Canada supports the Viva Foundation on Nelson Mandela International Day

Singing 'Happy Birthday Madiba'

Heeding the call to take action for good on Nelson Mandela International Day, staff of the High Commission of Canada in South Africa and their families commemorated Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday by volunteering at a Viva Foundation project.

High Commissioner Barban and High Commission staff building and planting trees at Viva Connect Enterprise Development Centre.

Building the structure for a shop.

Drawing and colouring at the Viva Daycare Centre.

Singing "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes".

The Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, is celebrated every year on Mandela’s birthday, July 18. Nelson Mandela dedicated 67 years to fight for justice. To honour that commitment, Mandela Day is a global call for people to give 67 minutes of their time to volunteerism and community work based on the principle that each individual has the power and ability to make an impact, no matter how small.

The Canadian High Commission staff provided trees, shrubs, and building materials to help the Viva Foundation establish an enterprise development and communication centre in the Alaska Informal Settlement in Mamelodi, a town east of Pretoria.

Four years ago, the Alaska settlement was known to be the most dangerous place in Mamelodi with rape, car theft and prostitution being the biggest challenges.

To help bring stability and development to the region, the Viva Foundation is focusing on supporting the local community. The centre will provide a secure environment for small businesses to connect with suppliers and clients, and build successful marketing and management strategies.

Staff got their hammers and shovels out to garden and to build a structure that will eventually be used as a shop by a trader from the area.

Looking at the structure being built, one entrepreneurial young man declared "This will be my shop. I will sell chips in this shop, [because] everyone likes chips. I will save for six months to buy equipment."

Other members of staff entertained the children at the Viva Daycare Centre. The children range from newborns to 6 year olds. There was much playing, singing, and laughter.

The daycare is a crucial support program for the community. In order for parents to work, most children are sent back to the rural areas, also known as “bush prison”, when parents can’t afford to put them into schools.

These children grow up without education or health support and are often subject to abuse and negligence. Thanks to the Viva daycare Centre, children are exposed to one of the best preschool curriculums available thus preparing the child for school.

Mothers in particular are now able to look for work, improving the living standards for the entire family. Many children attend the preschool free of charge and as the family’s economical position improve, parents pay fees which helps the center take on more children.

"It is important for everyone in the world to get involved in uplifting the most disadvantaged people in our communities, especially on this day, when we acknowledge the selfless contribution of Nelson Mandela to the promotion of social justice and human rights." - High Commissioner Gaston Barban

High Commissioner Barban also thanked and commended High Commission staff and their families for getting involved in this initiative.