July 18, 2012 in Nation/World

Mandela’s 94th birthday marked by helpful deeds

Habitat for Humanity building 67 houses across South Africa
Kim Chakanetsa Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Former President, Bill Clinton meets with former South African President Nelson Mandela at his home in Qunu, South Africa on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

JOHANNESBURG – Annah Nankie Nhlapo has been waiting 22 years for a home. On a dusty narrow road on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the foundation of her new house is finally taking shape.

Over the next five days, to commemorate the U.N.-mandated Nelson Mandela International Day, housing charity Habitat for Humanity is working with volunteers to build 67 houses across South Africa, in honor of Mandela’s 67 years of political service. Nhlapo is one of the lucky ones who will be handed keys on Friday.

For two decades, she and her five children have lived crowded into one of the flimsy shacks that sprawl across Orange Farm, a settlement named after its original purpose.

“I’m happy and I feel proud of myself because it’s been a long time staying in a shack that is leaking water,” said Nhlapo, a 47-year-old single mother.

Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country’s most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start Tuesday. He and daughter Chelsea met for 1 1/2 hours with Mandela in his birth village of Qunu in a remote, southeastern corner of the country.

Children will begin their school day today by singing Happy Birthday to Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela is fondly known. South Africans of all colors to whom Mandela is a hero came up with creative ways to do 67 minutes of community service.

Many volunteers will be collecting books, distributing sanitary pads and cleaning up neighborhoods.

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