Today we should all ask ourselves: What have I done to improve the surroundings in which I live? Do I litter or do I protect my surroundings? Do I buy stolen goods or do I help reduce crime? - Nelson Mandela

Take Action! Inspire Change!

As Mandela said: It is in your hands to make of the world a better place. And so, every year on Mandela Day, we ask people around the world to take action and inspire change by making a difference in their communities.

If you would like to donate your own time to public service, here are some things you can do to take action and inspire change:

  • 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.
Visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation for more actionable ideas >>

The UN Takes Action — NYC

UN staff around the world made a difference through a variety of activities in the past: rebuilding homes; offering school supplies to children; preparing meals for the elderly; helping out in orphanages; cleaning up parks; and delivering computer literacy workshops.

Here is a list of select past activities in NYC & Geneva:


In 2019, volunteers from among UN staff and the diplomatic community traveled to the Brownsville Community Culinary Center, Brooklyn. UN volunteers participated in the preparation of food to be served to community members and connected in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s ideals of service.


2018 marks 100 years since the birth of Mandela. Events held to celebrate Mandela's legacy include: an exhibit honouring Mandela’s contributions; a book launch with editor Sahm Venter and Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela; and The Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.


UN staff in New York partnered with the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, NYC Service and the Randall’s Island Park Alliance to help keep the harbor healthy by cleaning the shorelines of litter and invasive plants.


UN staff in New York helped women in need receive professional clothing donations, career counselling, child care, and nutritious meals, in volunteer activities organized by the UN Department of Public Information and supported by UN Women.


UN staff volunteers in New York, partnered with GreenThumb, East New York Farms, and the UN Food Garden, to plant seedlings, pull weeds, and water plant beds in community gardens across the city.

In Geneva, the Permanent Mission of South Africa and Serve the City Geneva mobilized volunteers to help the poor and marginalized in the city.


UN staff in New York, joined by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and in partnership with MillionTreesNYC, volunteered their time and got their hands dirty 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.


UN staff in New York helped rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.


NYC UN staff volunteered at the Bowery Mission, preparing and serving food to homeless men and women.


See what visitors pledged at the 2011 Nelson Mandela International Day interactive exhibit at UN Headquarters in New York.