On December 10, world leaders and thousands of South Africans came together in Johannesburg to celebrate a man who brought hope and unity to a nation with a divided history. Nelson Mandela was a great friend of SOS Children, reflecting his belief that children are “the future of South Africa; the hope of our rainbow country”. When he opened our Children's Village in Cape Town in 1996, he said:
“It is my hope that within this community a culture of understanding, acceptance and love can be nurtured. Let this Children’s Village be an example of tolerance and reconciliation so that we, as adults can learn from these children.”
We are grateful for the example of tolerance and reconciliation that Mandela showed to the world, which we can all learn from. Below, children and staff from SOS Children's Villages in South Africa share their personal tributes to the man who led and shaped their country.
From children at SOS Mamelodi
Two young people from SOS Children's Village in Mamelodi wrote down the reasons why Tata (Father) Mandela is a hero to them.
“What does Tata Nelson Mandela mean to me?
Nelson Mandela is like a hero to me, an ambassador to me, he did a lot for us. He did a lot for us, for the country. So that is why I say he is an ambassador to me. He's a hero to me. When I think of Nelson Mandela to me it's like he was the man that brought peace in the country. He's done many, many things for us. Everything like freedom, houses, and grants. I mean everything. And I appreciate whatever he did. When he came out from prison. He's like a grandfather to me and I love him a lot.”
“What does Nelson Mandela mean to me?
Nelson Mandela is my mentor and hero, 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.
He believed that black people would be saved, which is true - we are safe. He is like a father to me. I appreciate and cherish him for what he has done to this country. I can say that my future is secure because of him.”
From Siphiwe Maphanga, National Director of SOS Children South Africa
“SOS Children's Villages South Africa mourns with all South Africans for the passing away of one of the best leaders this Earth ever had, former President Nelson Mandela
It is indeed a sad day for all South Africans and the entire world to lose such a wonderful human being. SOS South Africa is privileged to have been associated with Dr Nelson Mandela who loved children so much and enjoyed their company at all times. Dr Nelson Mandela once said:
"Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."
The above words really inspired me, especially because when he was still the President, he advocated for the poor and fought for equality. SOS South Africa was also privileged to host such an icon. He always had time to meet the children in need. He opened our Cape Town Village and for the children who met him at the opening ceremony of the Cape Town village had a wonderful moment of their lives, the moment they still treasure even today. As a nation we have lost our father. On behalf of SOS Children’s Villages South Africa. We say Rest in Peace Tata.”
From SOS Children's Village Rustenburg
“On behalf of SOS Children’s Village Rustenburg our children, mothers and staff are saddened by the death of a great leader, our grandfather. Our children will remember Tata for the earnest love and unwavering commitment he had for children and the passion for children to be educated. May his dear soul rest in perfect peace.”
Children at SOS Rustenburg: “Tata we take courage in knowing that you personally contributed towards us, SOS children to make sure that we grow with love, respect and security.”
Mothers and Staff at SOS Rustenburg: “Tata, the precious love you expressed to our children has instilled courage, commitment and great accountability into us to wake up every morning and do the best for them.”
We remember Mr Mandela and everything he gave to the world - his kindness, his devotion to what is right, his humility, and his great capacity for forgiveness. Our thoughts are with Nelson Mandela's family and the people of South Africa, and we celebrate the life and mourn the passing of a man who will never be forgotten.