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  Volume Six, Number One - June, 2000

This newsletter is being written while en route to Washington, DC in response to an invitation to attend a State Dinner at the White House to welcome South African President Mbeki on his first official visit to the United States.  We are excited to be included in this event to commemorate a very important visit for President Mbeki and for more than 40 million South Africans who must have understanding and support from a broad spectrum of American leadership if there is to be commitment of intellectual, technological and financial capital sufficient to sustain this emerging new democracy, half-way around the world.  Why should Americans care about what happens in South Africa?  Why are Black African cultures so confusing to the Western eye?  Who is responsible for our invitation to this event and why have we been included?

It is humbling to be included and it causes one to wonder.  Perhaps it is because Amy═s commitment to South Africa═s democratic struggle resonates today with informed people who recognize that South Africa═s struggle is far from over.  Perhaps it is because someone close to the White House knew and respected Amy and her work.   Perhaps someone appreciates the points of uniqueness in the work of the Amy Biehl Foundation in South Africa═s marginalized communities.

Regardless of the reasons for our invitation, we are proud to be included and to have Amy and her Foundation recognized for their support of South Africa═s past and present democratic struggles; for their role in building bridges.


Thank God for Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and Desmond Tutu.  Without them and their well-publicized moral leadership, most Americans would likely know South Africa as a far-away source of gold, diamonds and political tyranny.  Some of us would recognize South Africa for its long-standing, official denial of human rights for its majority population on the basis of race, alone.

 While others were studying Asia and the Soviet Union, Amy was studying Africa Ă sub-Saharan Africa, in particular.  Amy used to tell us that Africa was the ˝continent of the futureţ.  Amy was drawn by the numerous democratic struggles throughout the continent.  She knew that these emerging democracies would awaken and transform a sleeping giant.  She recognized that  -- because of its economic sophistication and developed infrastructure Ă a democratic South Africa could become the dominant player in an African transformation.  This realization Ă coupled with the depth and breadth of human rights abuse Ă took Amy to South Africa. 

In her life, Amy worked hard and thoughtfully for a new South Africa.  She admonished fellow Americans to listen and to moderate their tendency to express their opinions Ă for they were not generally trusted by South Africans.  In her death Amy created a new American awareness of South Africa and its struggle Ă a new consciousness of the depths of human denial and of the raw potential of a free nation.

The awareness reached its peak as millions of Americans watched as Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as President of the Republic of South Africa.   It was a compelling story then, and should be today.  But, as the world concluded the struggle was over, interest and support began to wane and continues to diminish today.

Clearly, if South Africa═s new democracy should fail, its leadership in the transformation of the African continent will be lost.   This will be unfortunate for the free world and tragic for some 30 million disadvantaged South Africans, whose prospects for human realization will be lost once again.

As the Amy Biehl Foundation, we see a very basic -- yet very important -- rationale for involvement in South Africa.  We view South Africa as an empty canvas on which to create innovative human empowerment and violence prevention programs in partnership with the nation═s most disadvantaged persons. In an environment which is relatively free of government Ăcreated restrictions and where the US Dollar enjoys tremendous strength and buying power, it is possible to innovate with minimum financial risk.

So, at the same time we can help disadvantaged South Africans to empower themselves and prevent youth violence, we can develop strategies and programs which can be migrated successfully to disadvantaged communities in America.

This makes our investments in violence prevention innovation in South Africa productive for disadvantaged South Africans and ultimately of value to disadvantaged Americans.  They ability to produce this double return on human empowerment program investment in South Africa is an excellent reason for our Foundation to be active there.  Former USAID Administrator, Brian Atwood, used to describe this phenomenon as ˝programs without boundariesţ.  We view it as specifically targeted value-added return for our investor partners.


As President Mbeki approached his important State visit to America, he faced considerable confusion with regard to his public positions of seeming-denial of the catastrophic impact of HIV and AIDS on the people of South Africa.  This confusion extended to the halls of Congress and expressed itself publicly in the decision not to extend an invitation to address a joint session of Congress to visiting President Mbeki.

