Mandela Day …

I did not realize that today is Mandela Day, until I was skimming my e-mail late this afternoon and came across this one from the Obama Foundation …

Obama-foundation-logo

Hi Jill,

Ten years ago today, the world celebrated the first-ever Mandela Day, on Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday. Mandela himself was honored, but he emphasized that the day should not be a holiday to recognize him, but a day devoted to service. “Our struggle for freedom and justice was a collective effort,” he said. “Mandela Day is no different.”

Now, ten years later, I’m asking you to take part in another collective effort—to dedicate your time toward improving your own community.Obama-MandelaNo gesture is too small; no act of service too modest. Whether you donate books to your local library, volunteer at a shelter, or commit to mentoring someone in your neighborhood, every action is a step toward building a more gracious, more generous world. That is the world Mandela himself sought to build.

Earlier this week, the Obama Foundation convened 200 of Africa’s best and brightest young leaders in Mandela’s home country of South Africa to help them sharpen their skills, share their hopes and ideas, and build a network that can help chart the future of the continent. But before they left our Leaders: Africa convening, they gathered together to volunteer at a nearby primary school.

They didn’t sign their names on murals or stand idly by, waiting for recognition—these leaders simply gave their time in service. It’s the kind of example that true leadership demands. And I can think of no one who better defines that spirit of leadership than Madiba himself.

So this Mandela Day, commit some time to making a difference in your community. But don’t do it for yourself or even just to recognize him; do it because it’ll make our world better.

Thanks,

Barack Obama

Mandela-1Nelson Mandela International Day aka Mandela Day, is an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.

The Mandela Day campaign message, according to a statement issued on Mandela’s behalf is:

  • Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.
  • We would be honoured if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation and cultural diversity.

A little bit about Nelson Mandela.

By the time of his death, within South Africa Mandela was widely considered both “the father of the nation” and “the founding father of democracy”.  Outside of South Africa, he was a global icon, with the scholar of South African studies Rita Barnard describing him as “one of the most revered figures of our time”.

When some attempted to portray Mandela as a modern-day messiah, his response was …

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

gandhi-king-mandelaHe is often cited alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the 20th century’s exemplary anti-racist and anti-colonial leaders.  Mandela’s international fame had emerged during his incarceration in the 1980s, when he became the world’s most famous prisoner, a symbol of the anti-apartheid cause, and an icon for millions who embraced the ideal of human equality. In 1986, Mandela’s biographer characterized him as “the embodiment of the struggle for liberation” in South Africa.

Mandela generated controversy throughout his career as an activist and politician, having detractors on both the right and the radical left. During the 1980s, Mandela was widely labelled a terrorist by prominent political figures in the Western world for his embrace of political violence. According to the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, for instance, the ANC was “a typical terrorist organisation”. The US government’s State and Defense departments officially designated the African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization, resulting in Mandela remaining on their terrorism watch-list until 2008.

In the words of South African historian/biographer Bill Freund …

“The significance of Mandela can be considered in two related ways. First, he has provided through his personal presence as a benign and honest conviction politician, skilled at exerting power but not obsessed with it to the point of view of excluding principles, a man who struggled to display respect to all … Second, in so doing he was able to be a hero and a symbol to an array of otherwise unlikely mates through his ability, like all brilliant nationalist politicians, to speak to very different audiences effectively at once.”

Mandela-2Like Gandhi, King, and a handful of others, Nelson Mandela left the world a little bit better place than he found it.  This is something few of us will achieve, but that we should all strive for.Mandela Day

Ubuntu

A week or so ago, our friend David mentioned that he had discovered a new word, ‘Ubuntu’, and that it was a beautiful philosophy from Africa. Today, David writes about Ubuntu, a philosophy of humanity, and he does so far more eloquently than I could have done, so I am sharing his words with you. I have a few thoughts of my own on Ubuntu, and will put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in a few days. Thank you, David, for sharing with us your gracious words, as well as your own philosophy of Hugs!

The BUTHIDARS

President Barack Obama said at the funeral of Nelson Mandela :-

There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

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♫ No Easy Walk To Freedom ♫

I actually had another song scheduled to play this morning, until an email from friend Ellen made this suggestion.  I wish I had thought of it yesterday, for it would have been the perfect song to play for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but hey … better to be a day late than not at all, right?

This is the title song of a 1986 studio album by American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Its release coincided with the group’s 25th anniversary. Produced by John McClure and Peter Yarrow, the album was nominated in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.

The album was their first in almost nine years, and this title song was actually written for Nelson Mandela.  The group sought to connect the causes of Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.  A few years later, Peter, Paul and Mary would perform No Easy Walk to Freedom at an event in Tokyo honoring Mandela shortly after his release from prison.

