August 9, 2012

National Day of Service

With Fikile Ndlovu -- a member of the 
delegation -- at a township school. 
Heather Fosburgh,
2012 GHLI Fellow

On July 16, I had the privilege of participating in South Africa’s National Day of Service in commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. I joined an event with the Premier’s office at a township school outside of Durban. The day included various projects such as painting, planting trees, setting up a library and cleaning the school grounds. The event was joined by the Premier who reminded the students that they were the first generation born out of apartheid. It must be truly heartening for people to know that that there is a new generation that never had to endure that horror.

While this was only a daylong event, countless hours went into preparing for this project. The night before we did not leave the school grounds until midnight and many of the same people returned at 6 a.m. It was amazing to see so many people work so hard not only for their appreciation of Mandela but also, their own engagement in improving their country. And, the school and the community will continue to improve their facility and educational outcomes.

After being here six weeks, I am continually impressed with the passion and dedication people have for their community. For me, this is most noticeable in the provincial and district government offices.

Most importantly, the National Community Service day is also a humbling reminder of the dedication, innovation and passion it takes to build a nation. South Africa’s democracy is only 18 years old and its constitution, while a strong foundation, is still a working document. This is a nation still in its infancy. They have been forced to tackle enormous challenges that other democratic institutions have been struggling with for centuries.

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