South Africa's consul general joined dozens of volunteers Thursday to honor by bringing much-needed help to a Lower East Side homeless shelter, to honor the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who led his country to freedom. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
A truck brought a gift from South Africa to Manhattan's Lower East Side on Thursday. Hundreds of oranges were being donated to the Bowery Mission in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday.
The blistering 100-degree heat did not stop the South African consul general, George Monyemangene, from joining in the day of service at the Bowery Mission.
"It's very reflective of the values of Nelson Mandela and we are very happy that this takes place on the day that we celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela," Monyemangene said.
With the oppressive midday sun beaming down on them, volunteers unloaded 67 cartons of South African summer citrus as part of the United Nation's Mandela Day campaign, which mandates that volunteers donate 67 minutes of time or goods as part of an international humanitarian effort.
The number 67 is the number of years that Nelson Mandela is considered to have served his country.
Produce growers who made the trip from South Africa to Manhattan called this a worthy cause.
"To be part of a program that we can help the homeless and try to feed them oranges, it's healthy, it's nice and it's fresh," said Piet Smit of the South African Citrus Group.
Some of the homeless residents at the Bowery Mission joined in. Officials there said they will put the oranges to good use and share the 67 cartons of fruit with their neighbors.
"We're going to distribute some of this. We're not going to let it go to waste," said James Macklin of the Bowery Mission. "We're sowing and reaping. If you sow something good, you'll reap a good harvest, and I imagine that's why they're here with us today, because we're sowing something good."
While Mandela was recuperating in a South African hospital, those who gathered on Thursday believed he would fully endorse such a sweet gesture.