July 18 is Nelson Mandela Day – when we’re asked to spend 67 minutes in service in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of fighting for human rights. The concept is the same as United Way’s Day of Action (June 21) and International Volunteer Day (December 5) and many other days United Ways participate in: choose a meaningful day and issue a call to volunteer on that day.
One of the neat activities mentioned on the Mandela Day website was encouraging people to download and play the Ubuntu board game. The aim of the Ubuntu Game is to help players understand how interconnected we are and to have fun listening to each other’s stories and experiences. Another activity, revamping a library and art room at a school in Cape Town, South Africa, sounds like something United Ways do on Day of Action. And in Australia, a group of South Africans and Australians gathered in a community facility to cook for people in need, just like the “Stone Soup” volunteer events led by United Ways in Maryland and Virginia throughout the year.
We need volunteer days because how well connected we are through social media and other electronic channels, human beings crave community in person. Coming together face to face to play a game, paint a wall, read to a child or prepare a meal for someone in need helps meet our own needs too. And, equally important, volunteer days are a great first step to a longer term commitment to making a difference.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I’ll agree, and add that volunteering to help at risk students of all ages stay in school through graduation is another way to change the world. It only takes a few minutes to pledge to become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor. Regardless of what day it is, I hope you’ll heed United Way’s call to action and make this your volunteer day.