Graeme Marais: 10 year long journey and still counting

A big shout out to Sean Steyn, Graeme Marais, Doug Laburn, John Holley, Warren Hoft, David Dampier (Doyle) and Graeme East for starting something amazing 10 years ago and for the follow-through that has enabled what is today the Bokamoso Education Trust.  An organisation that enables people to support the schooling of disadvantaged children.

In light of Bokamoso Education Trust‘s upcoming 10 years anniversary celebration, we recently caught up with Graeme Marais to find out a little bit more about Bokamoso and why this cause is close to his heart.

  1. What does Bokamoso Education Trust mean to you?

    Graeme Marias

    Bokamoso has made me realize that there is massive appetite in South Africa to do good and to help improve the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves, especially when it comes to education. I am honoured to be a part of a team that provides an honest, transparent mechanism for others to be able to contribute to the improvement of an individual child who needs help.

    I don’t have kids, but watching kids like Mathias and Khaya becoming teenagers and progressing to High School, fills me a sort of parental pride. A small sense that what the trustees and donors have done will have changed these young adults’ lives and their future families lives. I suppose if anyone asks me one day what I did to make our beautiful country a little better, Ill be able to tell them this story.

  2. How did you and the other co-founders come together to make Bokamoso Education Trust a reality? What is the story behind the initiative?
    The trigger was meeting Mathias Ndlovu back in 2006. This tiny framed little boy was the four year old son of Francina, who had the misfortune of taking on the domestic employment responsibilities of a digs of seven male (read here untidy and in a very sociable stage of their lives) audit article clerks and young professionals. It wasn’t long before a very strong relationship had developed between the seven digs mates and Francina. I still remember the day Francina introduced us to Mathias. We didn’t know it at the time, but Mathias couldn’t speak a word of English. The reason we were unaware of this, was because the poor petrified little kid sprinted to the safety of his mothers room at the sight of any of us. Mathias hadn’t ever seen white people before arriving in Johannesburg. We tried everything in our power to mitigate his fears and slowly lure him out to play with us. It was a slow process.

    Fast forward to three years, as we were approaching the end of our articles and all of us were to go our separate ways –

    Bokamoso Trust inspirant: Mathias Ndlovu

    Each of the seven of us would individually arrive home from a hard day at the office trudging laptops in hand up our long drive-way to be greeted by a stronger boy skidding around the corner and leaping up into our arms. This would be repeated seven times every day.

    At this stage we were already contributing to Mathias’s education at Vuleka School. But we realized that once we go our separate ways, we couldn’t guarantee that his mother would be able to afford the cost of education he deserved. Being the excel geeks we were, we ran the numbers and worked out that at the time all we needed to do was get 17 monthly donations of R100 per month for the rest of his school career (inflation adjusted) and that would fund his entire school career. We put a message out to our network of friends. Mathias had grown on not just us, but everyone who visited our digs. Our request for donors was completely oversubscribed twofold.

    It was then that we realized that people want to help, they just need a transparent personal vehicle to do so. We didn’t know it then but that was the beginning of a 10 year long journey in which, thanks to our generous donors, we are able to fund the next 52 Mathias’s. So perhaps its more accurate to say that it wasn’t Sean, Doug, Katherine, Keith nor me, who founded Bokamoso Education Trust, but a loving little boy who leaped into all our hearts, and made us all realize that every kid needs a decent shot at life.

  3. How does Bokamoso Education Trust raise funds to send these children to school, and how can ordinary people like us get involved in raising funds and/or awareness on behalf of these children?What you are asking here is what makes Bokamoso different. It’s personal – literally. Every donor is linked to a specific child who is in need of funding. Each donor will be kept updated by Bokamoso Education Trust of the child’s progress throughout his career, as you watch ‘your’ beneficiary grow and learn through the years of school. We provide opportunities for donors to interact with their allocated beneficiaries.We take it one step further. We don’t just pay the fees and let the kid sink or swim. Bokamoso also provides the necessary mentoring and additional tutoring where required. We do encourage our donors to get involved in this tutoring / mentoring where they wish to (however there is no obligation).It’s this personalized contribution model, combined with the surgical transparent manner in which the NGO is set up that has enabled us to fund the education of the more than 50 children.

    We want to make a material difference in a material number of families lives and the formula is quite simple – for every 17 new donors, another child’s life is changed forever. For only R185 per month for the rest of the young child’s school career.

    Anyone who is interested in getting involved, please either go to or email our CEO on We run a debit order facility so once it is set up it is completely painless.

  4. Bokamoso is celebrating an important milestone. What can we expect in the near future?Going into our 11th year, we have three major focusses:
    1. Mentoring – we effectively have a mini taxi load of teenagers who are currently or will be heading into high school in the next year! This is daunting and we need to ensure our mentoring offering can deal with what life throws young teenagers.
    2. Upgrading systems to deal with increased scale -more than 50 children’s lives is great,  but we want to be helping 500 or maybe even 5000 children. We need to ensure that our systems and processes are established to enable this, without losing our personal touch.
    3. Attracting corporate donors – this is not the typical lump sum donation request (although those are helpful) but what we are hoping to do is attract small, medium and big businesses to encourage their staff to contribute to a child (thus not losing the personal connection) and perhaps the corporate can match their staff contributions and benefit on the BEE and S18a tax benefits over and above the altruistic benefit

The Bokamoso Trust will be hosting a fund-raiser on 20 July at Katy’s Palace Bar in celebration of its 10-year anniversary. Among the many good reasons to be there (one of which is raising money for an excellent cause) is the chance to score a share in a racehorse!

Here are the details of Bokamoso Trust’s 10-year anniversary fundraiser: