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Amy Biehl's Good Work Lives On

Slain Newport Woman's Idealism Remembered in S. Africa

September 08, 1996

It is heartening to know that as South Africa struggles to overcome decades of apartheid and violence, some of its citizens warmly remember the good work done by an idealistic Newport Beach woman, Amy Elizabeth Biehl.

Biehl was a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar when she was killed three years ago in a poor settlement near Cape Town. She was attacked by a crowd of young black men chanting anti-white slogans. Four young men have been sent to prison for the crime.

After her death, Biehl's family established a foundation that bears her name. On a recent trip to South Africa, Biehl's parents, Peter and Linda, were startled to learn how many residents still remember their daughter.

One reason for that is the good work done by the foundation, which is trying to help contribute to the process of building a nation. South Africa's progress on that front has been encouraging.

Not long after Biehl's death, the nation's first all-party elections were held, accelerating the demolition of racial barriers in a majority black nation. To its credit, the African National Congress party immediately condemned Biehl's murder. She had worked with the party, headed by the man who is now the nation's president, Nelson Mandela, and it swept the elections.

The Amy Biehl Foundation has helped finance a community-based center in South Africa called Mosaic. This summer, the first 10 women graduated from Mosaic's 10-month training and fieldwork program for community workers. Mosaic says it has already reached tens of thousands of the poor through workshops on a variety of topics, including sexual abuse and women's rights.

Additionally, the foundation arranged for air fare and a scholarship for a young South African to a Palos Verdes preparatory school. The recipient graduated with honors and will attend Stanford University on a scholarship and foundation grants. Education is necessary to help South Africa advance and overcome its tragic history.

The death of one white could seem a small matter compared to the deaths of so many thousands of blacks in the struggle against the hateful system of apartheid. But good work by the foundation can emphasize the reason Biehl was in South Africa, to help all its residents rise from poverty and live in dignity as free people.

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