Stephen Hugo, 46, was all smiles this week after receiving a fancy set of porcelain dentures, after mense on the Water Shedding Western Cape Facebook group came to his rescue.
Stephen, who lives in a one-bedroomed council flat in Dina Court with his mom, Monica, joined the group several months ago, where he always shares the view of Table Mountain from his flat using his cellphone.
“I thought it was a nice opportunity to show off the beauty we have in Manenberg amid all the poverty,” he says.
Stephen explains he loves working in the service industry and for years he worked as a waiter at fancy hotels around Cape Town.
But two years ago he contracted a gum disease that caused all his teeth to fall out, stripping him of his self- confidence and he was so embarrassed about his papbek that he left his job.
Since then he has been struggling to find work and believes he’s been unsuccessful because interviewers “would just see another coloured man without teeth”.
He was too embarrassed to tell them the reason for his toothless smile. “My teeth just started to fall out one by one and I did not know what was going on. Many people assumed it was due to drugs so I had this whole complex,” says Stephen.
“My life spiralled out of control. My teeth were my asset and when I lost it I lost all of my confidence. Many people think it’s common for coloured people to have no teeth.”
Several weeks ago he saw the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway was advertising jobs and made a post in the group about his horrible tanne experience.
This prompted a Back-a-Buddy campaign by Andrew Skolic and Melody Diamond to help raise funds for dentures for Stephen in the hope that he could land his dream job.
Within two weeks, a few thousand rand was raised, the fittings completed and Stephen walked out of NewVision Dental Laboratory with a brand new smile on Tuesday.
The Daily Voice accompanied Stephen home after his appointment, and loud cheers could be heard in Dina Court as his neighbours came out to congratulate him.
“Now that is my Stephen!” his excited mom shouted as she kissed and hugged him.
Stephen has submitted his application for a waiter job at the CableWay and is hoping for a call back.
“I was nervous and excited, but this is a new me. Ultimately I am very grateful,” he says.