BUFFALO, NY - As the world mourns the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, we're hearing from some Western New Yorkers about their experiences in South Africa.
Katie Finamore is a director within a travel and tourism department at Niagara University.
Before working at NU, Finamore volunteered for several weeks in 2007 at a center for women and children infected with HIV-AIDS. The center was located in Cape Town, South Africa.
With her traveling experience in her career, Finamore says she "felt the urge" to go somewhere and do some volunteering.
She did some thinking and decided to travel to South Africa to help people in need of help.
Finamore says she immediately became aware of the history of people with HIV-AIDS being harshly judged in that country and at times being banished from their families.
"The good news at that time was that the stigma was slowly being lifted and that more and more services were starting to become available to people with AIDS and the stigma was being lifted and they were being embraced by the community," said Finamore.
She adds that while she was in South Africa she had the opportunity to attend a celebration for Mandela's 89th birthday at a soccer game and that he didn't physically attend but video-conferenced into the game and was on the big screen to thank his supporters.
Finamore says that Mandela spoke about ending racism and improving the fight against AIDS and bringing the World Cup to the country in 2010.
Meanwhile, this past summer, a group of biology students from Canisius College took a trip to South Africa. They were there to study wildlife and conservation in the country.
Also, this during that time, there were many questions and much speculation about Mandela's health.
The students were there for about three weeks. 2 On Your Side spoke to Sue Margulis, an associate professor at Canisius about the trip.
She says one of the major issues while there was not having cell phone and internet capabilities, like in here the states, and that lack employment was a critical issue that she experienced first-hand.
"We worked with students and faculty at the University of Venda, which is one of the South African homeland universities and the students are great, they're just wonderful. But their goal once they get their degree is to just get a job, it doesn't need to be a job in their field, but just to get any job, so they can support their families," Margulis said.
These are issues that will be discussed during a candlelight vigil tomorrow from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ministry Center, which is located on Brighton Road in Tonawanda. The vigil will give people an opportunity to come together and remember the life and legacy of Mandela, as events honoring his life continue in South Africa.