Schoolchildren from Johannesburg and Soweto receive symbolic plants from 100 #SparksOfHope to represent the future of Nelson Mandela's legacy. Picture: @TheElders/Twitter

Johannesburg - The Elders on Tuesday planted 100 trees in honour of their founder, Nelson Mandela, in a new exhibit representing 100 grassroots organisations that The Elders selected for their demonstration of moral leadership in the spirit of Mandela’s legacy. 

Mandela founded the group, made up of independent global leaders, in 2007. To mark Mandela’s centenary, they are championing “Sparks of Hope” across all aspects of civil society: peacemakers, human right campaigners, justice defenders, advocates for an end to sexual violence, LGBT rights fighters, community health workers and more.

The organisations featured in the new park, from South Africa, and other countries in Africa and around the world, were identified by The Elders through their campaign #WalkTogether – Continue Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Over 30 of those selected are from the African continent.

Elders Graça Machel and Mary Robinson attended the ceremony in Delta Park, Johannesburg. They were joined by Sir Richard Branson, Patron of The Elders; Joburg Parks Managing Director Bryne Maduka; dignitaries, business leaders and representatives of 100 “Sparks of Hope” grassroots groups from across the world.

Graça Machel, co-founder of The Elders with Nelson Mandela and global advocate for equality and women’s rights, said: “You Sparks of Hope give us great confidence that, despite the challenges we face, you are fearless, courageous and determined. This park honours you and your organisations, but it also serves as a reminder of Madiba’s words: ‘to be free is to enhance the freedom of others.’”

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, added: “We knew that the collective spirit of leadership Madiba exemplified lived on in grassroots communities around the world, often out of view of the media and those who need hope and inspiration. And so we committed to presenting 100 of the best examples of collective moral leadership from civil society towards Madiba’s 100th anniversary. We have shone a light on grassroots efforts that are succeeding in building peace, achieving access to health for all, and fighting for access to justice and greater equality.”

The Elders' symbolic walk at Constitution Hill on 18 July 2018, and the ceremony afterwards, will be live-streamed to a global audience.