On 22 December 2002, Madiba, together with Oprah Winfrey, organised a special Christmas party for underprivileged children in Qunu, Eastern Cape. All the children had a chance to see Madiba and were so happy and excited to receive food, clothing, gift packs, toys and dolls, among other things.
Madiba’s love for children was extraordinary, and this is one of the reasons he is called the father of the nation. Soon after his 1989 release from prison, in December 1990, Madiba began hosting an annual Christmas Party for children in Qunu.
In 1993, Madiba received the Nobel Peace Prize and he gave part of his prize money to help the underprivileged children. In 1995 he founded the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which strives to empower and change the way society treats its children and the youth, especially those who live in underprivileged circumstances. He also donated a third of his salary throughout his presidency to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. In 2005, Madiba was awarded the World’s Children’s Prize. And in 2009 he was elected the World’s Children’s Prize Decade Child Rights Hero for his lifetime efforts to free South African children and youth from the oppressive apartheid system. Madiba shared this accolade with Ma Graça Machel, who was recognised for her long and courageous struggle for children’s rights, mainly in Mozambique.
Looking around and seeing what the South African children and youth are going through today, after 26 years of democracy, is very disturbing. Madiba would be very unhappy with this situation. Children and youth today are facing poor quality education, high rates of unemployment, abuse, poverty, mental health illnesses, high rates of teenage pregnancy and HIV/Aids. Many lack the fulfilment of basic needs such as adequate shelter, water and sanitation.
In 1995, Madiba said “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people.”
In these words, Madiba implored us to take part, reach out to the disadvantaged and share the little that we have to make a positive change to each life, and continue to make South Africa and the world a better and a safer place for the children and youth.