During our visit to Washington, we have been questioned continuously by members of Congress, their aides, officials of US government and private citizens with interest in Southern Africa about President Mbeki═s positions with regard to the HIV/AIDS epidemic which is ravaging South Africa and its disadvantaged Black population, in particular.

In each case, we begin with the obvious: we cannot know what is on President Mbeki═s mind and nor can we pretend to speak on his behalf.  However, it is our sincere opinion that some of our national confusion and inability to understand Thabo Mbeki on this critical issue is rooted in his Black African cultural background and in the politics which surround him.

Linda calls it ˝peeling the onionţ.  Just when we believe we have reached an understanding of some facet of Black African behavior, during our daily work in South Africa, something happens which proves us wrong.  Then we are forced to peel another layer from the onion in an effort to reach closer to the center.  The effort requires considerable patience and the understanding that often we may not achieve complete understanding.  It is, in fact, not unusual for our Black African friends to tell us what they believe we want to hear.

This is not the case with President Mbeki.  Those who know him rate him an intellectual with a long view history and vision of the future. How, then, can he take the position he takes?

We believe he is reflecting his cultural background, in which matters of a sexual nature are not discussed publicly and are never discussed between youth and their parents.  Because, in South Africa, much of the rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS is a result of sexual transmission and of uninformed sex practices, the absence of open dialogue and of private discussion among youth and their parents and elders is catastrophic.  When a young person dies of AIDS in a Black South African township Ă even an urban township such as Guguletu Ă the cause of death is not revealed.

This denial of what is known and increasingly understood in the Western world has political overtones, as well.  In the Black African world, AIDS is sometimes characterized as an ˝AMERICAN INVENTION TO DISCOURAGE SEX.ţ In other words, rumors of AIDS and of AIDS transmission through unprotected sex are insidious examples of American meddling and imperialism.

We once saw President Mandela handed a speech on the subject of AIDS to read to an all-white, Cape Town audience.  His discomfort was so apparent that he apologized to the audience and explained that this was not an easy subject for a man of his cultural background to speak about.  He then went on to read the speech, word for word.  He would have been unable to deliver that speech to a Black South African audience.

Moreover, it must be known that Black African communities practice traditional healing and various forms of witchcraft.  The myths and secrets of the spiritual/ancestral world are plentiful, powerful and are seldom revealed. These secrets and ancestral practices and beliefs are particularly damaging to contemporary young women and tend to place them at considerable risk where AIDS infection is concerned.

Thabo Mbeki is a product of this world and of this cultural heritage.  We believe he confronts a high-risk political tightrope and is challenged to determine how best to walk it.


Our young Xhosa staff in Cape Town has contributed dramatically to our understanding of these township cultural/political realities.  Through them and their continuing research with Black South African youth, we have glimpsed the despair among youth with no social or economic prospects at all.  Faced with this reality and hopelessness, why should they care at all about AIDS?  Why should a young woman or girl insist that a partner use a condom when she will be labeled a ˝slutţ or an ˝easyţ mark for others to hear?

How can a ˝first worldţ approach possibly work in a ˝third worldţ context, where HIV/AIDS prevention training and education are concerned?  Township youth want to know.

This grasp of reality and youthful imagination are enabling our young South African staff to create and to launch very fresh and impactful youth partnerships which are dedicated to effective HIV/AIDS prevention/education strategies at grassroots levels.

We are terribly excited by this imaginative assault on the explosive spread of HIV/AIDS in a world of denial and of ancestral secrets and taboos, and we are looking for support for this work.

In a sense, President Mbeki is a cultural prisoner of his generation.  If only he could approach his nation═s struggle with HIV/AIDS with the youthful candor and open eyes of our young South African staff, things could be different.


We believe the Amy Biehl Foundation has important points of difference and uniqueness, which may attract attention in Washington, DC and elsewhere.  Future editions of our newsletter will explore these points and their value to our supporters and investors.

In this NEWSLETTER, we shall explore our commitment to migrating what works in South Africa to communities of interest in America.  We have asked Molly Biehl Corbin to tell a story set in our own Coachella Valley, California.



