Sister Abegail Ntleko on why we should let go of worry and embrace life

Sister Abegail Ntleko (activist and author of EMPTY HANDS) discusses the path we can take to lead a fuller life, and shares stories from her own journey.

Empty Hands: A Memoir: One Woman’s Journey to Save Children Orphaned by AIDS in South Africaempty hands

Empty Hands is the inspiring memoir of Zulu nurse and healthcare activist Sister Abegail Ntleko. Growing up poor in a rural village with a father who didn’t believe in educating girls, against seemingly insurmountable odds Sister Abegail earned her nursing degree and began work as a community nurse and educator, dedicating her life to those in need. “Her story tells us,” says Desmond Tutu, who wrote the foreword to the book, “what a single person can accomplish when heart and mind work together in the service of others.”

Overcoming poverty and racism within the apartheid South African system, she adopted her first child at a time when it was unheard of to do so. And then she did it again and again. In forty years she has taken in and cared for hundreds of children who had nothing, saving babies—many of them orphans whose parents died of AIDS—from hospitals that were ready to give up on them and let them die.

Empty Hands describes the harshness of Ntleko’s circumstances with wit and wisdom in direct, beautifully understated prose and will appeal not only to activists and aid workers, but to anyone who believes in the power of the human spirit to rise above suffering and find peace, joy, and purpose.

“Ntleko’s story, which she tells in simple language, is inspiring and moving. She neither dwells in nor dramatizes the hardships she has faced, preferring instead to focus on ‘fill[ing] her hands with love and then spend[ing] all that love until [her] hands are empty again.’ A brief, genuine, heartfelt memoir of an awe-inspiring life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A tenaciously hopeful memoir by a South African nurse who mothered hundreds of children orphaned by AIDS, all in the spirit of ubuntu—the Zulu belief that you are only a person because of other people.” O, the Oprah Magazine 

About the Author

Born into extreme poverty in KwaZulu-Natal, Sister Abegail Ntleko overcame tremendous obstacles to obtain an education and become a nurse, eventually becoming one of South Africa’s preeminent community activists. She received an Unsung Heroes of Compassion award presented by the Dalai Lama in 2009. Now 79 years old, Sister Abe has built and managed two orphanages serving hundreds of young people and has helped thousands of children and families affected by HIV. She has also personally adopted and fostered more than 30 children, and her latest project, the Kulungile Care Centre in Underberg, has become home for her large family.

 

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