Thursday, July 19, 2012

In honor of Mandela Day go forth and make a difference

The standard cupcakes and off-key singing just doesn't quite seem suitable for a man who bravely devoted 67 years to the service of humanity as a peacemaker, prisoner of conscience and human rights activist so, as a more fitting celebration, we honor Mandela Day.

Born in South Africa, in 1918 Nelson Mandela attended University College of Fort Hare and law school at the University of Witwatersrand. After the 1948 election victory of the National Party, Mandela became actively engaged in resistance against their apartheid policies. While working as a lawyer to provide low-cost or free legal services to many blacks who lacked legal representation, he lead many anti-apartheid efforts including the Defiance Campaign, the Freedom Charter, and the ANC.

Initially arrested in 1956 for treason, he was acquitted five years later only to be arrested less than two years later. Mandela's famous closing statement during his trial is one of many examples of his refusal to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom:

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." 

He was sentenced to life in prison.

27 years later, he was released and set out to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. He became President of South Africa in 1994.

Today is a day inspired by his example to take action and become a changemaker for a meaningful cause. Mandela's life of action has inspired countless others in the same way that the impact of a small loan ripples through a community.

On Monday -- 67 hours before Mandela Day -- we challenged our lending teams to make 67 loans, or recruit 67 new members. Five hours later, the first team successfully completed the challenge, in total EXACTLY 67 lending teams have succeeded (we swear -- it's an amazing coincidence!). Check out our Twitter feed for the winners.

Whether you lent, recruited or participated in one of the many Mandela Day community service activities happening worldwide, rest assured you did something to make a difference.