Through my work in disadvantaged communities in New Orleans and San Diego, I have participated in some and learned of numerous other violence prevention programs.   Implemented by a variety of non-profit corporations and agencies, some efforts have met success and others failure.  The successful programs I═ve witnessed are those that: are community collaborations, students help design; are organized by people with youthful attitudes and people the youth trust; have the support of the community including their families and community leaders; provide tangible rewards upon completion; have applicability in their daily lives; and, of course, are fun.

This past April 5th, I would say that the Coachella Valley witnessed the completion of a successful violence prevention effort in which the participants and community should be proud and from which the community will benefit in the months and years to come.

Nineteen high school students were recognized for completing a rigorous course in first aid response.  Each committed to 53 hours of intensive training which took place after school and on Saturdays.  After satisfactorily completing a written and practical exam, these students are certified to give advanced first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, external defibrillation and oxygen.                                                      


The Collaborators

Coachella Valley High School═s ˝Save the World Clubţ, Washington DC═s PEACE LINKS, the Riverside County Red Cross Association and the Amy Biehl Foundation collaborated through sharing their resources -- be they human, financial, political or professional.

The Participants

 Originally 50, then 26 Ă and finally 19 Ă committed and perhaps unlikely high school student volunteers looking to meet a need they saw within their rural community Ă the lack of timely and adequate response to emergency situations involving their families, neighbors and friends.

 The Grassroots Organizers

Save the World Club cofounder Crystal Gonzales, PEACE LINKS═ Esther Pank and Jenny Growney, Coachella Valley High School teacher Mike Rosenfeld, and Riverside County Red Cross═ Gayle Smith Ă each of whom had a can do attitude and a strong rapport with the youth as they organized various facets of the program and overcame inevitable obstacles.

 Community Support

Present at the program graduation celebration were the grassroots organizers, the high school principal, the Superintendent of Schools, a reporter from the local newspaper, affiliates of NBC news from both the Palm Springs and Los Angeles, a representative from Congresswoman Bono═s office, family and friends of the graduates, the Biehl family, and Amy Biehl Foundation Trust South African employee Samora April.                           

Tangible Rewards

Each graduate received a t-shirt and 5 certification cards. In addition, each will be given his or her own first aid kit.

Practical Applicability

The students requested this program via expressing concern for the lack of response by professional medics in emergency situations. Now empowered to respond themselves rather than waiting helplessly by, we are certain they will find the training applicable in their daily lives.


At the graduation celebration, Jose Bolanos, who scored highest on the written exam addressed the class. ˝I got into this class so I can make a difference.  This class, it was hard work but it was a lot of fun, too.ţ  Gayle Smith of Riverside County Red Cross was responsible for the actual training of the students.  When asked how she made such a rigorous training program fun, she responded, ˝I used a lot of humor. They could tell that I cared about them.  I related the training to their home life but tried not to make it too scary. A mother of five, I tried to be like a mom.ţ

 Linking Communities

What is especially unique about this effort is the fact that the first aid training program was conceptualized in South Africa by the ambulance driver who attended Amy at her death.  The program was migrated from one marginalized community seemingly a world away to another in our own backyard.  We listened to the youth here as we do in South Africa and heard eerily similar concerns.  When they asked for our help, we were delighted to provide a proven program model which could be adapted to meet the specific needs of the students in Coachella Valley.  What resulted was a more intensive training program than ever provided in South Africa.

Also unique was the opportunity for the youth of Coachella Valley High School to know they were linked in an international effort. At graduation, they were able to listen, first-hand, to South African ready responder Samora April.  Samora, who═s native tongue is Xhosa, spoke in English to the program graduates who mainly speak Spanish as their first language.  The room was silent as Samora shared of his experience in being trained in first aid in Guguletu Township and put forth ideas as to how the new graduates could make their presence felt in the community by assisting police and other forms of security at concerts, fairs and other public gatherings.  The graduates were intrigued and excited to learn from Samora, and Samora learned from them.  When we left the graduation celebration my parents and I noted that Samora had a t-shirt in hand and had arranged to obtain the entire program curriculum to enhance the preparedness of his ready responders at home.

