The message behind Mandela Day is loud and clear. Everyone has the responsibility and the ability to change the world for the better. It is a day to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his values, through active volunteering. It is an international initiative started by the United Nations in 2009 to honour our former president’s spirit of self-sacrifice. On Mandela Day, people around the world are encouraged to spend at least 67 minutes doing something positive for their communities in honour of the 67 years that Nelson Mandela spent fighting for a free and democratic South Africa.

It is the day that corporates are pressured into heeding the call to do good and staff are encouraged to vacate their office chairs to get their hands dirty outside of the boardroom. It is a day of painting crèche walls, planting vegetable gardens and picking up other people’s litter. A day of warm and fuzzy Facebook photos that will no doubt receive their fair share of likes by mutual do-gooders. It is a day where people are reminded that there is a world outside the office and for a brief moment some find their true purpose and calling.

The beauty of Mandela Day is that it gets people mobilised and into the areas that need them. It is the one time a year where blocked drains get unclogged and charities get interacted with on a large scale. It is a time for children to get hugs and the people on the ground to get a helping hand. B-BBEE codes have meant companies are now forced to care and incentivised to do it.

As everyone rushes to do their bit there is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. The elephant is a reminder of disillusion and reality. It is the fact that our country is never going to change if we only dedicate 67 minutes, once a year. It is an excellent start but far from the end. In order to change the perception that we ourselves have of our country, we need to be active citizens by being active in the change. For the change is as much in our minds as it is in our experience. Giving money to a beggar at a traffic light is not allowed to be enough to alleviate your guilt and tick your active citizenship box. If you are a South African, privileged or not, you need to realise nothing will change if you personally do not. We cannot complain about the crime, the filth or corruption unless we pick up a piece of paper, teach a child one lesson or at least offer a smile. We cannot expect magical change as it will not happen until we are all putting in a lot more than 67 minutes a week, never mind a year.

If you, spend just 1 hour every 2 weeks talking to a child, motivating a child and loving that child, you will influence not only that little life, but you will influence their family too. Imagine if everyone you know gave up just 2 hours a month to care, how many more children we could reach and teach. The benefit not only being for the child, but as importantly, for you. For you cannot judge the decisions you do not agree with, until you understand why they are being made. We need to stop assuming and start listening.

So as a start, when looking for the right activity to spend your 67 minutes on, be mindful. While heading out into a world, often different to your own, use this as an opportunity to learn. Learn about a culture and reality different to your own. Genuinely try to understand it and not just empathise with it. Learn about the whole story. Ask questions about the full picture. So instead of shaking your head in disbelief at why a 2-month old baby has a 16-year-old mother, ask why and wait for the full answer. Listen before you frown. Love before you judge. Then decide how you personally can impact the cause, rather than the symptom. Go home with less of the happy, smiling pictures that make you look like a good person and go away with a truly shifted view and a new friend.

This year take the time to go deeper.

So yes go out to feel and share love on Nelson Mandela day, but if you come home with only smiling photos and a team building t-shirt, know that you have failed yourself and your country. Come home rather with a new perspective, a plan of where next you can help and a heart filled with hope to grow South Africa into the land of love we all long for.

By Shera Deavall,
Founder & Director of Khensani’s Collection.

Khensani’s Collection is a registered Non-Profit Company (NPC). Our core function is assisting children to reach their full potential through the gift of education. Our work is driven by a passionate belief that we all have a responsibility to promote the development of young people. We strive to give academically talented but economically disadvantaged youth in Diepsloot an opportunity to reach their full potential. Some of our initiatives include:

  • 1-on-1 Mentorship Program
  • Teen Group Workshops
  • Math and Science Classes
  • Sponsor a Crèche Child
  • Feeding and Family Upliftment

If you like the work we're doing, please consider donating time or resources.

All donations go to our students and Ecobrick School.

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