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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs