Madiba warms rainy UK

Slate-grey skies and ceaseless rain did nothing to stop Britons from pledging 67 minutes to helping others on Wednesday.  International Nelson Mandela Day may not have drawn as much attention as the London Olympics this year, but it still made a difference to people.

Amy Lafferty is a South African living in London and she gave her time by focusing on work she does with the Cheka School in Tanzania (<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheka-School/ 160418537347033">facebook.com/pages/Cheka-School/ 160418537347033</a>).  

"It was Mandela who said 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world' and I used my time on Mandela Day to promote the school as much as possible on social media and to organise the entrance exams for some of our ex-students to an English medium school," says Lafferty.

For her the day represents an important part of her heritage and is something she wants to celebrate no matter where she is in the world. "It gives me a sense of patriotism and unity, the idea that South Africans are pulling in one direction for change and good. It is a fantastic feeling."

The day was not only being supported by South Africans living abroad; many Britons have adopted what it represents.


<strong>Global appeal</strong>
Martha Macdonald, a mother of two, says: "I love the idea behind Mandela Day and I've taken part ever since I first heard about it. I live in a very small community here and I use those 67 minutes to volunteer my help. I also take my children with me so that they can learn about how important it is to reach out and make a difference."

This year Macdonald used Do-It (<a href="http://www.do-it.org.uk" target="_blank">do-it.org.uk</a>) to find volunteering opportunities in her area and ended up helping to lead ponies so that disabled people could enjoy the experience of riding.

"It was incredible," she says, "and [something] that I plan on doing again, not next year when Mandela Day comes around, but next month."

Another Briton with a passion for the philosophy behind Mandela Day is Susan Whitford, a 67-year-old retiree living in Brighton. "I have followed the great man's life for many years and I think that the idea behind Mandela Day is one that should be carried around every day," she says.

"I try to make a difference whenever I can, but this year I spent my 67 minutes cleaning up the beach. I picked up some plastic bags, a pooper scoop and some friends, and we marched along the beach removing every last ounce of rubbish. Now families and holiday-makers can visit our patch of shoreline without worrying about standing on a broken bottle or sitting on something unpleasant."

<strong>Proudly South African</strong>
Amy Mabin decided to inspire her co-workers and complete strangers by dressing up in a panda suit and marching about Canary Wharf, encouraging passers-by to take part in the Mandela Day celebrations.  Mabin, a digital account manager at Ogilvy Public Relations, lives in southeast London and Mandela Day is something that makes her proud to be a South African.

"When I was living in Cape Town, I celebrated Mandela Day, so why not celebrate in London?" she asks, "Mandela not only changed South Africa for me personally so I could grow up feeling proud of my country, but he set an example of courage, leadership and humility."

In addition to wearing a panda suit on Canary Wharf, Mabin did pro bono work around the Nelson Mandela Day Pledge (mandeladaypledge.org), which encouraged the public to write him a message on the site. These messages were then turned into a book and delivered to him in South Africa.

"It made me feel happy, emotional and proud," she says, "It did make me miss home, but instead of being sad I celebrated in my home away from home! This is how Mandela's legacy should live on, in doing good for others."

<strong>Tamsin Oxford is a freelance journalist who lives near Brighton in the United Kingdom, and is counting the days until she comes back to South Africa in December</strong>

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