Mandela Day Launch with volunteer exhibitions targeting youth

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The Nelson Mandela Foundation launches the 2018 Mandela Day centenary campaign at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on Monday. The campaign serves as the launch of a global initiative that is not only a tribute to the former statesman, but also a countdown to his centenary celebrations of his birthday.

The Mandela Day Launch featured a number of volunteer organisations exhibiting their work. The exhibitions largely share a similar drive in their volunteerism and social change—it must be targeted and often times led by youth.

SHOUT for a Safer South Africa places a brightly coloured miniature library at its centre.

SHOUT utilises the funds from song sales to build SHOUT style libraries. SHOUT Chairman Gavin Koppel says the libraries are specifically built in the most impoverished places in South Africa.

“We became warriors and soldiers of peace and education” said Koppel.

The Vision Mission exhibition featured nearby provided eye tests to spectators. It is the result of collaboration between the South African Optometric Association and Ster-Kinekor Theatres.

Their target age groups are learners and school age people and all the volunteers are trained optometrists.

Fikile Makhoba, one of the optometrist volunteers, is self-employed and finds the volunteer work important.

“We’re able to screen people who’ve never been tested before,” said Makhoba.

“Because you’ve never been to an eye test, because you don’t know how other people see, you wouldn’t necessarily complain and say ‘oh I think I got a problem with my eyes’.”

Geraldine Engelman, head of the Corporate Social Investment (CSI), Wellness and Transformation at Ster-Kinekor Theatres shares that Vision Mission has been highly impactful over time.

“We have so far screened about over 300,000 children all over the country since 2005, provided spectacles to about almost 14,000 children, we’ve done about 8 corneal transplants…it’s an annual project that we do and it’s all around the country.”

Volunteer Mogashame’s love for children is what prompts her volunteerism and that is why she works for “Read to Lead” – a reading campaign by the Department of Basic Education. The campaign is important to her because “children in rural areas, townships are not exposed [to reading]” said Mogashame.

Volunteer Koketso Mogashame stands before a “Read to Lead” poster.

Other exhibitions were lighter hearted like “Choices”, a product of the Align-Ed Network.

The Choices Board Game targets high school students with the aim of discussing the consequences of making right and wrong decisions in life decided by a roll of the dice.

Member of the Operation Team for the Choice Board Game, Pat Anderson, taught visitors at the booth how the game worked. Their group targets any and all high schools and their students, said Anderson.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Community Engagement program stood out in orange. According the University of Johannesburg website, Community Engagement provides academic credit for students, “in the form of service learning and community-based research”.

A Community Engagement Specialist, Lebogang Mawelela, professes that, “at UJ Mandela Day is an institutional event…it’s not about 67 minutes, every day is Mandela Day.”

A learner signs up to learn more information.

Mawelela values the impact not just for UJ students but also the communities they impact—especially the youth.

“They benefit from seeing community engagement as a lifestyle.”

Lebogang Mawelela speaking on the work of UJ Community Engagement.