Monday, 23 April 2012

Helen Lieberman @ TEDxEuston 2011 - Unlikely Heroes

We live in incredibly amazing times. In our generation, we have witnessed, to many people’s surprise, a relatively peaceful transition in South Africa from apartheid to an independent, free and multicultural country. But, have you ever wondered ....what the majority of people that grew up in privilege during the apartheid years do or not do all those years? One person that did not look away was Helen Lieberman. The first time she ventured into a township, Helen Lieberman felt as if the ground had fallen from underneath her. It was the mid-sixties and, like most white South Africans, she had never seen the poverty on the “other” side of the fence. Abandoning her profession as a speech therapist at Groote Schuur Hospital, the young Lieberman chose an alternative path...a path less less trodden. Day after day she returned to Langa and never looked back.

On the day of TEDxEuston 2011 – Helen was one of the first to arrive and sat through all the talks engrossed in every story. This typifies the woman that she is, never accepting praise but always deflecting it to the thousands of unsung heroes she has worked with over the years — the women who have cared unconditionally, often without any compensation, for vulnerable and orphaned children and abandoned seniors, the ones who built their own social service delivery systems when the government wouldn’t.

Listen to her moving talk here – if it means something to you – share it, widely.

Helen Lieberman is the founder and Honorary President of Ikamva Labantu (The Future of our Nation), a South African grassroots organisation, constituted in 1992, during the Apartheid years. Helen is a Speech Therapist by training, but 45 years ago turned her attention to the disenfranchised impoverished South African townships. Today Ikamva Labantu is one of the largest non-profit organisations in South Africa working to develop over 1,000 projects to sustainability. Helen’s work in this field has been recognized internationally. What started off as small and localized initiative has grown over the years into a vast organisation with connections throughout the world. The success of Ikamva Labantu has led to the establishment of international partnerships with a wide range of humanitarian organisations, from universities to large NGOs and major corporations. Friends of Ikamva Labantu have been established in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Holland. Helen lives in Cape Town with her husband Michael. She has three children, one each in Cape Town, New York and Melbourne, and six grandchildren.

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