News from the Mission
U.S. Mission commemorates Nelson Mandela International Day
“Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day.”
The overarching objective of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere.
The United Nations declared 18 July the Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, in recognition of the 67 years of contributing to peace and freedom. Today, people from around the globe are called upon to honour his legacy by volunteering 67 minutes to helping others
U.S. Mission staff in South Africa joined the world to commemorate former South African president, Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday on 18 July, by singing a special birthday song at 8:00 am, joining many other South Africans who simultaneously sang the song.
Staff and family members from the U.S. Mission volunteered 67 minutes (and some) of service at schools in Mamelodi, Atteridgeville and Soweto, Gauteng, and a food garden project in KwaZulu-Natal
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Continuing our partnership with the Pfunzo Ndi Tshedza Primary School in Mamelodi
Ambassador Donald Gips and his family joined a group of staff volunteers at Pfunzo Ndi Tshedza Primary School in Mamelodi, where they took part in painting the posts at the entrance of the school library and media centre, stocking the library with new books, as well as reading and playing games with the learners.
The U.S. Embassy’s relationship with the school began in 2007 when school learners and teachers were selected to take part in Camp Kusasa, an English learning program run by the Regional English Language Office (RELO) at the Embassy.
Ambassador Gips said he was pleased to be returning to the school and see how it had developed. The library, which was started by a volunteer from the community, Mr Reuben Masemola, has become an asset to the schools in terms of developing the learners’ language and reading skills. “Through Mr Masemola’s dedication, today we have a beautiful library, whereby our learners are assisted in reading. So it is very much important for us as a school, to get people who can come and assist us,” said School Principal Joyce Ndhlovu in her welcome address to the Ambassador and volunteers.
Masemola said that he’s motivation behind developing and nurturing the library was so that “learners must know a library is a source of knowledge.”
Deputy Chief of Mission volunteers 67 minutes at Atteridgeville school
Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy in South Africa, Virginia Palmer joined 25 Embassy employees who did community service at Makgatho Primary School in Atteridgeville. The group painted a grade 5 classroom, as well as the window seals, cleaned the library, and read books to the pupils.
“I’m so happy to be part of the people dedicating 67 minutes for Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday today”, those were the words of Virginia Palmer, Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States embassy in South Africa. She added that there could have been no better way to honor Madiba than to do community service. “He advocated for peace and the recognition of human rights for the people of South Africa, hence today we are here to honor his 94th birthday”, she said.
Jane Mashadi, the principal of the school said dedicating 67 minutes for Mandela means hope to her. “This day gives life to all of the learners within the school. It gives us hope that even though we cannot do much for Madiba, we can at least dedicate 67 minutes of our time and do community service,” she said.
One of the grade five pupils at the school, Lusanda Mtata, wished Madiba a happy 94th birthday. “Today we are getting good education because Tata fought for our freedom. Today our human rights are recognized nationally because Madiba spent 27 years in prison for us. Happy birthday Madiba,” she said.
Community service at Batsogile Primary School, Soweto.
Answering the call to perform community service, staff from the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg and the U.S. Embassy painted, cleaned classrooms and the school grounds, repaired plumbing facilities and read to the learners. In addition to their work, Consulate and Embassy staff also donated books, painting and cleaning supplies to the school
“It is always an honor for me to celebrate the birthday of a legend who made it possible for me to live in a democratic South Africa,” said Jackie Sathekge, one of the Consulate volunteers. “And as one of the students who demonstrated in June 1976, everyday is Mandela Day for me.”
The Consulate’s volunteer work was part of the “94+ Schools Project,” an effort by the South African Department of Education and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory that aims to improve the infrastructure of 94 schools across South Africa. The Consulate staff also worked with the Lead SA initiative and Talk Radio 702 in offering up volunteers for Nelson Mandela International Day.
As President Obama said in a birthday message to Mandela, “There is no more fitting tribute to a man who has demonstrated to the world the extraordinary power of non-violence, of tolerance, and of unwavering service to our fellow men and women.”
Earlier in the day, the entire Consulate staff joined millions of others in South Africa by starting the day with a special birthday song for Mandela. Gathering in front of the Consulate at exactly 8 a.m., the staff gave voice to the sentiment of people around the world in honoring a man whose name is synonymous with human rights and the continued hopes for South Africa’s future.
“The Garden of Eden” in Cato Manor, KwaZulu-Natal
The US Consulate, Durban partnered with the KZN Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in Cato Manor, Durban. Staff assisted in completing a vegetable tunnel, establishing a worm farm and composting unit, clearing a garden area, and relocating a water tank. Our efforts will help this youth-led project achieve food security for child and youth headed households. We also donated brushcutters which will enable them to start a small grass cutting business to generate income for vulnerable households.
Background about our partner organization - KwaZulu Natal Youth Empowerment Project
KwaZulu Natal Youth Empowerment Project well known as KZN YEP started in 2005 and has had an impact in Cato Manor by identifying orphaned and vulnerable children, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, and helping to co ordinate other community children-focused events. The organization provides breakfast to two schools wherein more than 500 children are fed each day. The KZN YEP run a project called “The Garden of Eden” which is another intervention to fight poverty. In addition KZN YEP is highly involved in a sports development academy for children aged 12-17 years with amazing results. Not only are the youth taught sports skills, but discipline, diligence, and commitment too. KZN YEP run many other projects directly related to the youth of Cato Manor. A young man (Malusi Mazibuko) who runs this project participated on an IVLP exchange program recently.
The Philisa Abafazi Bethu Centre, Cape Town
Staff at the U.S. Consulate-General in Cape Town rolled up their sleeves and volunteered at the ‘Philisa Abafazi Bethu’ nongovernmental organization in the gang-ridden Lavender Hill neighborhood
They cleared rubble, collected plastic bottles for recycling, removed trash, installed and fixed electrical equipment, assembled a donated bunk bed and did other small odd jobs around the yard/home.
Philisa Abafazi Bethu (“Heal our Women”) is a center for the empowerment of women through activities that support health, nutrition, income generation and the well-being of abused children. They also run an afterschool program providing therapeutic care to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) where they receive a meal and help with homework (arts and crafts, literacy and numeracy). In the weeks leading up to Mandela Day, staff at the Consulate raised funds through ‘boerewors roll’ sales, hosted soup and potluck days, contributed money, foodstuffs, clothes and un-used toiletries for the Centre.
“This was well worth the effort and a truly humbling experience to live up to the ideals of Nelson Mandela,” said one staffer. Lucinda Evans and her team of volunteers at the Centre were amazed at all the work done at the centre. “I did not know where we were going to get our next meal from but we live on Jesus miracles and today you have proven just that. Thank you to all of you,” she said with tears in her eyes.