No Easy Walk to Freedom
Peter, Paul and Mary

Brother Martin was walkin with me
And every step I heard liberty
Tho he’s fallin’, come a million behind!
Glory, Hallelujah, gonna make it this time!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Across the ocean, the blood’s running warm
I, I hear it coming, there’s a thunderin’ storm
Just like we lived it, you know that it’s true
Nelson Mandela, now we’re walkin’ with you!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

In our land, not so long ago,
We lived the struggle, and that’s how we know
Slavery abolished, comin’ freedom’s call
Keep on walking and apartheid will fall!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Oh, bread for the body, there’s got to be
But a soul will die without liberty
Pray for the day when the struggle is past!
Freedom for all! Free at last! Free at last!

You and me!

Songwriters: Peter Yarrow / Tabankim Margery
No Easy Walk to Freedom lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

♫ I Just Called To Say ‘I Love You’ ♫

Yes, I know … I’ve played several by Stevie Wonder in the past few months, but … he is ‘Da Man’ … I love his music, admire and respect him as a person, and … well, it just doesn’t get any better, at least for me.

Stevie Wonder wrote, produced, and performed this one.  For a man who has been blind since birth, his talents constantly amaze me.  This song, I Just Called To Say I Love You, has topped a record on 19 charts, and remains his best-selling single to date.

There was a dispute among Wonder, his former writing partner Lee Garrett, and Lloyd Chiate as to who actually wrote the song. Chiate claimed in a lawsuit that he and Garrett wrote the song years before its 1984 release; however, a jury ultimately sided with Wonder.  In his testimony, Wonder said …

“I had the melody and the lyric that I had for the chorus, and I imagined in my mind when hearing the chords that The Beatles were singing with me. And that idea and feeling is what inspired me to use the vocoder, when I heard about the vocoder. And I always imagined myself and The Beatles singing that. It was in 1980 I believe, or ’81 when John Lennon was killed, that I knew that the dream would never be fulfilled.”

When the song won the Academy Award in 1984, Wonder said in his speech, “I would like to accept this award in the name of Nelson Mandela.” The next day, the South African government banned his music, as Mandela was considered an enemy of the state, imprisoned since 1962. This drew a lot of attention to Mandela and his fight against apartheid in that country; later in 1985, a collective of musicians called Artists United Against Apartheid released the song Sun City, taking a stand against entertainers who performed at the popular resort in South Africa. Wonder, energized by the ban, spoke out in interviews and included the song “It’s Wrong (Apartheid)” on his next album, In Square Circle.

The movement culminated in the 1988 Free Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley Stadium in London, where Sting, Peter Gabriel, Whitney Houston and a host of other stars performed on his behalf. Wonder opened his set with I Just Called To Say I Love You.

I could watch and listen to this guy all night … he has something special …

I Just Called To Say I Love You

Stevie Wonder

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring
No song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day

No April rain
No flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No summer’s high
No warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun
No Halloween
No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring
But what it is, though old so new
To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart,
of my heart

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart,
baby of my heart

Writer/s: STEVIE WONDER
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Good People Doing Good Things — SOS Children’s Villages

I quite literally stumbled upon this week’s Good People.  I was reading a bit about Stephen Hawking. Science not being even remotely a strong suit of mine, I did not know very much about the late Stephen Hawking.  I knew that he was an incredibly brilliant scientist with a lot of letters behind his name who was revered in the scientific community.  Last year when I lost a friend, Brian, to ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, I discovered that was also Hawking’s disability.  Otherwise, I knew very little about Mr. Hawking and wanted to learn a bit more.  When Mr. Hawking died last month, I considered writing a post honouring him, but in the end I felt that was better left to others, given my limited knowledge.As I read, I came to discover that Mr. Hawking was actually quite a philanthropist, having set up his own charity, Total Giving, The Stephen Hawking Foundation, but also contributing to a number of other very worthy causes.  One of those causes caught my eye and, as so often happens with my bouncy mind, I was diverted to it and needed to know more.  After a few minutes, I knew I had my ‘Good People’ for this week.

The organization is worldwide and has been around since 1949.  It is called SOS Children’s Villages, and what these people do is amazing!  Their mission statement:

SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and  secure family environment where basic needs for food, health, shelter, and education are met.

SOS Children’s Villages creates opportunities for children to become responsible, contributing members of society by providing Villages and community support where stable, nurturing homes exist to meet family, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of children.

In a nutshell, SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and secure family environment where all their needs from food, health, shelter, and education are met. But it’s important to note that they do not merely run orphanages, but instead they establish actual villages.

“We have over 571 SOS Villages around the world. These villages are complete with homes and community centers and either onsite or access to medical facilities, school and playgrounds for our children to grow up in a safe and supportive community.”

They even help families who are struggling to stay together.

“We believe that every child deserves a loving home. We strengthen families at risk of falling apart with the support they need to grow stronger and stay together.”

But when families, for one reason or another cannot stay together,  the children are still part of a family.

“When children cannot stay with their family or have no family, we give them a safe home, together with their siblings, where they can grow up in one of our SOS families. Each home is headed by a trained caregiver, an SOS Mother, who raises each child with the individual care and attention they need.

