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  • Open Dreams


Anxious, nervous, excited, and skeptical, was how I felt when I looked at my parents, brothers, and family members, before heading towards the security check at the airport. As I turned away and took one step forward, it was as though I should take two backward - the moment I had dreamt for was a difficult emotional reality to handle. I passed through the hassle of the security check and found myself inside the airplane, for the first time ever, and thinking to myself; maybe you need to wake up from that dream already. White leather seats, white people, high-tech, and a cooling fresh breeze, was how I flew for about 23 hours from Cameroon to San Francisco, USA. I was welcomed by the kind hospitality of my brother, the warm weather and clear skies, and the beautiful views that kept me dumbfounded.

About a week later, Ndifor Richard, Fulbright Scholar at the University of Central Florida, who also happens to be my uncle, paid us a visit and I was so happy for the reunion. I first knew about Open Dreams through him. He is one of the very accomplished mentors at Open Dreams who focuses on analytical history, the engagement of young people in political and civic affairs. He always trusted in my potential to thrive and become the best version of myself. I owe part of my success to him and as we met, we both felt very proud of what we could accomplish and very confident about taking on future challenges.

Just when I thought I had had enough of the emotional reunions, Sir Hans Kullberg, my mentor and co-founder of Open Dreams, invited me to come visit him and his family in San Diego, California. Honestly, I considered it to be like a presidential invite - to meet the person who for about two years has been guiding me virtually, supporting me, encouraging me, sacrificing for me, and who has been a role model. It was truly something very special. Sir Hans paid for my round trip from San Francisco to San Diego, accommodated me, and gave me a five-star reception, not to talk about the experiences we had together. I learned so much about the background work at Open Dreams and the challenges they have to overcome in order to put smiles on our faces. I discovered Sir Hans’ athletic talents in surfing and skateboarding, and just how awesome he was as a father towards his beautiful wife, Cristina Kullberg - Open Dreams co-founder - and his two energetic children, Hansito and Sofia Lolita. We would go biking across the beach while enjoying the beautiful sunset, trying new cuisines around the area, and sitting down around delicious meals while sharing little stories. All these experiences gave me a sense of belonging: a sense of being a part of something great, a sense of wanting to become better, and wanting those around me to become even better. Before leaving, I had the chance to reflect on some souvenir pictures of Aviva, Sir Hans’ beautiful daughter who left this world last year and who is surely watching over the family.

Before I noticed, it was time to say goodbye. Tears filled my eyes and as I looked through the cabin windows of the airplane, my thoughts became entangled by the exhilarating moments I left behind. I thought about the awesome Open Dreams family who molded me to be where I am today, and who made me find my true self. I reminisced on Herman Merville’s quote, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” A true statement of the power of the Open Dreams community. More than anything else, I consider this community to be my home and a place where I can make my little voice heard. I cannot end without acknowledging one of the power drivers behind this success; Akaba James - who was a counselor, father, and inspiration throughout my journey, and who will always be.

For sure this is just one baby step towards a rocky part, but as it is said, life is a series of small steps and efforts taken along the way consistently. In about a week from now, I will begin my journey at Northwestern University as a wildcat with a “purple swag”, hoping to make new connections and pursue my dreams. As an advice, never quit believing in the power of your dreams and until you achieve them, keep dreaming. And at the end of the day, your journey might not be purple, but it will definitely be one to write home about.

Pictures (1&2) Farewell Party at the Open Dreams Center - Yaounde (3) My brother picks me up at the airport upon my first entry into the USA.

By Nebah Desmond Fongwa

Open Dreams Scholar

Northwestern ‘25

Words from Hans Kullberg below:

"'Believe and you will Achieve'. That has been the the mantra for our esteemed scholar, Desmond Fongwa, seen here cycling near the beach in San Diego, California. Just as one has to put one foot in front of the other while pedaling a bicycle, so to should you take your process one step at a time towards your dreams and goals. As Desmond discovered receiving one rejection letter after another, the path is arduous and difficult but the destination is sublime. He never gave up, however, and persevered through the challenges. Today, he stepped foot for the first time on his new home campus for the next 4 years, Northwestern University, in Chicago. Also seen are Sofía Lolita and Hansito giving him encouragement. Keep biking straight ahead and pedal one step at a time - your goals are within reach!"

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