Nelson Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting for social justice and freedom for all people, first starting to campaign for human rights in 1942.
His selfless leadership inspired other leaders and citizens to work together in an effort to make the world a more equal and just place.
Mandela Day, which is celebrated annually on Madiba’s birthday July 18, is a global call to action that reminds us of our individual power to impact change.
The campaign, run by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, calls on each of us to give one minute of our time for every year that Mandela dedicated to championing human rights and freedom — so 67 minutes during the course of the day.
As the great leader said: “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return."
Here are five ways you can use Mandela Day to help empower others.
1. Help keep children off the streets
The Human Sciences Research Council estimates that there are at least 200,000 people living homeless in South Africa.
Inequality, poverty, and social issues like violence and substance abuse are the root of the problem, according to a report by the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Educational Psychology.
Even more troubling, the University of Johannesburg report adds that children as young as eight are among those living on the streets.
This makes work done by organisations like Kids Haven, which provides shelter to children in need of care, that much more valuable.
If you are in and around Johannesburg you can spend 67 minutes reading to pre-school children or playing with them at Kids Haven villages in Benoni and Bryanston.
You can also adopt one of their 67 “squares” in the Benoni or Bryanston village to fill up with items such as food, clothing, blankets, or toys.
The villages rely on funding and good will, so another way you can help is by pledging R101 ($7.30) to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s 101st birthday.
2. Save three lives
The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) needs 3,000 units of blood every day to meet the ever-present and ever-growing demand for blood.
Yet, the blood stock in the country reached a low of less than 2,000 units on one day last year.
You can help the SANBS replenish its blood bank by donating blood at any of their centres nationally.
“Currently less than 1% of South Africans donate blood, even though it demands little more than giving up 30 minutes of their time at least twice a year,” Silungile Mlambo, chief marketing officer for the SANBS, said. “That means that we often experience shortages which place lives at risk; lives of babies born prematurely, lives of accident victims, lives of women giving birth, and the lives of people fighting cancer.”
Mlambo urged those with blood type “O” — the most common type — especially to donate. SANBS says that every unit of blood donated saves a minimum of three lives.
3. Help improve the quality of education in schools
A report by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2016 shed light on South Africa’s education challenge, showing that 78% of the country’s grade 4 learners can’t read for meaning.
“If you can’t read‚ your opportunities in school or after school will be limited‚ which is why reading should start at a very young age,” said Celeste Combrinck‚ acting director at the University of Pretoria Centre for Evaluation and Assessment, which conducted the South African research for PIRLS.
Right now, Global Citizen is calling on everyone to take action to help South Africa deliver quality education to all children by being part of our #RaiseTheGrade campaign.
#RaiseTheGrade was launched in April as a call to action for the Department of Basic Education to roll out the Early Grade Reading Package to 500 schools in each of the nine provinces by 2020.
You can support the campaign by signing this petition, which will then be submitted to Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga.
To further support the campaign, you can also be part of #TurnThePage, which is aimed at increasing access to books.
Global Citizen, in partnership with the Mall of Africa and Exclusive Books, will host a book drive on July 24 to collect children’s books. On the day, you can buy children’s books for as little as R35 at Exclusive Books.
The books will be donated to Nal’ibali, a national reading campaign that aims to spark children’s potential through storytelling.
You can make your contribution to growing the library by looking through your old books on Mandela Day and donating what you can spare.
4. Help keep a girl in school
Stellenbosch University Law Clinic estimates that about a third of girls in South Africa miss school when they’re on their periods because they can’t afford sanitary products.
What’s more, the World Economic Forum reports that one in 10 girls in Africa drop out of school completely once they start menstruating.
Over 4 million pads have been collected since the start of the drive on June 17. You can be part of the campaign by buying and donating a pack of pads at any Dischem pharmacy. These will be distributed to schools around the country by Dischem and Caring 4 Girls.
5. Protect the environment
Climate change is already causing adverse and extreme weather around the world. And Africa is set to be the continent worst impacted by these changing weather patterns.
As well as extreme weather like drought, flooding, storms, and rising temperatures, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that rising temperatures could also cause high levels of acid in the ocean and that this could have an impact on fish stocks.
For the 3 billion people worldwide who rely on fish as their main source of protein, the prospect of fewer and smaller fish in the sea poses a threat to food security.
Meanwhile, plastic pollution is also having a devastating impact both on marine life, and on the health and wellbeing of people globally — specifically the world’s poorest.
A report released in May by a number of UK-based charities, and backed by TV presenter David Attenborough, found that up to a million people in developing countries are dying every year because of diseases and accidents linked to poor management of rubbish.
But you can play your part by reducing plastic use and pollution.
Why not spend 67 minutes for Mandela Day collecting litter around your community? Or spend the time working out all the ways that you can cut excess plastic out of your life.
You can also support Global Citizen’s anti-plastic campaigning, by signing our petition to call on governments and corporations to play their part in preventing ocean plastic pollution; and by taking our pledge here to help #UnplasticthePlanet.