Malaika orphans smile on Mandela Day

GEM-MandelaAll the love and attention they got on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2016, is evident on the faces of the children at Malaika Orphanage.

In the heart of Hillbrow, a place of despair for many, the young children at Malaika Orphanage beamed on Nelson Mandela Day when they were offered the love and care many children take for granted.

GEM (Going the Extra Mile), the mobile rewards platform for volunteers, along with Trace TV and The Sophie A Kanza Foundation, brought smiles to the children of Malaika Orphanage when they hosted them to a photo shoot, a mini concert and face painting.

Among those at the orphanage on the day were rapper Emtee and singer Bucie Nqwiliso, who treated the children to a performance, and TV personality Maps Maponyane.

Groceries and clothing were also donated to the orphanage on the day.

GEM is in partnership with Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part campaign as they work towards the same end.

GEM’s relationship with Play Your Part started with a phone conversation between David Shields, co-founder of GEM, and Brand South Africa’s strategic relationship manager for business, Rodney Moloko. This led to the app’s first 10 activations, on Mandela Day last year.

“Since then we have grown in leaps and bounds. I would like to think GEM and Play Your Part go hand-in-hand as GEM helps people physically play their part,” said Shields.

The turnout varies from activation to activation as volunteers tend to go to places closer to them. “We choose the establishments to help whether or not they fit the GEM profile, which is quite stringent. The place has to be safe, warm and welcoming and some organisations don’t fit those criteria.”


The Sophie A Kanza Foundation is an NPO operating in the inner city of Johannesburg. It was founded by two sisters, Sophie and Louise Kanza, who were born in Democratic Republic of Congo but have lived in South Africa since they were toddlers.

The foundation focuses on collecting and distributing food, clothes and toiletries and recruiting local and African youth as volunteers. This is to show unity in diversity, the sisters say. The foundation also runs the #25Dresses Campaign, which collects matric dance dresses for orphaned girls.

“My sister and me grew up with nothing and lived out of the generosity of people until we could fend for ourselves,” said Sophie Kanza. “That has been our single motivation to do good for those in need.”

They had decided to use charity as the means to bring people together because they felt it was important for youth to know they could make a difference, regardless of their nationality, race or financial status, she added.


Unity in diversity is the goal of the foundation – building friendships and learning from and about each other’s cultures.

“Many ‘foreigners’ are accustomed to congregating among themselves to avoid victimisation,” Sophie Kanza said. “We work to take them out of these comfort zones. Once we work together towards making a difference we learn that we are all the same, brothers and sisters of Africa. Not enemies or threats.”

There was a lack of platforms created for dialogue and genuine interaction between locals and immigrants, she added, saying South Africans needed to go into Africa to soak up the culture and experiences so that they could bring them home to share with others.

“I believe Africans have an inherited entrepreneurial spirit. Even before paper money, banks, business schools etc. This inherited spirit needs to be nurtured and developed to bridge the gap. Many skills have become income generators, such as hairdressing, dress making etc, many of which are self-taught.”

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly officially declared 18 July, Mandela’s birthday, as Nelson Mandela International Day. The purpose of the declaration was to “honour the long history of Mandela’s leading role in the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa”.

The day is celebrated with 67 minutes of doing something good and trying to make every day Mandela Day.