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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More