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Wednesday, July 18, marked Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday

July 19, 2012

July 18 was Nelson Mandela's birthday, and people across South Africa and around the world honored this freedom fighter and former president. Mandela, who played perhaps the most important role in the fight against apartheid, spent his 94th birthday with close family at home in Qunu, according to the AFP.

"He is in good spirits and looking very well," the former leader's granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, told the news source.

Mandela, often referred to as Madiba, devoted 67 years of his life to fighting for civil rights for his people. HIs birthday is marked as a global holiday, thanks to encouragement from the Mandela Foundation and support from the United Nations. Every year on Mandela Day, people are encouraged to take 67 minutes out of their daily routine to volunteer and capture the spirit of human compassion that Mandela showed the world, according to the Voice of America (VOA) News.

"The significance of the day is in response to Madiba's call, which he made in 2008 in London, where he was saying to all of us it's time for new hands to carry the baby, it's time for new leadership to carry the struggle forward," Sello Hatang, spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, told VOA News. "And to ensure that we build a much more caring world where we can fight inequality and poverty. Not as a gesture of charity, but as a call of justice."

Even if people missed the opportunity to volunteer on the holiday, they can still take a page from Mandela's book and do something to help others any day of the year. Those who want to discuss plans to give back to their communities or talk about Mandela and the holiday can make calls to South Africa with phone cards.

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