Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”

2014 is particularly symbolic as we work to honour a great statesman and mark South Africa’s 20 years of democratic freedom. For 4 years, Expand a Sign has enjoyed spending July 18th with Project Build and their initiative of painting rural school classrooms around KwaZulu Natal.

This year the 18th July fell on a Friday. Sithumba Primary School in Inchanga had been chosen to receive glossy new classroom walls. This rural school is set against a backdrop of the beautiful Valley of a 1000 Hills.

After navigating (poorly. GPS is apparently not always your friend) the rustic roads of Kwazulu Natal’s Inchanga countryside, we eventually tracked down the school. We collected our painting paraphernalia and hardhats, and were greeted by the headmaster of the school. The young learners sang, and we all chanted the South African national anthem – the echo of our song reverberating into the crevices and corners of the surrounding hills.

Planting our Expand a Sign Flying Banner into the earth by our chosen classroom was most dramatic and Neil Armstrongesque, and we then followed by opening paint tins. How one paints is almost indicative of how one approaches life; Hlengiwe from the Expand a Sign sewing line stood back and theatrically flung colour against the wall as if channelling her inner Jackson Pollock, whilst OCD Type-A Justin from Expand a Sign Sales spent half an hour meticulously applying masking tape to all corners. Within two hours, we had converted a tired Grade 1 classroom into a brightened, clean space.

Around the globe, our international Expand a Sign teams took part in 67 minutes of giving back to their respective communities. ExpandaBrand USA sorted through thousands of educational books that had been donated to children in Africa. In a world where knowledge truly is power, education and literacy are the basic building blocks that unlock the gates of opportunity and success.

But one day each year is unfortunately not enough. The question that we must ask ourselves is what we are doing to make the world a better place; what are we doing to make every day a Mandela Day?

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