Mr Mandela has been a vocal supporter of our work for well over two decades. SOS Children was honoured by his presence at the official opening of our Children’s Village in Cape Town, where he reflected on his experiences of visiting our Villages in Ennerdale and Mamelodi shortly after his release from prison in 1990.
“I was warmly welcomed by the children,” he recalled. “I found that these children now had a home, a mother, and a safe, secure place in which to live.”
He was delighted to speak at the opening of our first Village in South Africa since his presidency began.
“Your work is a shining example of the kind of partnership on which the achievement of all our goals depends,” he said. “We are encouraged by your approach to making the Villages serve as resource centres and models for communities.”
He also spoke of the long-lasting and life-changing effects of our work: “Of great importance, too, is the fact that you are not only meeting the immediate needs of your children, but also creating opportunities for them to develop into self-sufficient, dynamic adults who will contribute to their fullest potential to the development of our country”.
Mr Mandela believed strongly in the creation of a new SOS Children’s Village in Mthata (formerly Umtata), in the Eastern Cape Province where he grew up.
Speaking when the project was still in its infancy, Mr Mandela told of his personal commitment to the construction of a sixth South African Village: “It will be near my childhood home, from where I take my strength and which holds fond memories.”
Helping children in South Africa for over three decades
SOS Children has worked in South Africa for 30 years, opening its first Children’s Village in Ennerdale near Johannesburg in 1982 while the apartheid regime was still in power. These first attempts towards bringing a caring family to children across South Africa blossomed after the collapse of the regime, thanks to the warm support of figures like Nelson Mandela.
Many children remember Mr Mandela’s visits to their SOS Children’s Village with great fondness. Following his admission to hospital this month, children from our Villages across South Africa have sent him cards wishing him well and thanking him for all he has done for children country in his lifelong pursuit of justice and peace for all.
“Nelson Mandela is my mentor and hero,” writes one child. “He gave up his time and fought for the freedom that I have. He fought for everyone’s freedom, he fought because he had faith in black people. He never gave up, even when he spent 27 years in jail. I appreciate and cherish him for what he has done for this country.”
She ends by putting into words what we all feel about Mr Mandela today.
“Now I am sad that he is in hospital. I wish and pray that he recovers from the sickness that he suffers from.”
It is perhaps these children who express more powerfully than anyone else the nation’s gratitude to Nelson Mandela for devoting a lifetime to creating a better future for everyone in South Africa.
Find out how you can help children and families like those visited by Nelson Mandela.