We have plans to offer another course for volunteer ready responders at Coachella Valley High School in the fall.  We look forward to replicating this and other successful South African program models in other communities where we are invited and which appear to have appropriate commonalities.


The implementation of our grassroots, violence prevention programs is indeed the Foundation═s top priority. Still, numerous invitations from elementary schools, middle schools, churches, and other organizations have been extended to the Biehl family to make appearances and share on a personal level about Amy, her Foundations, and other related experiences.  We welcome such invitations and view them as important ˝bridge-buildingţ opportunities. The following excerpt from Peter═s calendar Ă January thru April 2000 -- alludes to some but not all of such opportunities.

January 2000

6          Passing of Richard C. Shewalter, Linda═s father and a great friend of the Foundation, in St. Charles, Illinois.

25        Linda and Peter attend premiere screening of documentary film ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ, at Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah.  The film -- made by Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman Ă wins Grand Jury Prize for documentary film.

29        Linda, Peter and Molly address Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church Women═s Club at Desert Falls Country Club, Palm Desert, CA.

February 2000

 4          Peter and Linda meet Tony Monfiletto and Tom Siegel, Founders of the Amy Biehl Charter School in Albuquerque, NM.

 5          Biehls meet with members of New Mexico State Legislature in Santa Fe and with members of murder victims═ families for reconciliation to discuss restorative justice options to death penalty.

 6          Biehls speak at St. Paul Lutheran and Asbury United Methodist churches and at Menual School, Albuquerque, in opposition to New Mexico═s death penalty.

 12        Linda and Peter join 200 people, including US Ambassador and Mrs. Delano Lewis, at Memorial Service for Zunade Dharsey in Cape Town.

 13        Biehls tour University of Notre Dame Alumni Group, headed by Fr. Ollie Williams, through Foundation projects in Cape Flats.

 21        Biehls speak to over 600 university students on board the Semester at Sea vessel on its arrival at Port of Cape Town. Kim Biehl, James Hoffmark, Karra Shewalter, Cathryn Michalske arrive in Cape Town for a visit.

 27        First annual Amy Biehl Fun Run and Walk held in Guguletu, co-sponsored by I&J Foods and Guguletu Athletic Club.

 March 2000

9          Peter, Linda and Sahm Venter (Associated Press Television) speak to Young Presidents═ Organization (YPO) at its International University in Cape Town.

11-12  Biehls joined by parents of Zunade Dharsey for dedication and launch of new playing fields and peace parks in informal settlements of Thembuletu and Bonguletu, near George and Oudtshoorn. The fields were developed by the Foundation in partnership with USAID, Geraldine Boone and the people of Portland, OR.

22        Biehls hosted at dinner party in South Bend, IN by Carolyn Wu, Dean, College of Business Administration, University of Notre Dame.  Former President, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh surprises them with inaugural presentation of Hesburgh Award for Ethics in Business.

23        Biehls deliver Ethics in Business Lecture at College of Business Administration, followed by dinner hosted by friends Jeff and Liz Bernel and joined by James Davis (Gigot Center for Entreprenurial Studies), Fr. Ollie Williams, and others.

26-28  Biehls visit South African teacher, Malcolm McKenzie, and faculty and students of Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA.  Peter and Linda enjoy two days of classroom visits, a screening of ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ and an opportunity to address Headmaster Eric Widmer and the entire school.

28        Biehls speak at University of Maryland and are presented with a leadership award at the James MacGregor Burns Leadership Institute.  USAID-South Africa friends Henry and Liz Reynolds are in attendance.

29        Peter and Linda join filmmakers Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman for first New York screening of ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ at Soho═s Film Forum Theatre, followed by dinner at Vandam hosted by HBO.

APRIL 2000

2          Biehls speak to congregation at Unitarian Universalist Church, Palm Desert, CA.

3          South African, Samora April, a key staffer of Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, arrives Los Angeles.

4            Graduation of first 19 emergency first aid workers at Coachella Valley High School, following 53 hours of intensive training by American Red Cross, Riverside, CA.  Instructor Gayle Smith is in tears and parents are in attendance.

