“Today is not a day for festivities, but a day of service, a day to inspire individuals, to take action, to help change the world for the better,” East Africa Peace Service Corps Program Director Dr. Tuesday Gichuki told eager volunteers at Kilimani Primary School in Nairobi on July, 18, Nelson Mandela International Day.
Across the continent, the Africa Peace Service Corps (APSC), Global Peace Foundation Kenya, Youth Association of Zambia, Etafeni Community Trust in Cape Town and Limpopo, South Africa and a host of partners honored the leadership of Nelson Mandela through various activities in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.
Celebrated annually on July 18, Mandela Day is a global call to action for individuals and organizations to volunteer 67 minutes of their time to public service—one minute for each year of the revered South African leader’s own remarkable service to humanity. Now 95, Mr. Mandela continues to receive treatment in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa from a recurring lung infection.
On July 18 in Nairobi, the Global Peace Foundation Kenya and its affiliate the East Africa Peace Service Corps joined the South African High Commission, the United Nations Office in Nairobi, the Kilimani Foundation, and other partners to observe Mandela Day at the Kilimani Primary School.
In coordination with the theme of this year’s observances, “Literacy, Shelter and Food Security,” partners planted 67 fruit trees, each tree symbolic of the 67 years Madiba committed his life to serve his country, and refurbished an old store through painting and converting it to a library.
Everyone planted a tree with the hopes that they would soon harvest the fruits of their efforts. After planting a mango tree, acting South African High commissioner Christian Kriek said with a big smile, “I will make sure to come back and check if my tree has produced any fruits and if so I will hold a very big party to celebrate it.” He also thanked the Global Peace Foundation for donating the trees and the fertile soil.
Kilimani Primary School was identified by the South African High Commission as a suitable venue for observing Mandela Day. The school has 1100 students, 95 percent from low income communities, and also has a special education center for around 100 children who are visually and physically impaired.
Kilimani students were excited to interact with the various organizations and volunteers. They gleefully sang a happy birthday song to Mr. Mandela and affirmed that this was a great day not only for Madiba but for Africans. “Despite anything and everything Mandela will still and always be the African icon!” one of them shouted as they gathered together.
In addition to tree planting, school classrooms and hallways were cleaned and re-painted, breathing new life into the school. “This gives a new and colorful picture to our school and we are really happy,” said one student, Anitah.
“On this day we celebrate Madiba's life by observing the ideals his life encapsulates: freedom, democracy and dignity for all. Madiba's leadership transcends all human boundaries, whether based on race, clan, ethnicity or religion.”
Participants later gathered in the school hall where invited guests and students spoke of Madiba and his life, and explained the relevance of this significant day. Kilimani students performed a traditional South African dance and recited poems. In a message read by Mr. Nasser Ega Musa, Director of United Nations Information Center in Nairobi, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, “The heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is good works for people and the planet. Its theme—‘take action, inspire change’—is meant to mobilize the family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.’
Dr. Gichuki reaffirmed the message by stating, “On this day we celebrate Madiba's life by observing the ideals his life encapsulates: freedom, democracy and dignity for all. Madiba's leadership transcends all human boundaries, whether based on race, clan, ethnicity or religion.”
Mr. Mandela's ideals are the embodiment of volunteerism and service to humanity and are the central pillars of the Africa Peace Service Corps, a visionary transnational program conceived during the Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development to encourage environmental awareness throughout the continent and a commitment to sustainable use of Africa’s rich natural resources.
As the activities at Kilimani Primary School concluded, participants of GPF’s high-school level Character and Creativity Initiative joined hands with teachers and students at Embakasi Girls to mark the day by planting 6 guava and 4 mango trees. The school deputy principal encouraged students to “cherish such a memorable day at a tender age and remember the values that Madiba echoes.”
Mandela Day also marked the launch of a project to plant some 6,700 trees in honor of Mr. Mandela’s 67 years of public service. The culmination of the initiative and formal inauguration of the Africa Peace Service Corps will take place on November 8, 2013 at the Global Peace Festival and Leadership Conference in Abuja, Nigeria.
Nelson Mandela is the only global citizen who has had the honor of his birthday being marked by the United Nations General Assembly.
"I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.