Packed like a sardine on a Mango aeroplane, I awaited take off with a childlike excitement for the Association Admissions Event that was taking place on Saturday the 23rd of April. My eager anticipation was interrupted by a train of thoughts – surely it is only a matter of time until Mango will “go vrot” (start to rot). Their service was slow, it cost R65 for a chicken sandwich that wasn’t guaranteed to have chicken and the flight attendant was old enough to make me feel guilty for not standing up and offering her my seat.
This is a common occurrence for a Fellow – spotting inefficiencies and thinking of potential solutions has been engrained into the way we view the world. In some ways the impact that the Foundation has had on our lives is quite obvious. There have been endless opportunities, invaluable friendships, quality events and inspiring mentorships. Yet, the most indelible mark left by the Foundation has come in a less obvious form, that of changed paradigms.
Our stories first became entwined with the Foundation’s back in 2011. By the time I took my seat on that Mango flight, it had already been four years since that weekend of intensive Candidate Fellow selection at the Cradle of Mankind. Our admission into the Association of Allan Gray Fellows signalled the ending of the first action-packed chapter of being a Candidate Fellow as well as the beginning of a new chapter as fully fledged Fellows. This progression of chapters was blissfully celebrated at the Sandton Holiday Inn. Many parents and Talent (Foundation staff members) were present to witness the jubilant occasion of being admitted into the Association of Allan Gray Fellows.
The ceremony was kicked off by a beautiful and energetic performance of Pata Pata by our very own Nkateko Manganye. I could hardly keep from singing along but politely considered my fellow guests and decided against subjecting them to sounds of a walrus giving birth. There were also joyous reflections on how far we had all come and masterfully crafted video, capturing our Foundation journey, including snippets right from our very first interviews. Our parents were visibly emotional, bursting with pride and a sense of hope for the future of our country. We were also able to thank the Foundation through heartfelt speeches for their immeasurable influence on our lives.
Anthony’s Farr speech was particularly moving and sprinkled with thought-provoking stories. With chills running up my spine and tears rolling down my cheeks, he ended his speech with an extract from Robert Frost’s poem – the same poem was presented to us at our very first orientation event, back when our Foundation stories began:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.
What a memorable day. What a memorable journey. We are now Fellows.
by Dominic Koening