Cheesekids are doing a lot for Mandela Day – and you can join them

By Sipho Hlongwane 13 July 2011

In 2009, the United Nations officially declared 18 July to be an international day of honour for Nelson Mandela, where people set aside 67 minutes of their time to help the needy in their communities. We spoke to the Cheesekids organisers about what they’re doing for Mandela Day. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

If you’re in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, you could do a lot worse than join Cheesekids for Humanity for the day. The idea is to give 67 minutes of your time in the honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. After all, he gave 67 years of his life to political activism and philanthropy, and we can honour his sacrifice and perhaps take tiny, tentative steps to follow where he strode.

If you’d like to make a contribution to Mandela Day, Cheesekids has made it both easy and fun to do your bit. All you have to do is sign up on its website, and then show up on Sunday 17 July at one of several rendezvous spots in Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town. The rest is taken care of.

Thabi Seekane, one of Cheesekids organisers, explained, “We have selected a number of charity organisations like orphanages where the Cheesekids will be going on the day and doing small tasks like painting, running soup kitchens and vocational guidance,” she said. “We’ve found out that most of the children that are at these orphanages don’t get the type of personal attention they’d get from parents, so we’re doing that too. We’ll also be doing gardening and a kiddy’s zone so people can spend time with the kids.”

All in all, Cheesekids will gather an expected 6,700 volunteers to build houses for informal settlements dwellers, paint buildings in orphanages, run soup kitchens, plant gardens and spend time with orphans.

Watch: Cheesekids Mandela Day 2011 with Old Mutual Introduction

The organisers said they wouldn’t be releasing the names and locations of the homes, orphanages and other charities they’ll be helping so co-ordinating the number of volunteers will be easier by having them show up at central meeting points.

The organisation’s founder Shaka Sisulu said, “We were fortunate some of our people have had good relations with them. In every corporate (company) you’ll find people who do this sort of work and identify with what we’re trying to do and we’ve been fortunate that the reception has been warm and welcoming.”

The Mandela Day event will run from 8:30 to 16:30 and if you’re in Johannesburg, you can head over to Innisfree Park afterwards for a concert, where Cheesekids has assembled a diverse cast of artists, ranging from AKA and Locnville to Ihhashi Elimhlophe and HHP.

The small group of organisers said they were involved in the charity organisation as a way to give back to their communities. They also said the name and connotations associated with the organisation could occasionally give them problems.

Watch: What will YOU do for Mandela Day

The name “cheese kid” refers to children who grew up in a well-off families in townships, and would get cheese in their school sandwiches. “Because of the name ‘Cheesekids’, a lot of people think this is only for wealthy people,” Gontse Madumo said. “We need to change that perception. Friends I’ve known for many years think it’s a clique. We’re just young people having fun. I’ve met many new people that I’ve become friends with.

“I’ve heard some say we work for Shaka. The truth is, even without Shaka, we would be doing this in our private lives. It’s just us. That’s what makes Cheesekids such a great organisation. I’m not going to say there aren’t some people coming for the wrong reasons, but those of us who started it are here for the right reasons,” she said.

Said Khumo Ditira, “We’re not getting paid for being in Cheesekids. We’re not here because we’re from wealthy families and we don’t really have money either. We’re just contributing our time.”

If you’re keen to volunteer for the Cheesekids Mandela Day, they are accepting “any type of volunteer” and promise a great time while contributing to society. The organisers have a database of all the Mandela Day recipient charities and will work together with them in future to give their work on 17 July a lasting impact. DM

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