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Annah Nankie Nhlapo has been waiting 22 years for a home. On a dusty narrow road on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the foundation of her new house is finally taking shape.

Over the next five days, to commemorate the U.N.-mandated Nelson Mandela International Day, housing charity Habitat for Humanity is working with volunteers to build 67 houses across South Africa, in honor of Mandela’s 67 years of political service. Nhlapo is one of the lucky ones who will be handed keys on Friday.

For two decades, she and her five children have lived crowded into one of the flimsy shacks that sprawl across Orange Farm, a settlement named after its original purpose.

“I’m happy and I feel proud of myself because it’s been a long time staying in a shack that is leaking water,” said Nhlapo, a 47-year-old single mother.

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That the house is being built to honor Mandela resonates with Nhlapo, who sees South Africa’s first black president as a champion of nation building.

Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country’s most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start Tuesday. He and daughter Chelsea met for 1 ½ hours with Mandela in his birth village of Qunu in a remote, southeastern corner of the country. Photographs tweeted by one of Mandela’s grandsons showed the Nobel Peace Prize winner comfortably seated in an armchair with a blanket over his knees and with the Clintons and his wife, Graca Machel, at his side.

Then Clinton, Chelsea and Machel each planted an avocado pear tree to mark the occasion. Clinton said he is fond of the trees, an African symbol of growth and sustenance.

The Obamas also congratulated Mandela in a White House statement.

“On a personal note, our family has been inspired by Madiba’s example, and has deeply appreciated the time we have spent with him, and his wisdom, grace and generosity of spirit,” President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle wrote.

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article courtesy of CBSNews.com

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