People gather for a ceremony to unveil a 67-foot canvas marking Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday at the Khalidiya Mall in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The South African leader’s birthday on July 18 is recognised by the UN as Mandela Day. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Join the Nelson Mandela Day celebrations and be among the millions of people who will honour the leader's path of dedication to community service; or simply, participate in any kind of community work, as he did for his country and the world.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was the principle architect in changing the history of South Africa, will be honoured worldwide on his birthday on July 18, which is also recognised by the UN as Mandela Day.

"It is a celebration of his life, a day to recognise a longstanding commitment, and a call for all people to take action which will positively impact the world around them," said Dr Elissar Sarrouh, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

On the occasion of his 93rd birthday, the Embassy of South Africa, Nahtam Social Responsibility (NSR) — a private voluntary organisation — and UNDP have organised a ceremony for the first time in the UAE to unveil a 67-foot canvas as a tribute to Mandela's 67 years of community service. The event, which kicked off yesterday, was held at the Khalidiya Mall in Abu Dhabi.

More than 200 people attended the event and lined up to sign the canvas that portrays a pictorial story of Mandela. "Each foot represents a year of Mandela's commitment to community work," George Itty, CEO of NSR, told Gulf News.

Tribute

Kevin Oosthuizen, counsellor at the Embassy, said: "Mandela gave 67 years of his life to the fight for human rights. In tribute, people are being asked to give only 67 minutes of their time to do a good deed, be it helping a favourite charity or doing something good for the community. We hope that this act of giving will become a daily habit."

If you run out of ideas on what to do, register with Nahtam on www.nahtam.com. The team at Nahtam will provide a Mandela Day logo, a list of 67 ways to do community work, a template for logo usage, a T-shirt printed with a Mandela photo, a cap and a badge.

Responsibility

"Social responsibility starts from within. We want to inspire people in the UAE to do community work and be responsible towards themselves, their families, their community and the country as a whole," Itty added.

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, was the first to sign the canvas followed by ambassadors of Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Singapore, Philippines, Nepal, Brunei, Romania, Indonesia and Iran. Several other ambassadors will sign the canvas.

Inspiring stories

Nahtam Social Responsibility (NSR) intends to publish a book of 67 selected community work stories titled 67 Inspiring Stories. People are encouraged to send their achievements in this field along with a photo not later than October 15 to P.O. Box 34181, Abu Dhabi or by e-mail to nahtam@nahtam.com.

NSR is a private voluntary organisation. The word "nahtam" is derived from an Arabic word that means "We Care". Nahtam promotes social programmes involving education, environment, at, culture and heritage, health and civic issues.

The canvas will be available to sign for the public at the Khalidiya Mall from 10am to 10pm daily until July 18.

Mandela profile

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).

In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on February 11, 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president from 1994 to 1999, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation.