What is a defining moment in your career and life?
Nearly 23 years ago my 22-year-old son Sipho Thembla was the victim to gunfire and went on to become an organ donor. In Sipho’s heroic last act, he saved six lives. His death was a moment that challenged my faith and tested my beliefs.
For 23 years, inspired by Sipho’s dream of becoming a teacher, I have honored Sipho and his legacy by dedicating myself to educating others about the issue of organ donation with Gift of Life Donor Program. Gift of Life Donor Program’s mission is to save lives through organ and tissue transplantation. Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 50,000 life-saving organs for transplant, and approximately 1.5 million tissue transplants.
Sipho’s death was so senseless, so hard to bear, and it broke my heart. His life was silenced, and on that day, some of me went with him. But I continue to tell my story to encourage others to get involved, so that those who are waiting will have a second chance. I did not think I could ever feel that sense of purpose, or excitement ever again.
I began working with Gift of Life through its multicultural outreach initiatives, speaking with churches, schools and at community events promoting organ donation. I have spoken at almost every hospital in the area and have volunteered at every major Gift of Life event throughout the years. My passion for educating others about organ donation has led me to serve on a number of Gift of Life Boards throughout the years; I currently serve as a member of the Board of Gift of Life Family House.
What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your field and how did you overcome them?
I always believed it’s never about me. l gather the strength to continue to focus on the cause of why we are here and who needs me at the time.
What woman inspires you and why?
I would like to answer this by saying Maya Angelou or Alice Walker. But in reality, I’m inspired by the women in my life at the Philadelphia Parent Child Center and Lutheran Church. Women who stood by me, who watched me raise my children and contributed to my “don’t give up attitude.” I stand on their shoulders, for they are women of courage, faith and kindness who have showed me that love never fails, especially when everything else goes against you.
What is your advice to the younger generation of women coming after you?
When faced with disappointments take responsibility for your part and never become the victim.
I was completely devastated following my son’s death. But I chose to rise up to honor his legacy by becoming involved with Gift of Life Donor Program. I have spent years educating and dedicating myself to raise awareness for the life-saving importance of organ and tissue donation. These efforts have helped to give me great pride and joy following the loss of my dear son, Sipho.
What does being a part of the African Diaspora mean to you
Knowing that more education is the real power. It allows you to create platforms of hope and love for all mankind in all the field of life.