UN: Can you spare 67 minutes to take action on Nelson Mandela Day?

17 July 2014 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be among citizens around the world who will be volunteering 67 minutes of their time on Friday, Nelson Mandela Day, to make a small gesture in solidarity with humanity – one minute for every year of the South African leader’s public service.

The UN General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in 2009 in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to democracy, justice and reconciliation.

The overall campaign slogan is: “Take Action, Inspire Change.” And this year is the first commemoration after Mr. Mandela’s passing last December at the age of 95.

The overarching objective is to inspire individuals to take action and, in so doing, empower entire communities and build a global movement for good.

In the past, volunteers have helped to rebuild homes destroyed by hurricane Sandy in the New York, offered school supplies to children, prepared meals for the elderly, helped out in orphanages, cleaned up parks, and delivered computer literacy workshops.

What can you do this year?

Ideas are many and range from getting to know someone from a different cultural background to ridding communities of intolerance and xenophobia; read to someone who can’t – visit a home for the blind and open up a new world for someone else; help out at the local animal shelter; take a little time to have a chat to someone who is terminally ill and bring some sunshine into their lives; take someone you know, who cannot afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked; donate a wheelchair or guide dog, to someone in need. The list goes on.

In New York City this year, the Secretary-General, together with staff, diplomats and the organization MillionTreesNYC – and joined by Mr. Mandela’s grandson, Kweku – will be among those volunteering their time and getting their hands dirty by pulling weeds, putting down mulch and watering tree beds to help take care of newly planted trees on the streets of Midtown Manhattan and East Harlem.

At UN Headquarters, the General Assembly will mark the Day with an informal meeting on Friday, honouring the South African leader's contributions to democracy, justice and reconciliation.

The campaign is active on social media as well. On #67minutes, you can see the actions being planned such as volunteers in South Africa and around the world for Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds and repairs homes for millions of people across the globe.

In his message this year, the Secretary-General says: “Apartheid is gone – thanks to Nelson Mandela, countless other individuals and the proud actions of the United Nations.

Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon's video message on Nelson Mandela Day. Credit: UN WebTV

“But our planet and its people still face terrible threats – poverty, discrimination, climate change, conflict and more,” he says. “Nelson Mandela Day is a call to action. Each of us can celebrate this Day by helping to address real problems in our communities. Together we can give great meaning to our celebration by paving the way for a better future.”

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