Happy birthday Nelson Mandela! This world leader and activist turns 93 today, and in celebration and thanks for all the work he has done in Africa and around the world, the U.N. has declared this day Nelson Mandela International Day.
Today, nations around the world are encouraged to participate in just 67 minutes of community service, as a small gift of appreciation to the man who has spent 67 years giving and helping others.
In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day in remembrance of the Democracy icon's tireless work for peace and independence.
The theme of this day, Take Action! Inspire Change, is meant as a call to service.
In New York's Central Park, South Africa's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Doc Mashabane is planning to paint park benches with the help of other volunteers.
Throughout South Africa, the Bikers for Mandela Day focuses on spreading Nelson Mandela's legacy. Bikers will make their way around South Africa to inspire community service everywhere they visit and to help make a change in other's lives. This is only one of the many activities happening around South Africa today and in the days to come.
In South Africa, schoolchildren sang Happy Birthday to their country's former leader, and at U.N. Headquarters in New York, visitors can make their pledge to 67 minutes of service in an open message that will be sent to Mandela.
Today is not a holiday in the traditional sense- it is not a day for us to sit back and look at what we have accomplished, but rater it is a day to get busy doing even more, knowing that our call to service is never complete.
Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Because of his work, he was arrested in 1962, convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison. After serving 27 years , he was released in 1990 and led the South Africa to create its first multi-racial democracy in 1994. That same year, he was elected president by the first fully representative democratic election. He served as president untill 1999, and has since been the face of democracy, peace and freedom in Africa. Mandela has received over 250 awards in his life, the most notable being the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime.
Tonight, the annual Ubuntu Gala Dinner will be held in Cape Town, as an ongoing celebration for the icon of Ubuntu, the African notion of giving to others. The event will celebrate Mandela's embodiment of Ubuntu to leaders and nations all over the world.
Do your 67 minutes of service today:
-Donate old clothes and blankets, shoes and bedding. Give food to a food kitchen or household goods to a homeless shelter.
-Coach a community sports team.
-Give gently used books to your local library.
-Take someone you know, who can't afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked.
-Help someone get a job.
-Mow an elderly neighbor's lawn and help them to fix things around their house.
-Get in touch with your local HIV organizations and find out how you can help.
-Volunteer at your child's school, at a soup kitchen, a fire house, a nearby park; there is never an end to the people you can help.
To learn more about Nelson Mandela International Day and his foundation, check out his Facebook page, or visit http://www.nelsonmandela.org/index.php/foundation/vision-and-mission/
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