5            Newport Beach Film Festival, where ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ screens to overflow crowd of 600 in two theaters simultaneously.

6          Biehls and Samora April host members of Coachella Valley High School═s ˝Save the World Clubţ and faculty advisory Mike Rosenfeld for a screening of Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ followed by pizza and conversation.  Samora enjoyed his encounter with Hispanic-American High School students who are high achievers.

7-9      Peter, Linda and Samora deliver two presentations of ˝A Journey of Pain, Loss and Forgivenessţ to a religious education conference sponsored by the Archdiosise of Los Angeles and attended by more than 40,000 people.

10        Biehls and Samora spend a day at Whittier College, followed by an evening presentation to students, faculty and community, in recognition of the College═s forward-looking commitment.

11        Larry Biehl hosts a dinner at San Francisco═s Thanh Long restaurant for Linda and Peter and Foundation friends to lay groundwork for fundraising to support Amy Biehl Internships at Stanford═s HAAS Center for Community Service.

12        Biehls and Samora spend full day at Stanford University Ă as panelists in a conference entitled ˝High Impact Philanthropyţ hosted by the Graduate School of Business, at an African Roundtable hosted by David Abernethy, at a meeting of this year═s interns at HAAS Center, at a screening of ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ, hosted by Byron Bland at Center for Conflict Resolution.

13            Foundation friend, Harry Rowe, hosts Linda, Peter and Samora for lunch in San Francisco, following a breakfast meeting with Stanford Business School students with experience in South Africa, hosted by Sarah Thong.

14-15  Molly Biehl Corbin joins filmmakers Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman for two screenings of ˝Long Night═s Journey Into Dayţ at Taos Talking Pictures Festival in Taos, NM.

17        Biehls made Honorary Rotarians by Newlands Rotary Club, Cape Town, South Africa.

26        Free bread distribution on Amy═s birthday.


by Kim Biehl

People often ask me, ˝What in the world do your parents do in South Africa?ţ  I have to admit, it is a difficult question to answer.  I spent a week with them there in February.  My plan was to keep a journal of all of our activities so as to be able to answer this question.  The reality was that I did not have a moment to write!  Months later, here is a brief summary of what life is like in South Africa for the Biehl family.

I arrived in Cape Town, along with my fianc│, my cousin, and a good friend on a Monday night.  Mom and Dad met us at the airport and took us to a pizza dinner. (Cape Town has great pizza!)  They filled us in on all of the projects and got us excited about the week ahead.  I fell asleep, feeling excited to get going and to see all of my South African friends. 

The next morning began for us around 8:30. It began for Dad around 6:00. That is his quiet time in the office.  He makes his phone calls and prepares the day═s itinerary. Meanwhile, we walked around downtown with Mom. Everyone recognizes her and calls her ˝Mrs. Amy Biehlţ. We met up with Dad around lunchtime. Mom and Dad do not normally have time to eat during the day.  But since we were with them, they made it a point to stop.

After lunch, we headed off to Guguletu. It is truly amazing the way my parents know their way around.  Guguletu is a maze of streets filled with kids, goats and dogs.  I should mention that while we were driving, the cell phone never stopped ringing.  I found this to be funny, since my parents have never wanted a cell phone. The people calling ranged from township residents to ambassadors, reporters to musicians.  They all had ideas, projects or questions they wanted to pose.  Mom and Dad answered all calls and considered every proposition to be important.

We went to Intshinga School, which is where my favorite program takes place.  It is an after school program run by a retired teacher named Mrs. Peter.  The kids all recognize Mom and Dad.  They immediately began to perform for their benefit.  They embarrassed my parents.  They would rather not cause disruption. While we were there, the cell phone rang.  It was a group of students from the Semester at Sea ship who wanted to tour some of the Foundation═s projects.  The problem was, they had no transportation.  My parents offered to pick them up and drive them to Guguletu.  It is a 15 minute drive and not exactly convenient. Still, it is important that people see the townships, so off they went.

