News / Africa

South Africans Celebrate Mandela’s Birthday by Volunteering

Volunteers participate in a human chain in Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver food and clothes to a local charity as part of the 67 minutes events marking  former South African President Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, July 18, 2013.
Volunteers participate in a human chain in Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver food and clothes to a local charity as part of the 67 minutes events marking former South African President Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, July 18, 2013.
Anita Powell
— Nelson Mandela turned 95 Thursday, a remarkable milestone for a man considered South Africa’s most exceptional citizen.  Across the nation, South Africans celebrated the life of the anti-apartheid icon and followed his directive to volunteer for a charitable cause.  Meanwhile, Mandela remains in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital - where he has been for 40 days. 

Nelson Mandela is known for doing the impossible: for keeping strong during a punishing 27-year prison term, for overturning South Africa’s ironclad apartheid regime, for uniting his fractured nation as its first black president and for bringing his country back on to the world stage after years of isolation.

On Thursday, he proved, yet again, that he is no ordinary man.

Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday in a Pretoria hospital.  He has been there since June 8, when he was admitted for a recurring lung infection.  He slipped into critical condition nearly a month ago.

Presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, updated VOA on Mandela’s condition - referring to him by his clan name, Madiba.

“Madiba has made steady improvement in responding to the treatment, but he is still in a critical condition. And President Zuma did say at the EU summit that he delivered the birthday card and Madiba smiled, so he was responsive, and he’s responding to treatment,” he said.

Maharaj said the doctors have not said whether Mandela can go home.

Mandela’s daughter Zindzi told a British broadcaster on Wednesday that her father had made “remarkable progress” and was well enough to watch television.

If Mandela is indeed watching television, he would see droves of South Africans rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to help charitable causes in his honor.

  • Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela gives out food parcels as they celebrate Mandela Day with 67 minutes of public service to honour the 67 years Mandela served humanity by first fighting against white-minority rule and then consolidating racial harmony when he was president, at the SOS children's home in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria July 18, 2013.
  • Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Ndileka (R) serves soup as she celebrates Mandela Day with 67 minutes of public service to honour the 67 years Mandela served humanity by first fighting against white-minority rule and then consolidating racial harmony when he was president, at the SOS children's home in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria July 18, 2013.
  • Children hold placards as they gather to wish Nelson Mandela happy birthday at a township school in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, July 18, 2013.
  • A portrait of Mandela is displayed on the windows of a building on his 95th birthday, Cape Town, South Africa, July 18, 2013.
  • A group of kindergarten children sing Happy Birthday outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where the former South African President is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa July 18, 2013.
  • A child sings as he and others celebrate Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday in Cape Town, July 18, 2013.
  • A banner of photos of Nelson Mandela set up outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in South Africa, July 18, 2013.
  • School children sing happy birthday to Mandela in front of his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, July 18, 2013.
  • A man prays as well-wishers gather to wish Mandela happy birthday outside Mediclinic Heart Hospital, July 18, 2013.
  • Members of the ruling party youth league sing outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where Nelson Mandela is being treated, July 17, 2013.
  • A man places a candle inside the St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, July 17, 2013.
  • A visitor takes a photo of a poster at the opening of an international exhibition of 95 posters celebrating the 95 years of the life of Nelson Mandela, at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, July 17, 2013.

July 18 was declared an international day of service in 2009.  People are asked to give 67 minutes of their time doing something charitable - one minute for each year Mandela dedicated to his struggle for a better world.

University of Johannesburg community engagement coordinator Ernestine Meyer-Adams said she took the order seriously.  On Thursday, the university deployed 4,400 student and staff volunteers across the city.  Volunteers cleaned and repainted at government hospitals, distributed food parcels to indigent patients, planted trees, and cleaned up the neighborhoods around campus.

Meyer-Adams said helping others was an obligation. 

“It’s making me feel very, very warm inside.  Because you know we are uplifting our communities and the key thing is, we are following in Mandela’s legacy.  And I really think it’s very important for South Africa, not just for us as the University of Johannesburg, but for us as South Africa, to work together, to stand together, and to help uplift, and to help repair our broken communities,” she said.
 
The Johannesburg School for the Blind, Low Vision and Children with Multiple Disabilities said they benefited greatly from such initiatives.  On previous Mandela Days, volunteers have come to rebuild the modest school, which runs on charitable contributions and serves 24 students.  Many have been badly burned in house fires.

School Principal Celyne Tebid said the charitable acts did’t just improve the school -- they also taught the students a valuable lesson.

“You can see that they are already beginning to learn that spirit of giving, of caring, of sharing, which is something we try to instill in them in their teaching," said the school principal. "Also most of them, if you want to ask them what their future plans are, one will say, ‘I want to be a nurse,’ another one will say, ‘I want to be a doctor,’ -- and if you probe further to ask why they choose to be what they want to be, they will say, ‘I want to be a doctor because I’ll be helping children who were burned and survived like me.’”

Every volunteer and beneficiary that VOA spoke to said they wanted to give their former president the same message on his birthday, "Happy birthday, Madiba, we love you."

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid