Our 67 minutes

Nelson Mandela once said “A nation should not be judged on how it treats its highest citizens, but rather how it treats its lowest citizens.” I think that rings with so much truth because those in the lowest positions are those that are not able to give us anything material in return. Despite this, once we start giving to those in the lowest positions we realise how much they give us back, things which cannot be explained in words or seen in material gain, but only felt instead.

This is what the people of our nation gathered to do this Friday the 18th July ,in order to participate in Mandela day and to honour the legacy of a great man. In the spirit of Mandela Day we sought a way to once again to get involved with the underprivileged of our Cape Town community as well present others with the same opportunity.

Not being able to do our 67 minutes at St Francis, because the boys had gone home or to host families, allowed us to branch out into new kinds of experiences, to work on current partnership and to develop new ones. We were presented with three different initiatives, and in true Keen spirit, we were amped to make the most of them.

A collaborative initiative, with the TODAY organisation, based on the idea of ‘a great exchange’ was our first challenge. Our idea- collect three things: tin food, books and creative things, find a place that needs it and allow people to give in exchange for a muffin or something sweet. With a Mandela Day banner and three colourful boxes for each kind of donation, the Woodstock exchange was set abuzz, attracting some of the many creatives and hipsters that call this place work. They too were able to do their part on Mandela Day by being involved in an exchange. Why an exchange you ask? Well despite the obvious play on the word referring to the building and also the exchange that would take place it creates an atmosphere of working together for good. That is, they donate something, we give them something and together we help those in need.

The hipsters and creatives did their part and as a result two Keen members, Jade and Lisa, as well as Lynn who volunteered at the exchange, and two TODAY members, Stassie and Sean, were able to make a difference to those at Woodstock Haven and St Anne’s home in Woodstock.  With tin food, books and creative items in hand, they handed over some of the tin food, left over muffins and books to the Woodstock Haven, a shelter for the homeless, and the rest, along with some monetary donations to St Anne’s home, for single or financially unstable mothers, with children under age of 5.

Then Food For Life extended an invitation to us to help them reach their goal of feeding 1000 people on Mandela day. Although we were unable to assist with the feeding on the day, we took the opportunity to help them with the preparation the day before. It just shows how every small act of kindness and generosity goes a long way. Cutting, peeling, chopping and washing, it all went down ,but being able to help, laugh and form partnerships so that we can continue treat our “lowest citizens” well that was the bigger picture that we were able to contribute towards.

Our final new partnership was formed with the City of Cape Town workers and Vision home in Lansdowne, a home for orphaned or abused children. The City of Cape Town reached out to us hoping that we would be able to find a place that they could do their 67 minutes at. Since one of our members, Janine, knew about Vision home, we set the date with the home and sent along three of our members too. The City of Cape Town workers did not come empty handed, having collected books and toys that week they were able to donate this as well as spend some time interacting with the kids. We introduced ourselves to the kids, were taken on a tour of the home and ended off with a game and some group photos.

We did not have many members at each event, we did not plan elaborate events, but we gave of our time and energy and together we were able impact the lives of others, even if only in a small way. If I could have a go at what Mandela’s vision for Mandela Day was, I’d say that I think he envisioned it to be about South Africans working together for a better future, making a lasting impact, creating a culture of giving back as well as enriching the lives of those less privileged than ourselves, our homeless, our women and our children. Let us use our experiences of Mandela Day this year to foster a change in us to be active citizens in our communities so that we may have a lasting impact on the lives of our “lowest citizens”.

Be Keen for lasting change, be Keen.