Celebrating Mandela Day

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This year, Nelson Mandela is celebrating his 94th birthday. Celebrating along with him are his countrymen and the world, including perhaps many of the children his foundation supports.

He is one of the world’s most celebrated persons no matter what hat he wears—politician, peacemaker or humanitarian. Today, former South African president, Nelson Mandela, celebrates his 94th birthday.
In Mandela’s native South Africa, 12 million children started their schooldays by singing “Happy Birthday” for him, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Others yet gave 67 minutes of their time to charitable endeavours, paying tribute to the 67 years Mandela gave in service to the public.

Mandela himself celebrated the day in quiet enjoyment at his home village of Qunu.

Nelson Mandela touched national and international psyches after spending 27 years in prison fighting the country’s racist apartheid government and becoming the first black president in 1994. As the leader of the African National Congress, he pursued a vision of forgiveness and tolerance while fighting poverty and injustice. In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts (shared with the last apartheid-era South African leader, Frederik Willem de Klerk). Now, the International Mandela Day is observed even by the United Nations (UN).

"Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country," said Archbishop Emeritus, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate himself, Desmond Tutu.

Nelson Mandela has also been an avid supporter of the welfare of orphaned and abandoned children. In 1995, he founded the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which has helped fund 780 projects coming to the aid of the country's youth and their families.

South Africa is home to 3.4 million orphaned children, 1.9 million of whom have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. Almost 18 per cent of South Africa’s population is HIV-positive. Poverty and inequality continue to disproportionately affect the black majority population and AIDS orphans are among the most vulnerable citizens.

Advocacy in support of society’s innocents appears to be a family value. Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel—now a member of The Elders group—has received numerous humanitarian prizes and posts. She chaired the ground-breaking 1996 UN study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Yet, the 67 minutes of voluntary service to help change the world for the better, can be more than a symbolic “one-off.” Government data shows that two-thirds of South Africans live on less than $300 per month, some of whom are supporting their extended families. Million of children live in similar conditions around the world.

Taking regular action to support marginalized groups can help realize Mandela’s hope, as expressed in his inauguration speech almost two decades ago:

“Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor a Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.