Jul 18 2011
by Twanda Wadlington
ETSU College of Public Health
Munsieville, South Africa
Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Tata. Happy Birthday to you. We love you Tata. We love you Tata. We love you dear Tata. Happy birthday to you. Happy Birthday Madiba!! Happy Birthday Madiba!! Happy Birthday to you!!! HIP HIP…HOORAY
Today millions of people sung Happy Birthday to Former South African President, Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday. Now known as Mandel Day, July 18 is an international holiday adopted by the United Nations. July 18 is more than just a day to celebrate the anti-apartheid heroic leader’s birthday; this day is a global movement to commemorate his life’s work and honor Mr. Mandela’s legacy through an act of kindness – 67minutes to be exact. Sixty-seven minutes represents the number of years Mr. Mandela dedicated to ensure equality for South Africa, from 1942 until his retirement from public service in 2009.
To celebrate Mandela Day, Megan Quinn and I had had the opportunity to volunteer our time in a small informal settlement near Randfontein, Gauteng. Along with our field supervisor, Ms. Betty Nkoana we had the opportunity to plant vegetables in a garden dedicated to the township and its people. Project Hope UK also donated soccer balls and soft toys to the local crèche (child care center) in that township.
Ms. Nkoana was also invited to speak during the program as an honored guest and representative of Project Hope UK by the Executive Mayor of the West Rand District Municipality, Councillor Mpho Nawa. Ms. Nkoana spoke about Project Hope UK’s intentions in the community, especially when dealing with orphaned and vulnerable children; and the potential changes that NGOs can contribute to the community. The program also included a campaign and demonstration of building “clean” and safe fires during the winter season. This campaign, Winter Clean Fires, is known as the “make fire like granny” method. It was implemented because air pollution is a major problem in South Africa, especially in more dense and low income communities, where individuals depend on coal for space heating and cooking as the most affordable means of energy. The “make fire granny” method is done by putting coal first, then paper, followed by wood and then lighting the fire. When the wood catches fire, put a handful of coal on top to ignite the coal at the bottom. During the demonstration, this method was found to emit less smoke, burn longer, save coal, and is much safer for human health than the traditional method of just burning coal in a tin can. Lastly, we ended the day by distributing parcels of food and cooking materials to citizens of the informal settlement.
It was truly amazing to see an entire community and country come together for a day of giving and kindness. I feel that Mandela Day has truly represented what the Frist Global Leaders Program aims to achieve through supporting scholars, such as Megan and I. I also look forward to finishing these last few weeks in South Africa by making a lasting impact on the Munsieville community through some the projects that are scheduled, such as the waste clean-up initiative in Little Mshenguville and the homestead gardens with the local grannies.