How Habitat for Humanity SA is making every day a Mandela Day

Orange Farm residents learn about painting from a Builder's Warehouse supplier. Image: Habitat for Humanity

On Mandela Day 2016, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Habitat for Humanity South Africa set about teaching Orange Farm residents what it knows best – how to fix up homes.

While Mandela Day is celebrated annually on the late former president’s birthday, 18 July, in recent years there has been a call to “Make every day Mandela Day”, spending at least part of this time doing community service.

On Mandela Day, Habitat for Humanity also worked in Cape Town, cleaning up a community hall in Mfuleni. The NGO then returned to both communities later in the year to extend its Mandela Day work.

It returned to Orange Farm and Mfuleni on 3 October to help build new homes or repair existing ones for child-headed households, the elderly and the disabled. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to create a better future for themselves and their families,” says Adrienne Burke, marketing manager for Habitat for Humanity South Africa.

Orange Farm, 40km south of Johannesburg, is home to an estimated 80 000 people. Unemployment is high, and most of those who do work travel to the city to do so. Mfuleni, a section of the sprawling Cape Flats about 40km from Cape Town’s city centre, is also known for its unemployment and poverty.

“Development only happens through partnerships,” says Burke. “The Mandela Day DIY workshop and the subsequent building-week events had everybody working together for the same objective, the same goal. Partnership is key to it.”

The Orange Farm DIY workshop was Habitat for Humanity South Africa’s first, but the concept had been on the cards for some time. “About 120 participants learned to do incremental repairs to their homes.”

Habitat for Humanity’s usual suppliers pitched in to help, especially with training in basic plumbing, painting, tiling and other home maintenance techniques. “I got the feeling the staff really enjoyed it,” says Tsietsi Lengoabala, store manager at the Builders Superstore at Evaton, which provided materials and training.

Habitat for Humanity South Africa was established in 1996, two years after Mandela was sworn in as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. It aims to provide holistic community aid, with a focus on providing and improving housing. The NGO says more than 10% of all households in South Africa live in shacks or backyard dwellings.