Community hero laid to rest

2017-07-11 06:02

Cape Town is the birthplace and home of some of the most inspiring women who have risked their lives on a daily basis to fight apartheid. Many of these fighters have been awarded for their contributions, while others sadly remain unacknowledged for their efforts.

Hilda Paulsen might not be a familiar name to many, but to the community of Lansdowne, Mitchell’s Plain and surrounds, Aunty Hilda was known to be a woman of strength.

More than 400 people attended the funeral of the 83-year-old community activist on Tuesday 27 June. Family, friends and political activists packed the Regina Coeli Catholic Church in Belgravia to pay their last ­respects.

“Aunty Hilda was a great stalwart. She dedicated her life to improve the lives of those around her. She was a woman of strength and power and we will surely remember her for this,’’ said one sympathiser from Lansdowne. “These are the types of women who should have been acknowledged. This is an activist who never wanted media to cover her efforts in our community. She was phenomenal and she deserved it.”

Mrs Paulsen, the name by which many called her, played an active role in various communities since the early 1980s.

Single-handedly raising seven children, the passionate mother put her heart into creating organisations to benefit those in need. She represented various area-based organisations, including the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee and the United Democratic Front.

Paulsen was a founding member of the Leadwood Crèche in Eastridge and a cofounder of the Mitchell’s Plain Development Cooperation. Here she headed a non-profit organisation that established food gardens where unemployed people were given skills and paid for their labour. One of the projects received a United Nations Environmental Protect Award for water conservation in early 2000.

“My mother was a community developer. Where there was a need she would play a role in establishing organisations that would address those needs. Her keen interests were early childhood development, safe schools and addressing unemployment,” said her son and EFF member of parliament Nazier Paulsen. “She lived a typical black story, [we had] a completely absentee father and [she] raised us on her own. I remember the days my mom worked as a seamstress in her private capacity. She would take the leftover material to make her kids clothing. We struggled, but she always found a way to put a smile on our faces.”

Paulsen left her birthplace 57 years ago and only visited Port Elizabeth again late last year.

“My mom spent all her life trying to better the lives of those in need, but it was also her dream to go back to her home town and revisit her childhood memories.

“She has been through a lot and lost her eyesight a few years ago, but this never crushed her spirit. She continued to fight and contribute to the struggle of democracy,” he said.

“My eldest sister Marlene and myself were so inspired by my mom’s actions that we eventually followed in her footsteps. She was a mother, not just to me and my siblings, but to so many young people who were drowning in oppression and yearning for human connection, the kind that would remind them that a better tomorrow was not only their right but also that it was within reach,” he added. “Hilda Paulsen taught us that we would fail if we pursued our collective dreams without a spirit of service, love and compassion for each other. Let us remember how to serve each other and let us start living in spirit. I cannot think of a better way to honour my mother’s legacy.”

She is survived by her seven children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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