Today is the day: Monday, July 18 is Mandela Day, and Stop Hunger Now’s global #FollowtheSun movement is in full swing as volunteers package meals in countries around the world. It’s not too late to be part of this exciting occasion–we encourage you to dedicate 67 minutes of your day to making a positive difference in the world.
On Mandela Day, Dola Mohapatra, Executive Director of Stop Hunger Now India, shares his deep connection with Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
Nelson Mandela was our childhood hero. We heard about Mahatma Gandhi who freed India, and studied him in school. Our teachers said Nelson Mandela was the Mahatma Gandhi of South Africa. As I started reading more about him in my college days, and later, his book Long Walk to Freedom, I admired him for his extraordinary journey – a life full of struggle, suffering, personal setback, hope, confidence, persistence and unflinching faith in oneself. I have seen a couple of his TV interviews, including one in the U.S. when he went to seek support from Congress. He was asked some of the toughest questions by the foreign media, and he fielded them with grace, courage and confidence.
The best part of Nelson Mandela’s life story is that he successfully rebuilt a nation that struggled with bad memories, ill-will, hatred and racial discrimination. He proved his critics wrong by institutionalizing the process of peace and reconciliation. That was a huge testimony of his stature and broadmindedness; and his resolve to reign in all negative forces.
I liked his approachability, concern for common man and aspiration for everyone in the world to enjoy sustainable freedom. If one listens to his speeches at his later stages, it was clear that he loved humanity as a whole, and became an epitome of peace, love, reconciliation and social justice across the globe; however, he always lived with the feeling that he could not spend much time with his own family. For someone who loved his family so much, making so much sacrifice for his country — only a superhero like him could do that.
Today’s world is much more interconnected, and there is freedom to express oneself through a number of channels, including social media. If Nelson Mandela could move an entire nation and the global community by virtue of his ideas without any media channels to spread his message, today’s generation could transform the world and overcome inequalities, social barriers and all forms of discrimination by coming together collectively, broadening their understanding of the root causes of social problems and communicating in one voice to take action.
Action does not mean just raising slogans or shouting against governments. While demanding governments to be more accountable and perform without prejudice is a must, there is also an element of personal activism required for everyone. Doing whatever little bit one can do within her or his own sphere will bring in a revolution. This is actually what Nelson Mandela teaches us – on his 93rd birthday, he said to the younger generation, “It’s in your hands now,” and every individual “has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better.”
Live responsibly, feel you are part of the globe not an isolated person, your action has implication on others, the whole world is one, raise your voice but more than that rise up and act. Think of others, feel blessed with what you have and try to be of help to whoever crosses your life – every day, day after day!