An Oakdale couple, who were both born deaf, are proving you can be more than your disability.
Wendy and Kurt Dirks have been chosen as finalists in the Mr and Mrs Deaf South Africa (MDSA) pageant.
Now they want to show you can live a full life, despite your disability.
They will be hosting a “You got a minute to win it” fund-raiser on Saturday June 23, at Bellville civic centre, from 1pm. Teams of four can enter, and children must be at least 10 years old.
The couple will use some of the money they raise to cover their expenses for the pageant, and the rest will be donated to charity.
Wendy and Kurt met while at high school at the Dominican Grimley School for the Deaf in Hout Bay, although they were just friends at the time. They met again at a mutual friend’s 21st birthday party, and they started dating in 2006 and were married in 2014.
Wendy’s mother had German measles while pregnant with her, which left her with hearing impairment. Wendy attended Carel du Toit Centre, followed by the Hout Bay school.
She grew up in Bellville South and wore a hearing aid for much of her childhood, until one day, at the age of 15, she found she could no longer hear with it.
At first, she thought the batteries needed replacing but later discovered she had lost a great deal more of her hearing and would need a cochlear implant if there was any hope of her being able to hear again.
After being refused the operation by the medical aid, the next three months were hard for Wendy.
“During this time, my hearing was gone. I was still in school and would have to lip read,” she said.
Wendy eventually had her operation, and, to this day, she is grateful to André Djourno and Charles Eyriès who created the cochlear implant in 1957. The electronic device is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear and bypasses the damaged cochlea to send sounds electronically to the brain.
In 2005, Wendy started a photography course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. It was a big change for her, as she had never been in a mainstream school. But she adapted quickly and earned her Btech in photography.
She worked as a photographer for two years then did a radiography course at CPUT. She now works as a freelance photographer.
Kurt, from Athlone, lost his hearing due to a genetic mutation that affected his mother and sister.
He matriculated from the Dominican Grimley School for the Deaf in 2003 and today he works in a bank.
Kurt said his mother had spent a lot of time with him working on his vocabulary, which had helped to give him a “taking the bull by the horns” approach to life.
“I am an outspoken person who doesn’t shy away from situations,” he said.
Kurt said he and Wendy did not experience any “special” challenges as a deaf couple and they believed in being open with people.
“We want to show others that you can get married, have your own house and a job and maintain all this by yourself,” said Wendy.
Tickets for the fund-raiser are R100. WhatsApp Wendy at 076 053 1846 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp Kurt at 084 974 7076 or email email@example.com for more information or if you would like to make a contribution.
The Mr and Mrs Deaf South Africa pageant takes place on Saturday October 13 at the Attebury Theatre in Pretoria.