Nelson Mandela’s birthday is celebrated every year throughout the country but last year it became an official United Nations Day. This year everyone in South Africa was encouraged to do an hour of community service so it was a good time to get new people on board, volunteering and learning more about our projects.
Our Mandela Day turned into a Mandela Month. Deciding to start early, we distributed clothes to our Sunday Club of 350 children, the week before his birthday. By the 18th we ran out of clothes, with 21 children receiving nothing that fit them. So we worked hard throughout the week as people pulled together and we ended up having more than enough for all the children.
On Mandela Day, 21 members of the public volunteered and experienced the day with us, many making commitments to help more in the future. We not only distributed clothes and shoes but also served all 350 children a hot meal and snack food and played games in addition to our normal program. A company donated over 800 kilos of mielie meal (a staple food here) and nearly 70 cans of beans, which will feed many more mouths in the next few weeks.
Some of the neediest children who arrived in rags and holey shoes received a complete makeover from head to toe, much to their delight. We then took 23 of the teenagers back to our residential training centre and had Bible classes, played volley ball and taught the girls how to do a hip hop dance, which they loved. Then we kitted them all out with T-shirts and toiletries.
The following week we heard that a radio station had collected clothes on Mandela Day in Mandela Square, Johannesburg. We phoned them and told them about our work and they asked us to come immediately to collect the items they had received. It took a few trips to pick up all the shoes, blankets and clothing–it was thousands and thousands of items.
We distributed these items to well over 100 adults living with TB and HIV as they are a particularly needy group especially in the winter when they really feel the cold. We also gave them all a hot meal and used the opportunity to explain about our support groups so that they can benefit on the long term.
The following day our Gogo (Grandmother) Club members benefitted from the warm clothing we gave them. These women look after their grandchildren because their daughters have died of AIDS. They really need and deserve our help and encouragement.
The following Sunday we distributed clothing to our Sunday Club again (350 kids) and they were very excited to receive shoes and warm jackets.
The following week we were given 700 brand new official FIFA blankets to distribute to the 380 children of our Sunday Club, HIV/TB support groups, our Free Day Care Centre and the township crèches we support. We cooked a hot meal for 410 children and adults the first day we gave out the blankets.
Originally Published in 2011.