Double amputee aims to help youth

Lawrence Stoffberg from Grassy Park has started to share his upholstery skills, in hopes of motivating unemployed youngsters.

Lawrence Stoffberg, a 72-year-old man from Grassy Park is turning an unfortunate situation into a positive learning experience for others.

Mr Stoffberg, who suffered from collapsed veins in both his legs, lost his first limb in 2016 and the second in 2017.

Before becoming his own boss, Mr Stoffberg had been in the upholstery industry for 30 years. 

“I used to earn R120 a week as a trade worker in the 1960s. It was like R3 per hour.”

Today, he works from home as an upholsterer and secures his clients through word-of-mouth. 

“It’s not just padding and decorating chairs. It’s everything from curtains, to interior, to colour schemes. I also do repairing of the furniture and antiques, as well as polishing,” explained Mr Stoffberg.

Despite being a double amputee, he remains positive and is using this opportunity to share his skills with the youth. He is currently training a young man from Grassy Park, who didn’t matriculate.

“It’s important to help however you can. Get these guys off the streets and away from the robots,” said Mr Stoffberg. “Currently I only have one guy, but I’m getting way more.”

Tersia Joubert, Mr Stoffberg’s daughter, says her father wanted to motivate unemployed youngsters who could still prove that they had skill, even though they lacked the qualifications.

“The idea is also to improve the unemployment rate slightly and give skills to the unskilled who cannot afford to pay for studies. Now we need to acquire a workshop with tools so that we can get this ball rolling,” said Ms Joubert.

Mr Stoffberg, who has survived several heart attacks and outlived four of his children, still manages to see the cup as half full. “Life goes on and while there’s still life in me, I want to make the most of it,” Mr Stoffberg told Southern Mail.

According to a South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) report done in 2017, 7.5% of the country’s population is disabled.

Meanwhile, Mr Stoffberg has been scouting for prosthetic limbs, which can cost as much as R100 000 in South Africa.

“Having a disability doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You need to have a positive mindset, that you build up within yourself.

“You’ll find that sometimes people just switch off, and once they switch off, they can’t go back from that,” Mr Stoffberg explained. “But I’m lucky because I had a good support system.”

Asked what keeps him so positive, Mr Stoffberg said he is still alive. “Looking at other people with amputations, other people with disabilities, it makes me grateful. I can still do things, I can wash myself, dress myself. Other people have it much worse.”