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67 Minutes: Celebrating Mandela Day

Close-up image of Nelson Mandela's face
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July 18 marks Mandela Day, and this year it also marks the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Every year on this day, people around the world are encouraged to spend 67 minutes—one minute for every year that Nelson Mandela promoted social justice and human rights—taking action in and serving their communities to inspire change.



The UN website for Mandela Day lists ways that anyone can honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy, from acts of service around your community to simply making a new friend:

  • Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background. Only through mutual understanding can we rid our communities of intolerance and xenophobia.
  • Read to someone who can’t. Visit a local home for the blind and open up a new world for someone else.
  • Help out at the local animal shelter. Dogs without homes still need a walk and a bit of love.
  • Help someone get a job. Put together and print a CV for them, or help them with their interview skills.
  • Many terminally ill people have no one to speak to. Take a little time to have a chat and bring some sunshine into their lives.
  • Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner to do so too.
  • Take someone you know, who can’t afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked.
  • Donate a wheelchair or guide dog, to someone in need.
  • Buy a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer need from home and give them to someone in need.

Our service members stationed around the world often find ways to contribute to their communities. Last year for Mandela Day, troops in South Africa joined the South African National Defense Force to volunteer at a local animal shelter to provide free exams and medical treatment to pets. Sgt. 1st Class Alexandra Hays writes, “U.S. and South African troops partnered with local animal shelter, Diere Forum Postmasburg, and set up a free, outdoor dog clinic for residents living in the shacks (shanties) of Postmasburg. Residents lined up for their dogs to receive free vaccinations, flea treatments, and de-worming medicine."

Observances like Mandela Day are a great opportunity to gather your peers and organize a community service event. When you are living, working, studying, or serving abroad, acts of service are a good way to connect to your local community. Even you don’t speak the local language, these acts can help you cross that divide and show a willingness to collaborate despite language barriers. Try to find a way to contribute to local causes, perhaps through an NGO or the U.S. Embassy.


Townscape of Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey