SA Ambassador: We Celebrate Nelson Mandela – Our Collective Dream
The Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa H.E. Vanessa Calvert gives insight on the meaning of the Nelson Mandela International Day, to her, South Africa and the world.
On July 18 South Africa and the world will celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day.
It was adopted on November 10, 2009, by the United Nations in celebration of Nelson Mandela's legacy and his firm stance on fundamental principles of humanity, justice, freedom, development and peace.
“Since 2009, every year on 18 July the world unites to celebrate our living legend, Madiba,” Ambassador Calvert said.
On the Nelson Mandela Day people throughout the world are encouraged to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to doing something good for humanity. The 67 minutes symbolise the 67 years of uninterrupted and selfless service to the people of South Africa and the world since Mandela started pursuing his goal to change the world, to promote conflict resolution, human rights, race equality, reconciliation and gender equality.
The concept of Nelson Mandela International Day focuses on the celebration of Madiba's legacy – to help and give to those who are less fortunate in a world of huge disparity where the gap between rich and poor is vast. Mandela Day was created to inspire people to embrace Mr. Mandela's values and make an impact through services to their communities.
It would be the first time the world celebrates Nelson Mandela's birthday without him.
For the first time, the embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Bulgaria will also celebrate the Nelson Mandela Day by visiting a refugee centre in Sofia and make a donation to the children there.
“This year we shall visit a refugee centre and will give books, crayons, notebooks, colouring books and learning materials to the children there,” the ambassador said. “And we will go to the refugee centre in person to take the donations and read to the children. We will promote Nelson Mandela in this way because he prioritised education. So it's a service to humanity – advertising the importance of education. The money comes from donations from everyone in the embassy, out of our own pockets, we're not using money from the budget of the embassy.
I don't know if any other South African embassy is doing a celebration of the Nelson Mandela day, it is not some official policy, but I am doing it myself, because on this day I do something for my community to honour the man who fought for my freedom.”
“The embassy in Sofia has previously donated money to an orphanage in Kyustendil, some five-six years ago. But it's one thing to make a donation, and another to be physically there and showing what it means.”
“It's entirely my own initiative,” Ambassador Calvert said. “I have written to all ambassadors and all ministers in your government and everyone who's on our database – whether they are entertainers, or people from the academic background, people from the tourism industry, the business – it's a vast database. I've asked them to show humanity and to recognise the Mandela International Day and do something for their community. We've just informed them about this day and what it means.”
“Last year I celebrated the Nelson Mandela International Day by preparing 67 food baskets and found 67 people who were in need and gave them the food. I find that this is my social responsibility.”
“Nelson Mandela dedicated 67 years of his life serving the people of South Africa and worldwide, and I am positive that each and everyone of us will be able to spare 67 minutes of our time on 18 July to contribute to bettering the circumstances of our community.
Mandela represented and fought for the oppressed throughout the world. He may have been South African but he set a benchmark for how humanity should be treated. And I think that's why the UN created the Mandela Day.
“When Mandela was negotiating the future of the country, there were too many concessions made. But in hindsight, he did the best thing he could have done for South Africa, because we have set an example of peace. That is what makes him unique. He was not peaceful all the time. He was a firebrand, he was a revolutionary, he was a volatile youth, before he went to prison. But prison did give him time to reflect and he chose the path of peace. And peace is what the world could learn from him. So as opposed to going on the warpath, he chose the path of peace. In choosing peace, he was way wiser than the ordinary people who wanted war. Because he had a vision of the extraordinary and that for me makes Mandela extraordinary. - That he chose to do everything differently – he could have chosen a completely different path as opposed to choosing peace, therefore, he is extraordinary. He was much wiser than the ordinary. So for me he is extraordinary.
Her Excellency Ms Vanessa Calvert was accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to the Republic of Bulgaria in April 2014. This is her first posting as an ambassador. Previously she has worked as project co-ordinator on various community projects. In the period 1995-1997 she was advisor to South Africa's Constitutional Assembly. Between 1997 and 2013 she was an Advisor to the Leader of Government Business on Parliamentary Political matters.
Priorities in the term:
- Cooperation in the field of agriculture – Bulgaria has a very rich and strong tradition in agriculture and has the necessary expertise. The emerging predominantly black farmers in South Africa, who worked as hired hands on the farms, didn't learn about land management, how to rotate crops, for example, and how to manage a farm. They could benefit greatly from your expertise, so I am looking into some form of cooperation with the agricultural academies in Bulgaria who could train aspiring South African farmers.
- ICT cooperation – Bulgaria has an expertise, which would be useful to our country.
- South Africa could benefit from the good Bulgarian traditions in science and mathematics training.
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