“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”

– Nelson Mandela

In 1990 his story inspired communities around the world to rally for his release from prison. In 1994 people once again united around him to force an end to the brutal system of apartheid. Nearly three decades later the legacy of South Africa’s great anti-apartheid leader, and first black President, remains as inspiring as ever

Having suffered unspeakable brutality during his 27 years spent behind bars, with 18 years spent on the notorious Robben Island, Mandela’s desire to find peaceful solutions, his relentless perseverance, determination, and benevolent & understanding approach to change, all remain powerful symbols of human capacity for good.

His legacy lives on in many forms; the United Nations has designated Nelson Mandela Day, which falls every year on Nelson Mandela’s birthday — July 18th.

The day was first designated in 2009 and Mandela used the opportunity to reiterate his cause.

“It is in your hands to make of the world a better place. And so, every year on Mandela Day, we ask people around the world to take action and inspire change by making a difference in their communities”

– Nelson Mandela July 18th 2009.

My 67 Minutes

More recently, the ‘My 67 Minutes’ campaign has encouraged people to spend 67 minutes of their time — one for every year Mandela fought for social justice — to do something for someone else or their community.


As the experts in telling stories that make a difference, this year Arete decided to show its support for Nelson Mandela Day by sharing stories of inspirational community leaders from around the world, individuals that treat every day as if it is Nelson Mandela Day. Through this initiative we aimed both to celebrate the dedication of these, often unsung, heroes, and to inspire others to follow their example.

We asked our network of brilliant photographers to submit images of people, along with a few words, that exemplify the selflessness, sacrifice, and community spirit of Nelson Mandela Day.

Emmanuel Tombe: Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala

Emmanuel is an Arete photographer based in South Sudan. He chose to share an image of Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, the Catholic bishop of Tombura-Yambio diocese in South Sudan. When he was nine months old, The Bishop’s mother was killed when his village was attacked and destroyed. He lived with his grandmother in a refugee camp for 5 years and his early experiences helped form his dedication to peace and education. He was also involved in providing pastoral services on a huge scale during the Sudanese Civil War.

Mussa Uwitonze: Boniface Mudenge

Based in Kigali, Rwandan photojournalist Mussa Uwintonze was orphaned by the genocide of 1994. His submission, Boniface Mudenge, personifies forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of extreme collective trauma.

Mussa Uwitonze on Instagram: "My #CommunityHero for #Arete67 on #NelsonMandelaDay is Boniface Mudenge , during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, Mudenge was being hunted down by Hutu extremists who wanted to kill him. Moderate Hutus protected him by hiding him in their home. They were killed for their kindness. Mudenge, a former preacher, escaped from the country and when he returned after the Genocide, he was inspired by his experiences to forgive and to teach others to forgive. While his immediate family miraculously survived the Genocide, many of his relatives and friends were massacred. Mudenge is the founder of Inyenyeri Itazima, an organization that reconciles families of Genocide survivors and perpetrators. Bugeshi, Westen Province of Rwanda January 12, 2019 #CommunityHeroes#Rwanda#reconciliation# #inyenyeriitazima."

Vijay Pandey: Medha Patkar

Based in New Delhi, India, Vijay submitted a picture of Indian activist and former politician Madha Patkar.

Vijay Pandey on Instagram: "Medha Patkar, a social activist working on various political and economic issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers and women who are facing injustice. She is the founder of the 32 years old people's movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Patkar has been working in many sectors over the last 30 years including health, employment guarantee, Right to Food and PDS, rehabilitation, and environment protection in India. NBA is a social movement protesting against the dam on river Narmada which began in 1985 consisting of Tribals, farmers, fish workers, labourers, and others in the Narmada river valley. The struggle is still on in the Sardar Sarovar Dam affected areas and also other large and medium dams on Narmada and its tributaries. It has led to thousands of project-affected families receiving land-based rehabilitation and continues to fight against submergence and displacement without rehabilitation of more than 40,000 families residing in these submergence areas of Sardar Sarovar to date. NBA has been running JEEVANSHALAS- schools of life, since 1992 with about 5,000 tribal students have passed out and many graduated. #nelsonmandeladay #arete67 #communityheroes #medhapatkar #socialactivist #india #fromthearchives #documentaryphotography #photojournalism"

Brian Ongoro

Based in Kisumu, Kenya, Brian submitted the mental health advocacy of BBC Africa Digital Video Journalist Gloria Achieng.

Kevin Gitonga: Esther

Kevin shared a picture of unsung community hero Esther, who was trained as a local health worker by Amref Health Africa — an African-led, African-staffed non-profit that reaches millions of people per year across the continent.


Kate Holt: Sister Monique Bonogo

Arete founder and director Kate Holt shared a picture of Burkinabe midwife Sister Monique Bonogo.

Kate Holt on Instagram: "My #CommunityHero for #Arete67 on #NelsonMandelaDay is Sister Monique Bonogo, a midwife trained through @jhpiego to be able to test and treat pre-cancerous lesions. Sister Monique, with the help of Jhpiego, is pioneering cervical cancer screening in her community, breaking down stigma and ultimately saving lives. #BurkinaFaso #CervicalCancer #Photography #CommunityHeroes"

Mamadou Diop: Koffi Aya Christine

Living in Dakar, Senegal, Mamadou has worked in many places across the continent. He shared two photos of CGAP (Consultant Group to Assist the Poor) agent Koffi Aya Christine in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. The CGAP works to advance the lives of poor people, especially women, through financial inclusion. Local agents like Koffi play an important role in facilitating relationships between customers and financial service providers by sharing knowledge with customers.

A massive thank you to all the photographers who took part in #Arete67. The example of Nelson Mandela proves that the virtues of one can inspire millions to action, and this small sample of incredible individuals just goes to show that the world is rich with such examples. If we celebrate them and tell their stories in a way that does them justice, their dedication to others can spread.

In this world of limitless, instantaneous information, the stories that we give precedence to have a major influence on our values & where we place importance — with selflessness, or with greed, with love or hate etc.

If each single inspirational example can inspire a few others to action, then the effects can spread across the world — so that every day, instead of asking ourselves what we have gained for ourselves, more of us ask: “what have I done to improve the surroundings in which I live?” — Nelson Mandela.

The right story, told the right way, really can change the world.

Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content providers are eager to help you make a difference.

Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.