Nelson Mandela Foundation

Adopt a school, knit a blanket, pick up litter? If you’re scratching around for ideas for Mandela Day, don’t panic – the Nelson Mandela Foundation has issued a guide to help you.

The first-ever Mandela Day Guide is intended to help the millions who celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day (known as Mandela Day) on July 18 every year.

Nelson Mandela International Day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009 and is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact.

“The manual is intended to help people who don’t really know how they to contribute or volunteer during Mandela month, as July has typically become known. The Nelson Mandela Foundation felt it would be useful to issue the guide for the first time this year, especially as we have changed the way in which Mandela Day is observed,” says Sello Hatang, Chief Executive at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Hatang says that instead of volunteering 67 minutes on 18 July as has become the norm, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is calling on South Africans and those around the world to take action throughout the year.

He says the Foundation has also decided against the usual four themes for Mandela Day in favour of just one: taking action against poverty.

“In line with this strategic shift, we therefore call on South Africans and those around the world to use July 18 to renew their commitment to taking action and to inspire change so that they can make every day a Mandela Day. We call on them to volunteer for projects that will alleviate poverty, whether that be building a house for someone who has never had a home or planting a food garden at a school to feed pupils. But we don’t want them to stop there; July 18 should be the start of taking action, not the end. We want South Africans and those around the world to commit to long-term, regular projects that will tackle poverty,” says Hatang.

Hatang says while the Foundation is grateful for everyone who had volunteered 67 minutes of their time in the past, “it became increasingly troubling for us as the Nelson Mandela Foundation that the Mandela Day campaign serves as momentary relief for recipients”.

He says the Foundation had therefore determined to “look at new and more meaningful ways to express the acts of kindness in our communities” and had decided that tackling poverty – which was hamstringing South Africa’s and many other countries’ development – was critical.

“The deepening effects of poverty and inequality in our country serve as a deafening call for us to open our hearts in a more meaningful manner. That’s why this July 18 and until Mandela Day 2018, our call is for the global community to take #ActionAgainstPoverty. That you drive past someone whose shoes are worn thin can no longer be overlooked because you threw a R2 coin in their cup. Let us work towards Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday and Take #ActionAgainstPoverty because as long as a neighbour needs a helping hand, every day should be a Mandela Day,” says Hatang.

Yase Godlo, Mandela Day Manager at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, says the guide demonstrates that those who observe Mandela Day do not need to make great changes to fit with the new approach to Mandela Day.

He says they can still knit blankets, but instead of knitting it as a once-off, they will be encouraged to knit blankets year-round for those in need. Those who plant vegetable gardens at schools could still do so on July 18, but are also urged to commit to planting more gardens.

“We want people to commit to longer-term more sustainable efforts, but did not want to make it more difficult or confusing, which is why we have issued the manual,” says Godlo.

Here are some suggestions from the Mandela Day Manual:

Put together stationery packs (pens, stickers, coloured paper, scissors, etc.) for teachers at an under-resourced school

Sort donated clothes at U-turn or The Warehouse. (Phone ahead to organise!)

Volunteer your time at a Haven Night Shelter

Give blood. Find your nearest fixed donor site.

Offer to fix things at a local school or organisation (paint, broken windows, etc)

Help build a home with Habitat for Humanity‘s International Mandela Day Build Week

Donate educational materials to Breadline Africa 

Organise a fun outing for children in an HIV/Aids programme

Make ‘care kits’ (including a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, face cloth, etc) for patients at a nearby government hospital

Throw a tea party for the children and carers at a children’s home

Offer to mow the lawn and fix up the garden at a nursing home or hospice

Hold a teddy bear or book drive for a children’s home

Teach someone how to use a computer and the Internet.

Tutor someone who needs help learning your mother tongue

Donate your old computer to an under-resourced school

Tutor pupils from under-resourced schools

Donate books to your local library

Offer to attend a high school class to talk to students about your career