July 18 is Nelson Mandela Day – a great day to think about how you can volunteer to help others live a better life and make your community and our world a better place. On this day every year, around the world, thousands of like-minded people will aim to devote 67 minutes of time – one minute for every year of Mr. Mandela’s public service – to make a small gesture of caring with humanity and take a small step towards a global movement for good.
This year the themes of Mandela Day are food security; education and literacy; shelter and infrastructure; and service and volunteering. Paballo Ya Batho (Caring for People) which serves homeless and destitute people in the inner city of Johannesburg, South Africa, is hosting a Pop-Up Shop for Homeless People on Mandela Day within a park called Common Grounds. Homeless people will be able to shop for clothing, blankets and toiletries for free, but with the dignity and respect that every person deserves. About four hours away, the biker community of Bloemfontein is renovating the Thessa New Beginnings, an organization that provides alternative employment opportunity for vulnerable women trapped in poverty, abusive relationships, prostitution and other circumstances. These two volunteer activities are taking place in South Africa; hundreds more are occurring around the world.
You can celebrate Mandela Day too. Here are some ideas:
• Donate gently used children’s books to an after-school program. Ask if they have a reading program and sign up to read with a child on a regular basis.
• If you live in the U.S., see if there’s a VITA program in your community. Become trained to help low-income families file tax returns and receive the benefits they’re due.
•Invite an elderly friend to join you in your regular volunteer work. Volunteering is good for our mental and physical health, especially as we age.
Mandela once said, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.” Mandela Day is more than a celebration of this great man’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honor his life’s work and act to change the world for the better. Let’s get started today. LIVE UNITED.