67 minutes won’t leave legacy

2012-07-14 16:49

Imagine for a moment that you own a bakery.

Making and selling bread and cakes is something that you care deeply about, and you do a really good job.

Such a good job, in fact, that a bunch of people have asked you if you can give them an internship. They are willing to give up their time to come and work for you for free.

Except, actually, they can only come in once a year.

And they don’t really want to spend any of their time ordering stock or sweeping up the storeroom because that’s not much fun.

And because they’re really busy, they can only give you 67 minutes of their time.

Oh, and they don’t really want to bake bread, but they love cake, though it seems they want to bake it and eat it too. It is difficult to imagine a business owner that would agree to this idea. Yet we seem perfectly happy to make these demands of charities.

Wednesday is Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday.

In recent years, we have marked the occasion as Mandela Day, a campaign that urges us to give 67 minutes of our time – one minute for each year that Mandela spent working to make the world a better place – to a local charity or serving our community.

It has become the single biggest day for volunteering across the country.

According to the Mandela Day website: “The overarching objective of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better.”

Unfortunately, for too many volunteers, the objective is often just a warm fuzzy feeling.

They are more than happy to help, but not for too long, and not doing anything that feels too much like hard work.

Painting walls, building classrooms and playing with children are some of the most popular requests – though these are seldom the most pressing needs facing charities.

Some charities refuse to even take on volunteers who can only offer short-term help, knowing that it is not worth their time to host people with no training that are not committed to the organisation in the long-term.

Organisations working with vulnerable children are particularly sensitive to this.

Often, the children in their care have been let down by every adult they have ever known, and the last thing they need is someone to drift in and out of their lives on a whim.

Meaningful social change doesn’t come easily.

Madiba was able to achieve as much as he did because he gave his life to a noble cause, and because he was surrounded by a group of similarly dedicated people.

Their work was often physically exhausting and emotionally draining. The lesson these men and women have taught us is not that any of us can change the world with 67 minutes of free time and good intentions.

It is that to become the country we want to be, we all have to work hard, together. Let that be their legacy, and make your 67 minutes only the beginning.

» Dylan Edwards is a senior consultant, GreaterCapital.

» Tell us what you think: Do you think your 67 minutes on Mandela Day makes a difference? Tell us why. Leave your comment below or join the debate on Facebook or Twitter: @City_Press

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