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By Fatima Kazee, mum to a professor, a super hero and ‎a little princess.  Part-time wife to a fanatical fisherman. She’s addicted to sneakers &  is an invaluable member of the Jozikids and Kznkids team

Mandela Day is a day to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former President, and his values, through volunteering and community service. (Wikipedia)  And South Africans have over the past few years used the opportunity to its fullest.   Personalities, schools, NPO’s and corporates are usually out in full force doing their bit every 18th July.

So what happens after those 67 minutes or after that day?  This reminds me a lot of the month of Ramadaan, which I and millions of Muslims around the world observe every year.  This month isn’t only about fasting and disciplining ourselves but a big part of it is showing compassion for others and doing more charitable acts throughout the month.  This isn’t to say we aren’t meant to do them every other month but Ramadaan brings more blessings for those who do good.  And so each year my family and I pack hampers of food items for disadvantaged people and hand them out one Sunday of the month.

And each year I have the same thoughts.  It’s great that we can do this for people who are in dire need of basic food necessities but how long does that actually last?  Maybe 2 or 3 weeks at most.  Perhaps we need to look at more sustainable things to do for people such as solar power on small scales, vegetable gardens, libraries and start-ups of little businesses for women.  I guess some of the kids also don’t receive much help academically so reading with them could help too.

And I say “I guess” because in all these years I haven’t made any effort to engage with any of the people that receive the hampers.  There’s no real interaction, we meet them, standing in lines waiting for their hand-outs.  We hand over, shake hands and smile and that’s usually the end of it, moving on to the next township.  Our kids are with us so that they can learn about the spirit of giving – and that would be all they learn.  (Side note:  we all arrive in our shiny cars, kicking up dust in a huff and puff and then disappear back to our cosy suburban lives)

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I decided this year that I would continue to meet with some of the ladies on a monthly basis if possible so that we can get to know each other.  There are many friends of mine that I’ve now spoken to that would love to join in.  And a lot of us have various skills such as teaching, gardening (unless you want to kill the plants, I’d suggest not getting me involved with this), baking and cleaning.  Even if it meant us going in and helping to clean some of the community centres we meet at, giving a fresh paint and stocking up on basics, it’s a start.  And that’s hopefully where great things can begin.

So let’s make this Mandela Day the start of ongoing initiatives that are sustainable, that render good friendships between unlikely friends and that make a lasting difference – because then we can truly feel the spirit of Mandela and his great actions.

Click here to find a list of children’s charities that need your help in Gauteng and here in KZN

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