South Africa has many problems, but by working together and understanding one another much can be done to improve life, a black South African school teacher and national leader said Thursday.

Julia Mavimbela said, "My country is a country of many problems, some of them are known to you. Sometimes it makes you think that you can hardly open your doors and walk out in freedom."But as one of the three kings in Africa said, `When we come together only then can we understand one another.' "

In a BYU Women's Conference fireside, Mavimbela shared her story of life in South Africa with the topic, "I Speak from My Heart: The Personal Story of a Black South African Woman."

"I want to give you an outline of what South Africa is like. Come travel with me," she said. "I come from a country of many languages and provinces. I bring to you greetings from all my brothers and sisters. We love you."

Mavimbela, a resident of the Soweto Township, said South Africa is struggling to know what is good for it, and like anywhere else someone has to make an effort to help.

When she saw schools in flames and libraries gutted during the 1976 riots, she was touched to do something. "You have to engage your hand to engage your mind," she said.

Mavimbela, now 71, said much time was spent, not only in repairing physical damages to the area, but in repairing mental and moral damage. Her message to others was, "Where there was a blood stain, a beautiful flower must grow."

She began teaching children gardening skills, which taught them how to grow gardens in small infertile areas. As the lumps in the soil, they learned that the lumps in life that could be overcome with knowledge.

Mavimbela said a beautiful rain in the morning after praying for help was like a telegram or telephone call from the Lord.

A great deal of her time has been spent working with Women for Peace, an organization of all races she founded after the 1976 riots. Her mission has been to fight for equality and a better life for her people in South Africa.

"If we cannot reason with our leaders, I think at that time we will be losing what we shouldn't be losing," she said. "We must protect ourselves the best we can."

In a previous interview, Mavimbela said, "I give thanks to God that he has made me a woman. I give thanks to my creator that he has made me black; that he has fashioned me as I am, with hands, heart, head to serve my people."

Mavimbela is fluent in seven languages, and has worked as a teacher and principal, and has owned a restaurant, bakery, butchery and herb shop. She was widowed in 1955 with five children under the age of 10.

She is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is president of the Relief Society of the Soweto Branch of the Johannesburg South Africa Stake.