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2015 Linda Biehl - San Marcos, California
Words of Women

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2015 Linda Biehl - San Marcos, California

Linda Biehl


2015†Words of Women Essay of the Year


Linda Biehl, San Marcos, California

Nwabisa Bonxo, a Xhosa woman was born into apartheid South Africa in 1967.My daughter, Amy Elizabeth Biehl, was born in Santa Monica, California in 1967.

I met Nwabisa in a Cape Town township in the mid-1990's doing volunteer work. One of her friends was in the car that Amy was driving on August 25th, 1993 in Guguletu Township when Amy was stoned and stabbed to death during a violent political rally. Amy was a Fulbright scholar. Her thesis was on the Womenís Role in South Africaís Transformation.

After Amy's death, my family met many amazing "strong women" in South Africa. Iím singling out Nwabisa because of her extraordinary spirit, especially related to the children in her community. Iíve learned about being chased by police and hiding out from her personal anti-apartheid activities. Iíve learned how Nwabisa has dealt with death of family, friends, and comrades. Iíve seen Nwabisa support her family financially on her small salary she received working at our Amy Biehl Foundation. Knowing Nwabisa gave me strength to grow and evolve and not be daunted by what life brings.

When I first met Nwabisa, she was involved at a youth center as a full time volunteer while raising a young daughter and caring for her parents and siblings. What little money she had was always spent on others. She was proud of her young people at the center who had little formal schooling but great musical talents. The marimba players she organized became well known in her community.

Nwabisa explained to me the reality of life of the kids in her center. Together we started a Youth Reading Role Model Program. We hired her at the foundation to grow the program in many schools where thousands of kids began to read better, and with joy.

Many interns from the US came to work at the foundation and Nwabisa was a great ambassador. She quickly used their skills to benefit her programs. She came to the US with us and shared her personal story and the story of the plight of today's children in South Africa with American youth.

She spotted children in difficulty, children with great ability, and special needs kids. From her observations, these kids were given appropriate opportunities to transform their lives.

Iím awed by Nwabisa's pure heart. Iím embarrassed by the fact that as I removed myself from managing the South Africa foundation, Nwabisa was fired unjustly under male management. Yet once again sheís gone forward running childcare programs on her own without money.

She gives me hope, and in this short essay I can only reveal a tiny part of her story. Her smile stays with me thousands of miles away. I think our mutual empowerment will continue to grow in new way s. Nwabisa is humbly unaware of her influences on me and looks to me as "the only mother she has left". I look to her as a powerful woman in her community and beyond.

Sharing her story is important to me. I hope this woman dedicated to the children of her community will inspire others as well.