Jamaica needs long arms to embrace all the goodwill extended to her. Last week, we attended the announcement of Jamaica's celebration of Nelson Mandela Day, to be observed this Wednesday, July 18, his birthday. The indefatigable High Commissioner for South Africa Mathu Joyini has brought corporate Jamaica on board as she encouraged us to devote at least 67 minutes that day to Jamaica's children.
Following a debate in November 2009 in the UN General Assembly on "the importance of dialogue and tolerance to enriching cultures and promoting understanding among faiths", a UN report states, "Recognising the long-standing dedication of former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela to humanity - particularly in the areas of conflict resolution, race relations, human rights promotion, reconciliation and gender equality - the Assembly adopted a text declaring July 18, his birthday, as an International Day, to be observed annually starting in 2010."
Prime Minister Simpson Miller, patron of Mandela Day in Jamaica, reminded us of our long-standing record in the fight against apartheid and for human rights. She said that as far back as 1957, Jamaica had imposed a trade embargo on South Africa as we took a stand against that unjust system of government.
Well do I remember that heady day in Jamaica's National Stadium in 1991, the year after his release from prison, when as a guest of the Michael Manley government, Nelson Mandela declared, "This is the happiest day of my life!"
High Commissioner Joyini asked Jamaicans to "take the love we have for Nelson Mandela and turn it inwards to the children of Jamaica". What a simple but profound charge. Placing our focus on the welfare of our children, giving them an experience which reminds them how precious they are, can cause a sea change. If you hark back to your childhood, you will recall those moving gestures of care which made you believe that you were a worthy human being and built the self-esteem which propelled you forward.
|PM Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller (centre, in red) and Her Excellency Mathu Joyini, High Commissioner for South Africa with the Simply Chrisolites group and other guests at the Mandela Day press launch last Wednesday at the Prime Minister's Office|
That generous Jamaican couple Sonia and Teddy McCook used to invite aspiring young athletes from humble homes to have Christmas dinner with them. When they were presented with gifts, one teenager broke down in tears. When asked why, he explained that it was the first time in his life that anyone had ever given him a gift. The things we take for granted are precious for some of our children. This Mandela Day, what will you do to make a child feel special? That one gesture could give a child the strength to stand up to the threatening influences around him or her.
Nelson Mandela once said, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." This Wednesday, let our children feel this Jubilee of hope from the collective soul of a caring people. Step up, Jamaica!