In January 2017 Umvoto Africa hosted the book launch of The Mentor Within. This wonderful earth sciences consultancy, founded in 1992 still run by Rowena Hay, does important work in South Africa and around the world. What struck me when I was first invited to a meeting by Tracey Saunders who works there, is the wonderful atmosphere in their gorgeous offices set up in a Sir Herbert Baker building in the beach suburb of Muizenberg in Cape Town.
Getting to that planning meeting had been quite a journey. I had mentioned on Facebook that I was hoping to celebrate my book, launched eight months before in Sydney, when I visited Cape Town in December 2016 and January 2017. I had been perusing the venues in Cape Town where I could run a workshop or event to do this, and had saved a tab of a perfect workshop room in Muizenberg, at a place called Umvoto. Just then I received a message from someone I hadn’t met before who is part of my global Walking Tribe, a group of women who walk together (virtually) all over the world and post to a group on Facebook. Tracey had been a member of the Walking Tribe for a while, and said that she admired my work, loved the sound of my book, and wanted to celebrate it by hosting an event in Cape Town for me. She said she worked in a gorgeous Sir Herbert Baker building – and the name of the place was Umvoto.
The serendipity was just perfect. And I focus on Serendipity, Opportunity and Choice in the book – so it felt just right. The opportunity was there, and I made the choice instantly to thank her for her kind offer and go ahead site unseen.
When I arrived in Cape Town I bumped into Tracey, quite by chance, on my very first evening there and she introduced herself as the person who was going to run my launch. It all fitted together perfectly. However, I only had a few books with me – the workshop I had run in Pretoria at South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) had almost cleaned me out of the few copies I had with me. What followed was a series of events that led to me finding someone who could print my books for me over the Christmas season when, traditionally, all printers are closed. They arrived just in time, and the event happened complete with catering, videography, music, photography, great support from the Umvoto team and from people all over who helped.
Francis (my husband and MC for the event) and Jethro, my son, experienced Cape Town’s warmth and hospitality, and the resourcefulness and innovation of everyone we meet there. The event was packed with social entrepreneurs, friends in the media, people from the non profit world I used to move in, and people who are doing tremendous work in South Africa, not least of all the staff of Umvoto. My two living South African mentors, Marjorie Mbokoma and Esther Lategan, gave the attendees a taste of their wisdom, and we celebrated my mother, my third mentor I mention in the book. Zapiro, my brother Jonathan Shapiro, spoke of his illustrations and how he, himself, could use some of the advice offered in the book.
A few weeks later Umvoto published a piece about the event.