The late President Nelson Mandela’s incredible positive influence on people is acknowledged globally; his values and remarkable leadership traits inspired the world; and as result In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day" in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom. Mr Mandela, affectionately called Madiba by many in reference to his clan name, has used his influence to promote peace and justice. South Africans have named his persuasive abilities the Madiba Magic. The Madiba magic had no boundaries and limitations as we will find out from the interview with Leonard Nolasco from Toronto in Canada, currently on assignment in South Africa as a Project Manager for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Nolasco has vast experience working with SickKids; a Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario –Canada
1. Briefly share your experience of Mr Mandela's visit to Canada, and how old were you at
I was 13 years old and remember being told by my grade 8 teacher that there was an opportunity for students at my school to attend an event in Toronto called “Mandela and the Children.” Anyone who was interested was asked to write an essay as to why they wanted to go. I remember writing about Mandela being an inspirational role model for all people and someone whom we should all aspire to become. As many know, we Canadians hold Madiba in high regard.
2. The experience you just described, how life changing was it?
46,000 students from across Canada filled the seats of the SkyDome in Toronto. It was the first time I had been part of an event of that magnitude. There was a lot of cheering, dancing, and excitement in the air. Many referred to the event as the world's largest classroom lesson with Mandela as our teacher. The atmosphere was incredible.
3. What message do you have for the youth, in particular South African youth?
One of my favourite quotes from Madiba is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Everyone faces adversity at some point in their lives. If you feel that there’s something worth having, then it’s definitely worth fighting for.
4. Describe your role in the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital, and what it means to you.
I am a Project Manager working very closely with the Nelson Mandela Children Hospital Trust and Commissioning Team to support the commissioning and operationalization of the new hospital. When I saw Madiba in Toronto in 1998, it was to launch the Funs in Canada. 18 years later, I am involved in a legacy project that was started by Madiba and his Fund and to be a part of it is an absolute honour. It's as if everything has come full circle.