After Prem's death, I was totally at a loss to know how to continue the work of USSAS, but at that moment, an old friend, Sheila Tyeku, stepped forward to offer to take Prem's place. Sheila has a long history in the struggle for liberation, working in the Eastern Cape area where she grew up. During the dangerous days before the release of Mandela, when a wrong step could mean house arrest or prison, she balanced raising her children with going to secret meetings, working toward the day when South Africans would be free. In those days, she came to know and form close bonds with many of the men and women who would later play prominent roles in the New South Africa.
Sheila had gone from UDW, where she worked on a project for which Mala had secured funding, to the Council on Higher Education, when Mala took over that organization. Sheila had also been selected as the Chair of the Council of the University of the Western Cape, so it was natural that USSAS would move its work to that campus. The Council of a University is an important governing body that, among other things, chooses the Rector. In the South African system, the Chancellorship is a purely honorific position, and the real head of the campus, the Rector, holds the title of Vice-Chancellor. The principal administrative posts are called Deputy Vice-Chancellorships. Thus, on the Cape Technikon campus, Koch held the title of DVC Academic -- roughly equivalent to an American Provost.
I had by this time totally committed the USSAS funds to students making a contribution to the struggle against HIV/AIDS. As it happened, UWC had, in the person of Dr. Tania Vergnani, a brilliant and charismatic head of the anti-AIDS effort. At the same time, I was directed by the friend of a friend to Dr. Frida Rundell, a wonderful woman who had started, and headed up, the Department of Child and Youth Development at Durban Technikon. Frida's students were being trained to work with AIDS-impacted children in the KwaZulu/Natal Province -- roughly, the area around and north of Durban. I made trips to walk-in shelters, street clinics, and halfway houses for children entangled with the law, seeing first hand the character and extent of their work. It was clear to me that Frida's program richly deserved whatever little support I could provide.
So it is that for the past six years or so, I have been dividing our USSAS money between UWC and what is now, under the new transformation arrangements, Durban University of Technology [actually the merging of a Black, and Indian, and a White Technikon into one institution.]
As I write these words today, I have been merge printing envelopes in preparation for yet another USSAS fund-raising appeal. This will be the twentieth year of the organization, and it may be that we are approaching a time when I shall have to finally wrap things up and cease our work.
In one of my mailings, I reminded my donors of Dostoyevsky's story, in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, of the mean-spirited old woman and the onion. [For those of you who do not recall it, Google Grushenka and Karamazov and Onion and it ought to come up.] As I grow older, I think of USSAS as my onion. I hope that as the Angel of Death holds out the onion to pull me from Hell, I do not kick so hard against the other poor souls clinging to my ankles in a desperate effort at salvation that I break the onion and fall back into eternal hellfire. [you have to read the story].
USSAS is a good example, I think, of the bit of actual difference that one person can make in the world, with the help of friends, and the willingness to be content with small but genuine victories.