EMPTY HANDS, A MEMOIR by Abegail Ntleko


One Woman's Journey to Save Children Orphaned by AIDS in South Africa
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A South African nurse’s memoir of how she escaped grinding poverty to become a beloved advocate for and caretaker of homeless children.

Ntleko grew up the youngest of 12 children in Harding, a tiny village in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. When her mother died, relatives took in her youngest siblings while her older sisters married or found work. At age 6, she found herself alone to care for herself and her alcoholic father. Working as a laundress and, later, a field hand, and with no time to make friends her age, the author's main source of moral support came from an English missionary worker, who taught Ntleko the lesson that would become her life mantra: “if you want to be of help and service to others…get an education.” At 14, she began school, against the wishes of her tradition-bound father. Getting only a few hours of sleep each night, she worked tirelessly to make her dreams come true. She even ran away from home to earn the money her father could not give her to continue her studies. Ntleko was 28 when she graduated from high school and began her training as a nurse. Yet it was not until she adopted the first of many children a few years later that she realized her true calling was to help homeless youngsters. Ntleko tackled the challenges of single parenthood in the 1960s; more than a decade later, she found herself tackling the even greater challenge of the AIDS crisis. She eventually founded two organizations, Clouds of Hope and Kulungile, dedicated to providing shelter for children from AIDS-affected families. Ntleko’s story, which she tells in simple language, is inspiring and moving. She neither dwells on 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.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-1583949320
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: North Atlantic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2015


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