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Mandela: Lasting legacy for African children

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ON December 5, 2013 the whole world was thrown into mourning and celebrating the iconic life of one greatest leader in the world, Nelson Mandela. Memorials were held the world over, candles were lit in houses, churches, monasteries and even at work places bidding farewell Tata Madhiba, but a lasting legacy that will remain, grow and mature is the invaluable contribution Mandela made to the children of Africa.

Fredrick Rafomoyo

In 1995, Mandela stopped to talk to street children in Cape Town, and was inspired to found an organisation. He remarked: “We were driving back to the Presidency in Cape Town one cold winter’s evening, when I saw a group of street children and stopped to talk to them.

“The children asked me why I love them. This astounded me, and I asked them why they asked this, and they said that because every time I get money from overseas, I share it with them.”

Mandela went on to found the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and it was the first charity organisation he set up.

Upon founding the organisation, he pledged to donate one third of his salary to the fund, and began fundraising.

The love and passion for children was one of the hallmarks of the Madiba Magic which has changed the fortunes of several children who were once forgotten, marginalised and most disparagingly stigmatised.

Commenting on the development of communities Mandela once said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.

He devoted much of his remaining energy to the development of child friendly South Africa and Africa as a whole.

Although he was a Statesman he had time for children. In their tribute to Mandela the Children’s Fund had this to say “Even in power, the thoughts of the powerless never escaped him. Within a year of taking political office, the defenceless, voiceless and youngest members of our society, the children, were also honoured by Madiba, with the establishment of their own platform in the form of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund” The Fund was set up in order to nurture, motivate and care for the future of children and youth.

The fund supports organisations implementing programmes and projects that empower children and youth from impoverished backgrounds to improve the quality of their lives.

Although the organisation continues to assist young homeless people and those living in poverty, the fund now focuses on the underprivileged, orphans of the Aids crisis, those affected by HIV and Aids, and “child-headed households” in South Africa.

The relevance of this shift is that the children should not suffer alone, but have someone to lean on in any situation they are vulnerable. The Fund’s approach to development aims at giving voice and dignity to the African child through children’s-rights based movement

Mandela had a dream and it came true for the children of Southern Africa; making world-class healthcare available to the children of Southern Africa through a state-of-the-art facility. In all efforts and fundraising the Mandela Children’s Hospital was built and children, can access quality health care.

Apart from looking at the livelihoods of children Mandela was also working towards the intellectual development of Children.

He at one point said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In his personal encouragement to children the accomplished lawyer and Statesman said: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a country.”

In response to the academic and leadership dearth, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation was found in 2003 this gave underprivileged children room to pursue their studies to unprecedented heights. It also focuses on training future leaders for Africa.

We are personally challenged by such strides that we can in our communities make a difference to the children we see everyday suffering and languishing in poverty.

It is not being a president or a millionaire, but it is the love that we have. Remember Jairos Jiri was just an ordinary man, but changed the lives of many people in Zimbabwe.

Mandela would always say: “We owe our children — the most vulnerable citizens in any society — a life free from violence and fear.”

Let us, therefore, work towards the development of life free of violence and fear for the children to excel and safeguard our national pride.

Fredrick Rafomoyo is communications officer for the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children. Views expressed in this article are personal.

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