A group South Africa’s finest rugby players found themselves beaten on Tuesday – by a group of senior citizens in Gugulethu, Cape Town – but all in the name of Nelson Mandela.
Yes, this was not a battle on a rugby pitch; it was instead a ‘bead-off’ for Cape-Town based social enterprise Relate Bracelets at the IKamva Labantu Noluthando 1 Seniors Club in New Cross Roads as a fun event to highlight the importance of South Africa’s elders in the run-up to Mandela Day.
Six of the senior centre’s fastest bracelet beaders went head-to head with members of the media and some very good sports from the DHL Stormers, Juan de Jongh, Nic Groom, Kurt Coleman and Cheslin Kolbe in the bead-off, which was hosted by Smile FM presenter Tracey Lange. It kicked off at noon, after which the participants threaded beads as fast as they could for 33½ minutes. This was then doubled up to see how many they would have threaded in 67 minutes.
The idea behind the timing was that 33½ minutes doubled equals 67 minutes – the number of years Nelson Mandela served this country so selflessly. The halving of the time was not for the sake of the seniors, but for the rugby players, because finger fatigue is a problem for those who aren’t used to threading beads.
Lauren Gillis, co-founder of Relate Bracelets, said: “As the first Mandela Day since Tata Madiba’s passing, we believed it was right to highlight these remarkable seniors who, like Nelson Mandela did, are still contributing so much to their country, their communities and their children and grandchildren.
“Rugby players are some of the most lauded – and physically powerful – people in South Africa society. The fact that they were beaten hands-down in this event demonstrates the power and the value of these senior citizens, and in fact all senior citizens, who, like Tata Madiba did in his golden years, do so much for the society at large.”
The seniors of the IKamva Labantu seniors clubs are the ones who bead the miles and miles of elastic string used to make the Relate Bracelets and in the last four years they’ve threaded more than 50 million beads, which has raised R17.5-million towards investment in earnings and skills training for bracelet-makers, the creation of enterprise development initiatives in South Africa, and funds donated to 56 charitable causes.
When blitz-beader and overall winner Nozolile Mjodo held up her string from the bead-off race to show how much she’d done in 33 ½ minutes, the measurement came to 4.2m. In contrast, the fastest rugby beader Juan de Jongh managed only 1.7m.
A smiling De Jongh told the official DHL Stormers website afterwards: “These ladies… they’re amazing! I have huge respect for their work ethic but also to Relate Bracelets for giving these senior citizens an opportunity like this and for doing so much good with this project.
“For us, as DHL Stormers and Western Province players, it’s just a small way to make a difference and, of course, doing our bit for Mandela Day.”
The Bead Off event was held a few days ahead of Mandela Day this year to inspire others to do their bit on Friday. Every year on July 18, the Nelson Mandela Foundation asks people around the world to devote 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mr Mandela’s public service – to something that helps and serves others. The bead-off enabled everyone involved to do something good and acknowledge the importance of these valuable but often overlooked members of society – our elders.
Most of the 200-odd seniors who thread for Relate Bracelets at Ikamva Labantu’s centres are elderly women who are living on government pensions but support entire families – in numerous cases raising their grandchildren alone. The bracelets, which carry individual pewter ‘R’ beads of authenticity, provide the threaders with extra income. It also gives them an opportunity to get together with other elders of their community and talk, laugh and make connections.
Neil Robinson, COO of Relate Bracelets, said: “In our quest to make a difference and change lives, we make many different bracelets. But the thread running through all the bracelets is the people, mostly senior citizens, who string all the beads at townships around the Western Cape.”
Relate is a 100% not-for-profit social enterprise that creates opportunities to change lives through the making and selling of handmade bracelets. Relate’s uniquely sustainable business model sees approximately one third of bracelet proceeds* donated to specific causes, one third providing earning opportunities and skills training for local bracelet-makers and supporting local enterprise development initiatives, and one third covering material and running costs. (*Approximate portions are based on our wholesale price excluding VAT.)
* Visit www.relate.org.za for more information on Relate Bracelets.