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Bessy Netsianda

by Amanda Blankfield from Johannesburg, South Africa

Bessy - an angel in our lives
Bessy Netsianda
Bessy Netsianda

Bessy Netsianda is the project leader for MaAfrika Tikkun in Diepsloot. She always has a smile on her face and is ready to go to the limit to help those who need guidance or assistance.

Bessy was born in Alexandra township on 20 April 1958. In 1959, her family moved to Meadowlands, Soweto. Bessy went to the local school there, and when she was 21, she went into exile. She went to Botswana then Zambia and then she furthered her studies in Tanzania where she had her first child. In 1987, Bessy married and then moved to Britain and had her second child there. She studied social work in Britain. Six years later, in 1992, she returned to South Africa. She worked with the National Coordinating Committee of Returning Exiles. It was very sad for her because most of the women who married South Africans while they were in exile were abandoned once they returned to South Africa. This NGO was working with the United Nations so they gave the women a choice to go back to their home countries or stay in South Africa. Most of them decided to remain in South Africa. This is when Bessy started her own NGO, Arekopaneng Community Project in Orange Farm.

Bessy found the first few months with the women were very depressing because the group from exile were joined by other women who were in a similar situation of unemployment. The majority of the women who joined the organization were from farming communities so they did not have any literacy skills. For 14 years, Bessy worked with the women and helped improve their lives.

Bessy was a fundraiser, coordinator and implementor. She had to train ladies to learn to run projects. In 1996 she met a Jewish lady, Miriam Schiff. Miriam was the deputy principal of a preschool in Linksfield. They formed a good relationship and the school started training the Arekopaneng teachers and children. They gave donations and support as well. Every Christmas they bought presents for all the children in Orange Farm.

After 14 years, Bessy was exhausted and she retired from development, but that was not to be. In January 2006, Arnold Forman, the financial director of MaAfrika Tikkun, enrolled his daughter at King David Linksfield School and he spoke to Miriam Schiff, who inquired about Bessy because both Arnold and Bessy were involved with development work. At the time MaAfrika Tikkun was undergoing land issues in Orange Farm. Miriam gave Arnold Bessy's phone number and he passed the number onto Marc Lubner, CEO of MaAfrika Tikkun.

Bessy's first meeting with Marc took place in early 2006. Marc was highly impressed with Bessy's tenacity, determination, punctuality and passion. They negotiated for a few months, and then Marc offered Bessy a position at MaAfrika Tikkun - as a project leader in either Diepsloot or Orange Farm. Surprisingly, Bessy chose the newest project, Diepsloot. Since Bessy's involvement, the project has thrived and become one of the greatest success stories in the company. Bessy says, "The only reason I am still in Development is because we are working as a team to fight poverty and we won't quit until the war is won!"

Page created on 7/21/2013 5:34:33 PM

Last edited 7/21/2013 5:34:33 PM

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