Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day): is an annual day that was given birth and made official by the United Nations in November 2009; it is celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday.
The initiative was inspired by a call Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela made in 2008 on his 90th birthday celebration in London, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”.
Because Mr Mandela has spent 67 years making the world a better place, this global movement asks us to devote 67 minutes of our time to help change the world around us for the better.
As anticipated, the build-up of this significant date often starts a month earlier, with various media platforms dominated by former South African president’s iconic quotes. My favourite: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” What I like about this quote is that it encourages us to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Determined to live up to Madiba’s words, this year I started a ‘care’ campaign – the initiative that encourages the society to partake in the pursuit to assist the less fortunate by donating old and new clothes to shelters for the homeless.
And being the head of Marketing at The Lawyers Voice – a 100% black owned company that sells legal insurance – I took advantage of my skills and persuaded my colleagues to join the campaign of doing something good for the disadvantageous on Mandela Day.
Unfortunately, Mandela Day is not an official public holiday, so we had to ask permission from our manager Mrs Jean Theu, who was kind enough to give us 120 minutes – double of what we asked for.
We chose to visit Little Saints of Bethany in Bertrams, Johannesburg. The organisation was founded in 1989 to rehabilitate abused women and reintegrate them into society.
Excited about making a difference on a special day, Monday 18 July, we left our offices at about 11am and headed to our chosen shelter. We did not know what to expect but were ready to contribute in making Mandela Day memorable.
When we got there the Bethany Home team gave us a warm welcome. We spent the first 20 minutes with the manager, Bridget Edwards, who briefed us about the work they do. I was so touched and incredibly impressed about the work they do for women.
“Women who come to Bethany are given intensive counselling for the first two months from there we find where their potential lies, train them up and find them jobs,” she said.
Basically the women go on a 12-14 months rehabilitation program. They take about 25 women and 27 children per program, which the women are taught how to stand up for themselves and be independent.
Bethany is a home away from home for many and for most a home they can only dream of, it gives hope to the hopeless. Since is situated in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, Mrs Edwards ends up having to feed more than 55 people a day, feeding the community at large to be precise. What an inspiring woman she is. (Bless her and her team)
In support of Bethany Home, some of the companies that contributed in funding the organisation include Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, ApexHi Charitable Trust and 1st for Women Trust.
Anglo American Chairman’s Fund already sponsored Bethany Home with R840 000 since 2006, benefiting 330 women and children; in 2010, ApexHi Charitable Trust made a donation of R100 000 for the home; in 2011, the 1st for Women Trust awarded a grant of R100 000 towards the operational costs of Bethany Home.
Little Saints made me realize that 67 minutes can never be enough. Humans struggle for 1440 minutes day in day out. There is so much pleasure in knowing you partook to another person’s smile. Mandela Day taught me that I should prolong the CARE Campaign, add food and furniture to the list and make everyday Mandela day.
In addition, this whole experience also reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from the late Audrey Hepburn – the Academy Award-winning actress, fashion model and humanitarian icon – who once said: “As you grow you realize you have two hands, one for helping others and one for helping yourself.”