This year marks 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth. His humanity and commitment to education continues to inspire. By celebrating Mandela Day, World Bicycle Relief honors his legacy of positive change and perseverance.
Who was Nelson Mandela?
Nelson Mandela influenced great change in South Africa that resonated around the world. He pioneered the end of white minority rule and fostered post-apartheid reconciliation in the early 1990s. In 1994, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president and its first black leader. Unlike his predecessors, Mandela stepped down at the conclusion of his term.
Before becoming president, Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for standing up to the human rights abuses committed by the apartheid government against black South Africans. After being released from prison in 1990, Mandela addressed the crowds from Cape Town’s City Hall, saying:
“I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”
As a sign of gratitude for his selflessness, many South Africans refer to Mandela as Madiba, the African name of his tribe. When Mandela was a child, it was customary for a South African student to be assigned an English name. In school, he came to be known as Nelson. Many South Africans still refer to Mandela as Madiba as a sign of respect and endearment, paying tribute to his African roots.
After his presidency, Mandela became a philanthropist with a special focus on education. Through the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999, he pursued noble work such as rural development, school construction and combating HIV/AIDS.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy of humility and service lives on not only in South Africa, but also around the world.
In honor of International Nelson Mandela Day on July 18, we share some of our favorite Madiba quotes:
At World Bicycle Relief, we believe that education is the gateway to a world of opportunity. We provide bicycles to students to help them travel to school because, armed with an education, they can work hard and pursue their dreams.
WBR strives to improve access to education. Facing challenges such as long distances and unsafe passage, students in rural Africa who walk to school are often late to class – or don’t make it at all. Students with bicycles have fewer absences, more time in class, and more time to study. Education not only improves the life of the individual but it also greatly benefits the entire community, building a better future for all.
We always tell our supporters that The Power of Bicycles isn’t enough to make our work possible. It’s the power of YOU. Each individual can make a world of difference. Any act of kindness or justice, big or small, matters. At World Bicycle Relief, we strive to leave the world a better place.
Many of the communities we serve are made up of individuals who overcome adversity every day. At bicycle distribution ceremonies, Co-Founder Leah Missbach Day often asks students what they want to be when they grow up. In the beginnings of our work, sometimes, they didn’t have answers. Returning to visit these students after a year of using the bicycle, she is met with enthusiasm about becoming a doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher…With bicycles, students are able to see a better path ahead, work hard, and reach their dreams.
We are dedicated to continuous learning and improvement, as well. We monitor and evaluate our programs so we improve upon them. We see every obstacle as a learning opportunity and a chance to expand our commitment to creating access to resources.
In the rural communities we serve, many people struggle to meet their most basic human needs: shelter, clothing, food and water. With a bicycle, individuals can fight poverty through simple, sustainable measures. We are not in the business of providing charity through bicycles. With a bicycle, recipients are empowered to find new ways to fill those basic needs and pursue a brighter future.
With your help, we can impact lives by providing a tool that allows individuals in developing nations to drive their own positive change. With the bicycle you can help provide students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural communities the opportunity to change their world.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Molly Loftus is a World Bicycle Relief volunteer blogger. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Claremont McKenna College. She is passionate about educational equity, West African politics and adventuring on her bike in pursuit of food.
References: Lee, J. (2013). Why Nelson Mandela is Called Madiba. USA Today Network. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2013/12/06/nelson-mandela-madiba-meaning/3889469/