This summer, Ph.D./MSW student Sara Pilgreen shares postcards from Johannesburg, where she is living and working.
On July 18th, Mr. Nelson "Madiba" Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday. The day marked the third annual "International Nelson Mandela Day." The buzz around the office was palpable as everyone was asking who was doing what for his or her 67 minutes of giving back. The call of 67 minutes of volunteering for each of us (globally) comes from the fact that Mr. Mandela spent 67 years of his life (27 of which were spent in prison) fighting for social justice, equal rights and democracy. The idea that each person, in his or her own way, can make a positive impact in the world is encompassed in this day.
I went with the Community Development Team who had teamed up with Johannesburg City Parks. They had commissioned a former city bus to be re-outfitted for the occasion. We began our journey at “The Council” in Braamfontein by singing "Happy Birthday" to Madiba, and then we traveled out to Soweto to Thokoza Park where Mr. Mandela planted a tree for his 90th birthday. In keeping with the slogan of a "Green Call to Action" City Parks planted 94 trees in each of the seven regions of Gauteng Province.
After the 94th tree was planted in Thokoza Park, the cake was cut, the kids had sung and the Ward Councilors had given speeches, we got back on the bus and went to the Persevere Until Something Happens (PUSH) Orphanage in Kliptown, Soweto. Joburg City Parks had spent the previous three weeks at the orphanage building a vegetable garden, planting fruit trees, building a multi-purpose court and painting playground equipment. There was quite a community celebration of ribbon cutting, cake cutting and birthday songs for Madiba. The final stop was at a community development center where we delivered a lot of blankets.
Overall the day was very uplifting, and it was incredible to see the social cohesion and love that the people have for Nelson Mandela, or "Tata" as he is affectionately called. The opportunity to be in South Africa and experience such an event celebrating a living legend was an incredible experience and one that has inspired me to not just volunteer 67 minutes of one day out of the year, but to strive to make everyday a Madiba Day.
Please read my recent submission to the UCLA Burkle Center magazine The Generation, In Honor of Nelson Mandela Day: Let Your Greatness Blossom and feel free to leave comments. Thank you!