We support our children until they are ready to support themselves. We offer our children the skills and education they need to become fully independent adults. And although they grow up and become self-sufficient, they will always have their SOS family.

We focus on what each individual child needs. Because each child grows up in a family environment, we get to know each child as an individual, and we work with them to create a personalized plan for their development.

Let’s take a look at just a few of their more recent stories:Tulela, age 11, Pius, age 7, and Veila, age 3 were removed from an abusive home in Ondangwa, Namibia.  Their single mother was an alcoholic who frequently left the three children home alone with no food in the house.  Other times, she left them with their blind grandmother.  When she returned home drunk, she often physically abused the children.  To protect the siblings from further abuse and neglect, and with no other relative to look after them, they were placed in a loving SOS family. The SOS Children’s Village does not separate siblings so Tulela and the two boys went to the same house with SOS mother Penny as the caregiver.  It took time, of course, for the children to adjust, but today they are happy kids.

“I also likes going to school. And that our house is always clean. I help my SOS mother with house chores when I am not in school. When I grow up I want to be a teacher. My new mother understood what I was going through and she would encourage me all the time. I felt safe in my new family. My brothers and I are receiving better care here.” – Tulela

 

Marco Paulo Monteiro was four-years-old in 1990 when his biological parents were no longer able to care for him and the SOS Children’s Village Assomada, in Cape Verde became his home. “It was a like a new world for me.  But step by step, I started to integrate and play with the other children. The environment was really loving. I have few memories [of first arriving at the Village], but I can remember my mother, the way she took care of me and my SOS brothers too. She was dedicated to giving us a warm upbringing.”

Today, Marco is 32 and has three children of his own.  But that’s not all, for Marco is giving back and is a national youth leader at SOS Children’s Villages Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa.  “Working as a national youth leader is a way to repay what SOS has done for me. I don’t think it’s enough, but for me it’s an opportunity to thank SOS for all the things they have done for me.” Today, Marco Paulo still has a strong relationship with his SOS mother, who is now retired, regularly visiting and calling her.

 

SOS Children’s Villages operate in 135 countries and territories around the world.  They are on the job wherever children are endangered and without a family.As many as 800,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh between August 2017 and March 2018, living in makeshift camps with limited resources. SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh has opened five child care spaces to provide care and protection for refugee children in the Cox’s Bazar district.

The child care spaces serve as a hub for:

  • Providing for an estimated 300 children ages three to twelve every day. These facilities offer a safe place for children to play and have access to informal education.
  • Ensuring that the children are provided a balanced diet, nutritional screening and hygiene.
  • Offering support in trauma healing, primary health care, and referral services for specialised medical care.
  • Working with caregivers to provide training in positive parenting.

According to Ghulam Ishaque, National Director of SOS Children´s Villages Bangladesh. “Some 500,000 of the refugee population are children and about 40,000 are registered as being unaccompanied.”In addition to providing safe, loving homes for children, SOS Children’s Villages also maintain medical centers, schools and emergency relief centers in the countries in which they operate.  There are so many wonderful success stories on their website that I urge you to take a look.

In addition to the aforementioned Stephen Hawking, many other notables have supported this very worthy cause, including Angelina Jolie, Reba McIntyre, June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, Nelson Mandela, Susan Sarandon and Leonardo DiCaprio, to name only a few.

I typically highlight individuals who are going above and beyond to do good things for humans, wildlife or the environment, but this is one of those times when an entire organization captivated my interest, and while I vaguely remembered hearing about SOS Children’s Villages somewhere in the dim part of my memory, I knew nothing about the organization.  This one is filled with good people doing good things all over the world, wherever there are children in need, and today they deserve this spotlight.  My posthumous thanks to Stephen Hawking for bringing this awesome organization to my attention!

The Tweet Heard ‘Round The World

Donald Trump breathed new life, if in fact it needed it, into Twitter.  I wonder, when Trump finally dies or fades into oblivion, if Twitter will find itself struggling to stay afloat.  Probably not, but they will no doubt have lost their most prolific and most controversial customer.  This week brought a milestone for the social networking venue … the single most-liked tweet in Twitter history!  And no, it was not one of Trump’s, despite his many “bot” followers.

So, what was the “Tweet Heard ‘Round the World”?  This …

Obama-tweet.pngThe tweet, the first in a series of three, quoted Nelson Mandela and was accompanied by a picture of President Obama smiling with a group of children from different racial backgrounds. It has been liked almost three million times since it was posted on 13 August following the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. The first tweet, shown above, has been retweeted more than 1.1 million times and liked 2.723 million times as of Tuesday evening.

Look at the picture, read the words, and then compare to the tweet that Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning …

trump-train.jpgSee the difference?  I have long said that President Obama and his family were the embodiment of dignity, class and grace.  Many of my right-leaning friends scoffed and called them names, said they were ‘trash’.  Now, in looking at the two tweets above … who is trash? It is not the colour of one’s skin that sets him apart, and it is not one’s religion that makes him more compassionate.  It is what is inside each person’s heart. Perhaps it is time to take out the trash.