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The Suburbanite
  • People around world do good for Mandela’s birthday

  • Nelson Mandela’s fans celebrated the anti-apartheid icon’s 91st birthday Saturday by emulating him with good deeds, reading to the blind, distributing blankets to the homeless or refurbishing homes for AIDS orphans.

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  • Nelson Mandela’s fans celebrated the anti-apartheid icon’s 91st birthday Saturday by emulating him with good deeds, reading to the blind, distributing blankets to the homeless or refurbishing homes for AIDS orphans.
    Mandela has called on people to spend time doing good Saturday, the first Mandela Day, which his charity foundations hope will be an annual event.
    In South Africa, people are collecting clothing for poor children, painting schools, planting trees near Mandela’s boyhood home in eastern South Africa, and renovating a building in downtown Johannesburg for people left homeless by a fire.
    Mandela stepped down after serving one term as president — the first black South African to hold the post. Since 1999, he has devoted himself to such causes as fighting AIDS and poverty and championing the rights of children.
    At a Mandela Day concert in New York on Saturday, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin and others are to perform for the benefit of Mandela’s AIDS foundation.
    In Johannesburg, nurse Thandiwe Gwinza went straight from night shift at a hospital to volunteer at a soup kitchen Saturday.
    “This morning what I have done for 67 minutes, I have helped the community making soup,” she said. “I have made soup for the people and I have given them my old clothes.”
    Mandela Day organizers encouraged people to devote at least a minute for each of the 67 years Mandela campaigned against apartheid to community service
    The regular volunteers at a Johannesburg animal shelter called CLAW sang “Happy Birthday” for Mandela before getting to work Saturday. Children from poor communities volunteer to care for and walk the dogs at CLAW’s shelter, and adults donate time to help the children with their school work.
    “I think volunteering 67 minutes should be a start, but it should really be more of a way of life,” said Cora Bailey, who runs CLAW. “That’s the only way we are going to go forward.”
    Many of the projects celebrating Mandela Day in South Africa underlined how much work remains to be done in a country proud of ending apartheid peacefully, but plagued by poverty, stubborn inequalities, and AIDS — some 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV last year — more than in any other country in the world.
    President Jacob Zuma, the current leader of Mandela’s African National Congress party, paid a birthday visit to Mandela at his home in Johannesburg, then went to a poor neighborhood in the city to visit with elderly South Africans at a lunch organized for Mandela Day.
    In a speech televised live on national television from the lunch, Zuma lauded elderly citizens caring for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS and the charity groups that help them and other vulnerable South Africans.
    Page 2 of 2 - Zuma said Mandela taught the nation “reconciliation and forgiveness and we learned from him that you achieve personal freedom and inner peace if you release hatred and bitterness from your heart.
    “In honor of Madiba and other illustrious leaders who charted the way toward a nonracial democratic South Africa we continue to work toward a nation united in diversity and a shared goal of a better life for all,” he said.
    Helen Zille, leader of the ANC’s main opponent, the Democratic Alliance, served at a soup kitchen in Cape Town.
    “Former President Mandela dedicated his life to bettering the lives of all South Africans reflecting true leadership,” Zille’s party said in a statement. “We will honor him by continuously striving to do the same.”
    In recent years, Mandela has stressed that if his legacy is to live, others must take up his causes. His Mandela Foundation, which houses some of his archives and supports community building projects, has switched from a logo featuring his face to one featuring his hands, reflecting his desire to shift the focus from himself to the work ahead.
    “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it,” Mandela said in a message endorsing Mandela Day. “Our struggle for freedom and justice was a collective effort. Mandela Day is no different.”