Mandela Day at Rhodes becomes a week-long celebration

By David Macgregor

RHODES University is clocking up the hours to keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive by doing more than 267 hours of community upliftment instead of the usual 67 minutes.

Started three years ago, Trading Live for Mandela Day has evolved into a week-long outreach that benefits local community organisations as well as university volunteers.

Vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela yesterday said he was deeply grateful to all students and staff who gave their time to contribute skills, knowledge and expertise to try and create a better Grahamstown for all.

“I know they are not doing this as an act of charity or an expression of goodwill intended to warm their heart and make them feel special.

“They are doing it as a public affirmation and acknowledgement of our common bond of humanness with a shared destiny.”

According to Mabizela, South Africans needed to work together to make every day a Mandela Day instead of just doing 67 minutes of community outreach on his July 18 birthday.

Activities include everything from painting school roofs, exercising with the elderly, telling stories to the youth, teaching selfdefence to the vulnerable, learning how to grow vegetables, career guidance and community clean-ups.

Paula Israel, a youth coordinator and life skills facilitator with the Oasis Rainbow Kidz project in Vergenoeg, said the Trading Live for Mandela Day helped everyone involved.

“It is a brilliant idea that brings everyone out of their comfort zone … at the end of the day everybody walks away a winner.”

Israel said the hour spent telling stories to pre-school kids yesterday helped guide them in the right direction later in life – and put a smile on their faces at the same time.

Rhodes University community engagement director Di Hornby said they were trying to build on the central objectives of Mandela Day – “to take action, to change the world for the better and to build a global movement for good”.

“The purpose of the five days is to share the rich pool of capabilities, knowledge and skills we have across Grahamstown, building interpersonal relationships between the diverse members of our community and forming partnerships across town.”

She said for many years economically deprived communities had not been recognised and valued, leading to the establishment of development programmes without consulting locals to see what existed in the way of capabilities and assets.

“This is undermining and serves to weaken people. Communities have assets and this should give them agency to work as an equal partner with anyone interested in development initiatives.”

According to Hornby, the university could not “operate in bubbles of comfort”.

“The time has come to be willing to engage, to meet and get to know people who have different life experiences to you.

“If we are serious about building a new, more inclusive society, we can only do this through relationships.” —

PAY IT FORWARD: 72-year-old Grace Ngcete leads children and the elderly in song and dance routines during the Trading Live for Mandela Day initiative set up by Rhodes University Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR



Source:  The Daily Dispatch

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