The company we keep: Graeme Marais, Blue Recruiting

The Company We Keep is a column on the CN&CO blog that profiles some of the most interesting people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do. This edition is by Josie Dougall.

Graeme Marais is a chartered accountant, a qualified game ranger, a client of CN&CO, a director and founder of specialist finance recruitment firm Blue Recruiting, and founder of the Bokamoso Education Trust, an NGO now educating 70 children across 28 schools in South Africa. He is also a husband, dad and a passionate South African.

Let’s go back to 2009. Graeme was in his second year of articles and lived in a digs with six other guys, most of whom were also in year 2 or 3 of their articles. Francinah, their housekeeper, brought her young son to the digs one day to live with her. He was five years old, and came straight out of a rural community. He was a tiny, timid child and he was petrified of white people. Every time he saw one of the guys from the digs he would literally run and hide. As the year progressed, slowly this timid little child started to come out of his shell and a very strong bond started forming.

“I recall driving up the driveway, after a long day of articles, carrying heavy files, and wads of papers. As I stepped out of the car, Mathias would come running from up the driveway and literally throw himself at me, demanding a piggy back all the way back to the house, his face full of smiles and delight at my return from work… I remember him making me feel like I was the most important person in the world. Until the next guy arrived home and the pattern was repeated,” Graeme recalls with a smile. “We would spend the evenings playing soccer or cricket with Mathias in the driveway, and he wormed his way right into our hearts.”

It wasn’t long before the guys started discussing Mathias’s education and future. “We all pooled some money together and made a plan to get him into Vuleka School for his education. He started to thrive.”

As the guys all started finishing their articles and the digs started disbanding, the question of Mathias and Francinah’s future security loomed.

“Being finance nerds, we started to run a few financial models. We quickly realised, that if we could get a group of 17 people to contribute R78 a month, we could keep Mathias in school. We reached out to our circle of friends, and within a few hours we were oversubscribed. We had a lot more than 17 people who were very keen to get involved. It made us realise that people want to help. People want to be a part of the solution. And education is a massive part of the solution. We also realised there is a financial model here that works too. Many people, contributing a little bit each can make a serious difference.

Mathias Ndlovu then (above) and now (below)

This was really the birth of The Bokamoso Education Trust.

“We formed a trust, and a board, and some parameters. For us the important thing was never how clever a child was, or how talented at sports or maths. It was about a keenness and willingness to be a part of the education journey from both the parents and the child. For us the breadwinner of any family is a hero. So we wanted to help create more breadwinners. More plumbers, electricians, educators.”

The next child was Thokazani, and again after reaching out they were oversubscribed.

“I would never have believed that fast forward 13 years, we are now educating 70 children at several good, solid schools across South Africa. The model works, and people still really want to be a part of the solution. Mathias is now in Matric and we are all immensely proud of the young man he is and of the education trust that we founded all those years ago.

“If you would like to become a contributor to the trust, our model is still the same. Many people, contributing a little bit, to collectively educate children whose families need the financial support.”

Visit to get involved today.

From the team at CN&CO, we want to say THANK YOU Graeme, for making a difference; for being passionate enough to make an idea into a success that impacts so many children and families; for believing in the solution; for being a team player and harnessing the power of togetherness to make a difference.

A special mention to Doug Laburn, Sean Steyn, Keith Comline and Katherine Akeroyd who were the other founders alongside Graeme.