Proudly SA celebrates Mandela Day 2016 at Helen Joseph Hospital

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The idea of an annual “Mandela Day” was inspired by the iconic statesman himself when he celebrated his 90th birthday in 2008 at London’s Hyde Park. “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now,” he said.

A year later, the United Nations (UN) officially declared 18 July, Madiba’s birthday, as Nelson Mandela International Day. Mandela Day, as it is now widely referred to, has evolved into a day that is marked by people worldwide. Thousands of individuals and organisations across the globe dedicate at least 67 minutes of their day to community service and helping those in need.

For 2016, Proudly South African identified the Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, as a beneficiary for Mandela Day and beyond. Other partners who served their 67 minutes at the hospital included students and officials from the University of Johannesburg, Proctor & Gamble, the Al-Imdaad Foundation and Game Stores. Well-known South African artist and painter, John Adams, also made a meaningful contribution to the institution by painting a portrait of Nelson Mandela alongside Helen Joseph. Both patients and hospital staff were treated to a very pleasant Mandela Day as volunteers cooked, cleaned, painted walls and interacted with patients as well as children at an on-site crèche.

The hospital is named after Helen Joseph, who played a pivotal role in the march of 20-thousand women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria – in protest against the pass laws – in 1956.

She was also one of the leaders who read out clauses from the Freedom Charter in Kliptown, Soweto, in 1955.

In December 1956 Joseph was arrested on a charge of treason and she was subsequently banned in 1957.

She became the first person to be placed under house arrest under the Sabotage Act that had just been introduced by the apartheid government. She had been banned four times, jailed four times and spent most of her life under house arrest during a long saga of police persecution. Although she did not have any children of her own, she often looked after the children of comrades in prison or exile.

Those who spent time in her care included Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s daughters, Zinzi and Zenani and Braam Fischer’s daughter, Ilsa. The banning order against Helen Joseph was lifted when she was 80 years old. She died on Christmas day in 1992.

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