Seven years of Mandela Day

Mandela Day in Long Beach, California. (Image: Foter

Mandela Day began in South Africa, and has grown to make a significant difference in the lives of those who have less, says the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Mandela Day manager, Yase Godlo.

“South Africans are passionate, and celebrate Mandela Day holding Mr Mandela’s values close to their hearts. The continuous feedback from all over the world, and especially in South Africa, has assisted us at the Nelson Mandela Foundation to understand better ways we can facilitate participation.”

Mandela Day is an international campaign centred around the United Nations’ 2009 declaration of Mandela’s birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day. The day is supposed to be marked by public service, in keeping with Mandela’s 67 years of public service. Now in its seventh year, Mandela Day has global reach and impact.

The campaign is carried out in 149 countries, and there are thousands of Mandela Day initiatives worldwide, says Godlo. This year there is also a switch from four “pillars” of service – education and literacy, food security, shelter, and volunteering – to the overriding theme of taking action against poverty.

Godlo, who took on managing Mandela Day in 2012, says his daily work is largely about managing the many different Mandela Day stakeholders, some very large, some small groups or individuals. “I have to ensure that Mandela Day grows every year, in participation, and I have to give strategic direction to campaigns and initiatives.”

Recently Mandela Day has shifted its focus so that Nelson Mandela’s 18 July birthday is seen as a celebration of a year’s work, rather than the only day on which public service is done in the name of Mr Mandela.

“This theme focuses on mobilising everyone to get involved and make a meaningful difference in fighting poverty in all its forms,” says Godlo. “The question ‘What to you is action?’ is important for people to think about. Think about the positive change that you can make in your community.”

People can support Mandela Day, and the 2017 Action Against Poverty theme, by joining many existing campaigns. “It’s about everyone getting involved, from the age of three years to 150 years. One can donate a book, build a garden, or contribute to a local school, orphanage or even someone down the street. Contributing to a better future for the next generation is everybody’s responsibility.”

Mandela Day has made quantifiable contributions to food security, education and shelter, among others, over the years, Godlo says.

This year the Foundation will focus its efforts on Mandela Day libraries, says Godlo. “Work within education is a very important part of making a lasting difference to the next generation.”

Also, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of struggle icon Oliver Tambo, and the Foundation will be collaborating with the OR Tambo Foundation to honour two legacies – those of Mandela and of Tambo. “Mr Mandela shares a birthday with Mrs Adelaide Tambo, and the Foundation will work with the Adelaide Tambo School, which caters for children with physical and learning disabilities.”