After spending the remainder of the afternoon touring some other projects we drove the Semester at Sea students back to their ship.  As we made our way back to my parents loft, the phone began to ring again.  Word had started to spread throughout the ship that the Biehls had some amazing things happening in the townships.  More students wanted to visit.  Thus my parents made many more trips back and forth between the Waterfront and Guguletu.

Most of our days were similar to the first.  One morning we went to a primary school in Khayelitsha township where Amy═s bread is sold.  A woman named Gwen was selling the bread and did so from the trunk of her car.  The children came pouring out of the school at break time. Many of them rushed to the car to purchase their bread.  While we took photos (The children love to have their pictures taken!) my mother discussed some of the logistical problems Gwen had experienced with the delivery of the bread.  We left the school with Mom promising Gwen that she would help resolve the delivery issues.  We dashed back to the loft to host a meeting of the Cape Town Junior Chamber of Commerce.  It was a fascinating group of young people that would have never come together if not for my parents═ introduction.  I felt Amy═s presence during that meeting.  Her strength was in bringing people together in just that same way and my parents have taken her spirit to heart.

Our craziest days came toward the end of our trip. On Sunday, February 27th, we participated in the first annual Amy Biehl Fun Run. We arrived at the Guguletu stadium at 6:00am.  We registered for the run and watched as people began to arrive.  It was a wonderful mix of people made up of running clubs, township youth, friends of our family, and a gentleman who was awakened by the commotion and decided to walk!  The route wound its way through Guguletu and was marked by the Boy Scouts.  As we walked, my dad got a call on the cell.  It was Lungile, one of the Foundation═s staffers.  He said, ˝Peter, where are you?ţ Dad replied, ˝I═m on the route! Where else would I be?ţ Lungile informed him that the Mayor of Cape Town had arrived at the race.  Dad said, ˝Well, I═ll see her when I═m finished.ţ

We did eventually finish, in last place.  The awards were given out and the entertainment began.  Our plan was to get back to the loft to shower and change by 11:00.  We were going to make the four-hour drive to George.  Needless to say, we had a difficult time breaking away from the event. Everyone wanted to talk to my parents. They were mobbed by reporters, runners, caterers, kids and a guy who needed money to get home.  We finally made it to the car at 12:30.

The countryside between Cape Town and George was astounding!  It ranged from farmland to desert to Oceanside.  We were almost too tired to enjoy it. We arrived in time for dinner and went to bed very early.

That turned out to be a good thing.  We started out the next day at 7:00.  We had a quick breakfast and got in the car fort he 45 minute drive to Oodsthorn.  The Foundation had begun several new projects in this very poor township.  We went first to the new playing field.  A group of people was waiting there for us.  They were thrilled to meet ˝Mr. and Mrs. Amy Biehlţ.  The women shared with us their ideas for a business venture.  They were a sewing group and there were in need of sewing machines.  My parents had promised them the machines only to learn that there was not enough electricity in the facility to power them.  The Foundation often encounters such obstacles which have frustrated my parents but not stopped them from trying.

We left Oodsthorn to drive to the Thembuletu township in George. We toured another playing field and the site for the second Community Bakery.  Our schedule was extremely tight. We did not spend much time in any particular place, except the car!  Our guide, named Guguletu, had arranged for us to have a traditional Xhosa lunch with the Khulani women═s group.  We had to dash to make it on time.

The lunch was interesting.  It consisted of chicken, beans, a corn dish and Xhosa beer.  My parents, James and Karra were gracious and ate everything.  Kathryn and myself, being vegetarians, faked it. We spent just a short time with the ladies before we were off to our next stop.

Eventually, we made our way back to Cape Town.  I was able to fit in a few short lunches with some of my friends.  James, Karra and Cathryn managed to hike Table Mountain.  And, we all had a very enjoyable dinner with Ahmed Kathrada and his friend, Barbara.  Our trip was too fast, too busy, but very fulfilling.  At the airport waiting to depart, I started to cry.  I tried to explain that I always feel like I═m leaving Amy behind in Cape Town.  My dad said, ˝I know what you mean. I still feel like I disconnect from Amy just a bit when I leave, even after all of this time.ţ

 ˝What in the world do your parents do in South Africa?ţ The answer is, everything.


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