Meaningful ways to honour Madiba and help others this Mandela Day

By: FoodForward SA on 09 July 2024

Meaningful ways to honour Madiba and help others this Mandela Day


Service to others was a key value revered by Nelson Mandela, who committed a significant portion of his life to empowering the underprivileged for the greater good of society.

Mandela Day on 18 July is about encouraging corporates, institutions, individuals, and families to spend 67 minutes helping those in need. Here are some suggestions of ways to make a positive impact, honouring Madiba and showing humanity towards others.

FoodForward SA Mandela Day Food Drive

Since 2017, FoodForward SA has organised the Mandela Day Food Drive and Packing event, which mobilises volunteers to pack hundreds of tons of non-perishable groceries. FoodForward SA is the largest food-distribution organisation in South Africa, and connects a world of excess to a world of need by recovering quality edible surplus food and distributing it to community organisations that serve the poor.

Mandela Day 2023 saw over 5 000 volunteers participate at three of FoodForward SA’s central warehouses. The 2024 turnout is expected to be even bigger, with venues secured in Durban (Durban ICC), Johannesburg (Gallagher Convention Centre), Cape Town (FFSA National Office, 21 Polaris Road, Lansdowne), Rustenburg (10 Ferro Street Zinniaville Industrial) and Gqeberha (8 Woodpecker Street, Cotswold).

The pallets of food packed will be donated, and will provide nutritious meals to more than 920 000 people through FoodForward SA’s network of 2 500 beneficiary organisations. Sign up.

Provide warmth with a blanket drive

Participating in a blanket drive for Mandela Day is a wonderful way to provide some winter warmth and comfort to those in need.

Many organisations, retail outlets, media houses and associations arrange a blanket drive every July to collect blankets, warm clothes and tinned foods. Other initiatives ask for participants to knit or crochet blankets, such as the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day initiative founded by social entrepreneur Carolyn Steyn.

This initiative has received international recognition as one of South Africa’s greatest projects, for the way it weaves the fabric of the South African nation together. Whether you are a keen knitter or prefer buying a blanket to donate, this gesture can make an enormous difference to someone this winter.

Visit a children’s home or a retirement village

With an estimated four million orphans in South Africa, and about 22 000 children living in children’s homes, the needs of these facilities are vast. Consider arranging a collection of toys, clothes and other necessities to donate to your local children’s home, or arrange a party for the children there.

Spending time with the elderly at one of the many senior living facilities around South Africa can also bring joy to residents, many of whom often feel isolated and lonely. No matter how small your action is, the impact on vulnerable young children and the elderly, as well as their caregivers, can be enormous.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen

Soup kitchens play a vital role in alleviating hunger and poverty in South Africa. There are many organisations that feed hundreds of thousands of South Africans every day, with efforts around Mandela Day highlighting the important role that these organisations play.

The 1000 Women Trust collaborates with community-based organisations (CBOs) and women-led groups to raise awareness and support survivors of GBV. It has started and sustained 45 soup kitchens since 2020, feeding 15 000 people per day in and around the Western Cape.

Brushing things brighter

For those with a creative flair or a knack for DIY projects, organising to paint or repair a local school, hospital, home or organisation can bring joy and dignity to those who work, live and visit there. This could include removing graffiti, giving the walls a coat of paint, decorating a building with a mural and repairing broken windows and infrastructure. This activity is perfect for a corporate day out, bringing staff together for the greater good.

Nelson Mandela famously said that everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better.

These are only a few suggestions, but in a country facing many challenges, there are countless opportunities to help those in need. This Mandela Day, let us all embrace the spirit of Ubuntu and reinforce the importance of community, mutual care, and shared humanity.