Inspired by Mandela, UN staff volunteer in their communities

Nelson MandelaMandela Day with 67 minutes of public service (Reuters)

From America to Africa, UN workers honoured Nelson Mandela's dedication to public service by volunteering at least 67 minutes of their day one minute for each year of the iconic South African political leader's service to help make a difference in their communities. In the spirit of International Nelson Mandela Day to mark the anti-apartheid icon's devotion to public service and human rights, the UN joined a call by the Foundation named for Mandela on his 95th birthday to 'Take Action, Inspire Change 'by volunteering 67 minutes to helping others. In New York, volunteers helped to rebuild houses destroyed in last year's Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach and Far Rockaway, areas that took the brunt of the storm. Among them, Grece Kaneiya from UN Radio, alongside colleagues and staff of the South African Mission to the UN, sanded the ceiling and walls of a residential home flooded by Hurricane Sandy, prepping it for painting. "I feel like I was really motivated to go by the message behind the Nelson Mandela International Day - to mark Mandela's 67 years of public service with 67 minutes of helping another person," Kaneiya said. "Sometimes we think we can only help in terms of money but sometimes just giving out your time is more important," she said, adding: "I'm African. This is not Africa, but I feel like anyone anywhere can help another person in need; it doesn't matter where you're from."

India also joined UN member states, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the Mandela day also holds special significance for his country. "These values of peace, pluralism, justice, equality and dignity are also embodied in the United Nations Charter. In proclaiming July 18 as the Nelson Mandela International Day, the United Nations paid tribute to a great citizen of the world," Singh said in a message. In Darfur, Sudan, some staff members from the joint UN-African Union Peacekeeping Mission devoted their time to cleaning El-Fasher Maternity and Gynecological Hospital. The hospital treats more than six hundred patients a month. The Day was also marked with parades, cultural performances, songs and poetry. "This year's commemoration comes at a moment of deep reflection on the life and work of Madiba, as the universally revered leader remains in the hospital," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the Day "The heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is good works for people and the planet. Its theme... is meant to mobilise the human family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world," Ban said.

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