On Tuesday, world leaders and thousands of people gathered in Johannesburg to celebrate and remember the life of Nelson Mandela. Thousands of miles from the roaring stadium the memorial was held in, South Africans such as Lara Jenkins is overwhelmed by the support and recognition for the man she describes as a father-figure.
"To see the whole world coming together since his passing, it just shows me that you can be one person and make a difference," Lara Jenkins said.
Jenkins moved to the U.S. from South Africa ten years ago and has been living in Abilene for 2 years. Jenkins was raised in the rural town in the Eastern Cape of the country called Mthatha. She lived just outside of where Nelson Mandela grew up and even met the world leader a few times.
"There was just this aura about him," Jenkins recalls. "He was just so friendly and greeted everyone he met."
In addition, Jenkins even sang in a choir during the opening ceremony of Mandela's museum.
"I didn't realize at that time just how huge that moment was," Jenkins said.
Mandela was the face of ending the racial injustice that plagued the country for decades. He was prisoned for 27 years after the government feared his motives. Mandela was released in 1990 and four years later, became the first black-president of South Africa. He later retired in 1999.
"He fought for equality," says Jenkins. "Look at what South Africa is today because of one man."
Mandela died Thursday at 95 years old after suffering from multiple health complications. Several South Africans say they were prepared for his passing but the news of his death still came as a shock.
"I remember watching the news and crying, I can't help but be emotional," says Jenkins. "I hope to spread the message of hope and unity the way he did."
Jenkins is currently the Director of Program Development for Healing Hands International. She delivers boxes filled with clothes and other goodies to children in need across the world. Jenkins feel that she was inpsired by Mandela and hopes to continue his legacy.
"I'm just so glad I was raised in a country where people all loved each other," Jenkins adds. "It's because of him why I have this life."
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