling me, but to actually use all of my senses to actually listen better.

It seems to have worked as that following year I was nominated as the Best Upcoming Newspaper Journalist of the Year.  Subsequent years saw me winning a runner-up award for a photo and saw some nominations in other news categories and photo categories – like sport, which I never thought I could do and, in the end, enjoyed covering.  Eventually, I was even offered the News Editor position for another local newspaper.  And completed a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

People loved me for my work and commitment to the community I so badly wanted to serve. 

Unfortunately this had not lasted very long, and I was soon out of a job.  The reason being: workplace bullying.  I found myself in a very hard place and even tried my hand at running my own business.  I saw love pouring in from my friends (Wikus Visagie), readers, and my community.  Everyone wanted to help me be successful.  Such care and love I have never felt before and it was wonderful!  People loved me for my work and commitment to the community I so badly wanted to serve.  Unduly so, my business venture failed, and I was in an even darker place.

Not prepared to give up, but still licking my wounds, I decided to change my career from being a media man to a legal man.  Insane right?  I started my LLB-journey through Unisa in 2018.  I formed study WhatsApp groups and met the most amazing bunch of people on there from different races and countries (like Zimbabwe).  It kept me going.  Behind all of these, I had job interviews at different media companies, but I think my pain shone through and I never heard back.

Stacey, a student, mom of 4 daughters, wife, and businesswoman from my WhatsApp group saw some potential in me and told one of her acquaintances who is in the legal industry about me.  I was asked to send through my CV and cover letter.  Even though I was still waiting for my results to come, lo and behold I was offered the opportunity to be the candidate attorney for this legal firm.  I couldn’t believe it!  After accepting this offer another similar opportunity knocked on my door, but I had to decline.

After looking for work for such a long time and being afraid that I might fail due to my hearing loss, I am still with this firm after more than a year.  Let us hope I can successfully complete my Articles of Clerkship and get admitted as an attorney in the next few years.

I managed to get 7 out of 10 distinctions in the first year of my LLB degree and this Christmas I hope that Santa will bless me with two hearing aids in 2020.

PS:  I share this story not to get empathy or sympathy, but only to show that even “abnormal” people can survive in the normal world.  People with disabilities have shown that they can thrive and a place like South Africa is affording such people with opportunities and I thank you for your warm heart.  We might have some disability, but we work just as hard to prove ourselves.