It was early on a cold winter’s morning when we bundled into our student vehicle and drove to Paulos Ngobeni School, our ‘adopted’ school from the local community. Our goal: to give 67 minutes back to the community by planting fruit trees on the school premises. Armed with spades, pick axes, and forty litchi, mango, orange and avocado trees, we were eager to make a sustainable difference in the lives of the Paulos Ngobeni children.
Every year on 18 July – the day Nelson Mandela was born – the Nelson Mandela Foundation calls the nation together to devote 67 minutes of their time to helping others, as a way to recognise Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity.
Traditionally, the service is done on Nelson Mandela Day itself. However, since it is holiday season, we knew that we would need all hands on board on the 18th. We were also eager to get our student programme involved so that our international visitors could also participate (they were leaving before Mandela Day). Because of this, we decided that we would still do our part – just a few days earlier.
So, on the 12th of July, we joined a group of 50 Paulos Ngobeni learners as well as some of the teachers. While we waited for all the learners to arrive, we began a game of soccer with the learners to bide our time.
We were very quickly warmed up and ready to begin the main event.
Once we had decided on the most appropriate spot, our team began to dig! Each hole was measured out and filled with one of the trees, then covered up and watered. The young learners from Paulos Ngobeni were eager to help us with the process.
When deciding what to do for Nelson Mandela Day, we first thought about planting seeds. However, we decided that we would prefer something more immediate – so that Paulos Ngobeni could quickly enjoy the benefits. So, with the help of the US Friends of HESC, we bought 40 young trees.
Once we were done, the children and our team gathered in one of the classrooms to celebrate. The children sang and danced for us, and speeches were given, where the Paulos Ngobeni teachers thanked us for our contribution. Lastly, our student volunteers handed out bags of sweets to the smiling learners.
The highlight of the day: seeing the joy on the children’s faces and knowing that each and every one of us has the power to make a difference!