About the Author: Tau Shanklin Roberts serves in the Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy Pretoria in South Africa.
On June 24, 2010, Former President Clinton delivered a speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, where he urged the country to take on a day of public service in the name of Mandela's birthday.
Putting action to his words, the Pickering Fellow summer interns (Christina Hardaway, Shailaja Bista, and Tau Shanklin Roberts) at the U.S. Embassy Pretoria organized several volunteer events and a donation drive for mission's Nelson Mandela International Day efforts. This endeavor was particularly momentous, because it was the first time the embassy community had offered a day of service to commemorate Mandela's birthday. In addition, this day would serve as an opportunity for mission employees to engage in productive ways with the local community and particularly with projects that have been supported by U.S. Government funds and staff.
I caught up with one of the volunteers, Courtland Freeman, a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, to hear his take on Mandela Day and the embassy's efforts:
Why is Mandela Day significant? It allows us the opportunity to take some time out of our busy schedules to reflect on exactly what it is Mandela sacrificed so much for, not only for the people of South Africa but for all of humanity. It encourages people to do what they can to give back to those who are less fortunate.
Why is it important that the embassy participates in an event like Mandela Day? I think it is extremely important for the United States to support such an important day and give back to the local community. It is important that we demonstrate to the South Africans that we are behind them 100 percent in continuing their efforts to ensure South Africa becomes the type of country that Mandela and those who sacrificed alongside him envisioned.
What was your contribution to the embassy's efforts? I visited the Moepathutse Children's Center with a group of volunteers from the embassy. We participated with the children in their extracurricular activities including sports, arts and culture, and homework. We also provided supplies that the children can use in their day to day lives. It was a great experiencing getting a chance to interact with the children and to try and ensure that they were having fun.
What was the highlight of the day for you? The highlight for me was trying to learn the Sarafina dance with the children at the Moepathutse Children's Center. I think the kids got a kick out of my poor dancing skills. Moepathutse Children's Center is a great organization, and one that I hope to stay in touch with in the future.