Nelson Mandela Foundation

With the significant drop in temperature over the past few days, those involved in the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day initiative could not wait to come to the aid of those in need.

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67 Blankets for Mandela Day was founded by actress Carolyn Steyn

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day is a movement that sees people from all walks of life knitting and crocheting blankets for those in need. Founded in December last year by actress Carolyn Steyn, the first official handover of blankets was held this past weekend.

On Saturday 7 June, hundreds of blankets were displayed at the feet of the Nelson Mandela statue at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. The blankets were then packed and handed over to children at the Thusong Youth Centre and the elderly at the Itlhokomeleng Old Age Home, both in Alexandra.

“An extreme cold front has hit South Africa and we need to mobilise the masses to take part in this incredible cause,” said Steyn at the event in Sandton. “We have decided to start distributing the blankets immediately to those in need instead of waiting until Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July. Stitch by stitch we will be keeping thousands of people warm this winter in the name of our beloved Madiba!

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Hundreds of blankets were displayed at the feet of the Nelson Mandela statue

“You can knit or crochet as many blankets as you can (I’m on my fifth), and drop them off at the Nelson Mandela Foundation,” she said.

Rachel Sokhulu, one of the many women involved in knitting blankets for the needy, was busy knitting her 17th blanket. She said she is using her hands to help the less fortunate and also to pay her respects to Nelson Mandela.

Another knitter, Margaret Mashishi, said: “I want to help people who can’t do anything for themselves during these winter months.”

What started off as a “boastful” conversation about her domestic abilities (with the former private secretary to Mandela, Zelda La Grange) has seen Steyn heading a movement that has gone viral, with people knitting and crocheting as far as away California and the United Kingdom for the same cause.

“We have ambassadors everywhere in the country who source needy homes. We want to grow even more and hopefully take an aerial photograph at the Union Buildings with everyone’s blankets later this year,” said Steyn.

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Children at the Thusong Youth Centre were the first to receive the blankets

And when they were delivered, the mothers and children at the Thusong Youth Centre were grateful at the sight of a minibus taxi full of colourful blankets.

Mother Misi Molemela said: “I’m glad my child, Lisolwethu, will have an extra blanket this winter. She will feel warm.”

Eight-year-old Ndumiso Mguni heard from a friend about what was happening at the youth centre and quickly ran off to tell his mother, Gladys. “Mandela has left us, but his legacy will always live on. What’s happening here today is proof of that,” said Gladys.

Up the road at Itlhokomeleng Old Age Home, the nurses and elderly were pleasantly surprised at the sight of the blankets being carried inside.

One of the nurses, Maybul Maguga, said, “We’re so happy for the elders; it’s such a nice surprise for them and they needed the blankets a lot.”

Itlhokomeleng resident Hendrick Ntserang said: “We needed more blankets because it’s so cold. We are grateful.”

Margeret Rodolo, a matron at the home, said: “Thank you for coming. The blankets mean a lot to us.”

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Happy faces at Itlhokomeleng Old Age Home

There were songs and cheering, with one of the elderly, Nicole Rosaria, thanking all involved with the 67 Blankets initiative. “On behalf of the residents, we thank you, and our doors are open 24/7. We like visitors. Please come back to chat to us again,” she said.

Celebrity Michael de Pinna was glad to have been a part of the day’s proceedings. “I discovered on Twitter what was happening today at Nelson Mandela Square and Alex. I’m glad I came to show my support,” he said.

“We all know about the plight of those who don’t have enough, but most of us are afraid to confront and see what’s really going on. It’s heartbreaking. I wish I could do more,” Steyn said.

For more information about upcoming events, please visit:

    67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day on Facebook
    @67Blankets on Twitter
67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was also at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Click here to see the gallery.

You can watch the video below to find out about the origins and aims of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day: