Temple students join Mandela Day in South Africa

Posted: July 21, 2014

SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA - Norman Nobela, a 21-year-old Soweto resident, traveled a few blocks from home to pitch in at yesterday's Mandela Day of Service, an annual event similar to the Martin Luther King Day of Service in Philadelphia.

Working alongside him to spruce up the Emathonsini Old Age Home in the city's Moroka neighborhood were 11 students from Temple University who'd traveled about 8,000 miles farther.

The Temple student helpers included three from the Philly area: Janice Durrant of Hunting Park, Cambriae Bates from Southwest Philadelphia and Taylor Lumpkin from Lumberton, N.J.

Durrant said she found Mandela Day to be "so beautiful" because it attracts participants from all walks of life in South Africa, including the poorest of poor who "already have so little but get up to do something for someone else."

Nobela said he wanted to give back to his community. "You can give with your hands and that is what I am doing. . . . It's not all about giving money."

The national day of public service is held each year on Nelson Mandela's birthday. Yesterday's was especially poignant for the nation and its people because it was the first national day of service following Mandela's death in December.

The Emathonsini Home, which houses five elderly residents and eight young adults, receives no government or foundation funding, operating solely on donations, volunteer assistance and meager money from its founder, Ntombifuthi Mandlazi.

Mandlazi opened the home in 2011 as a day-care facility for the elderly. She soon transformed it into a residence for abandoned and abused elderly before expanding to help visually impaired young adults, some of whom are victims of abuse. One of her young adults is pregnant from a rape.

"God opened my eyes to help these [young adults] who are blind. I opened my home to help them go to school so they can be what they want to be," Mandlazi said.

"The government came by, saw what I was doing and promised me help, but nothing has come as yet. I receive donations from a [grocery chain] and have a little money from a rental home I own not far from here."

She said she was grateful for assistance from Nobela, a few neighbors and the Temple students.

South Jersey's Lumpkin said it was "inspirational" to see how much time and energy Mandlazi puts into caring for those she has brought into her home.

Mandela Day, established in 1995, requests just 67 minutes of public service: one minute for each year that Mandela devoted to public service, beginning with participation in a bus boycott in a black suburb of Johannesburg in the early 1940s.

"Mandela left us with a legacy of helping people who can't help themselves," Soweto resident Sindiswa Miaza told the students. "This is quite something that Mandela initiated. And what he did, he did for the youth. This is a legacy eternally."


Linn Washington Jr. is a Temple University journalism professor and former Daily News reporter. He is the director of the Temple School of Communications and Media 2014 South Africa Study Away Program. Next month, students from this summer's program will publish stories from their trip in the Daily News.

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