"The right man for the job", says Gavin Varejes about Ryk Neethling, the newly appointed CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA
Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA has recently announced the appointment of Ryk Neethling, Olympic swimming champion to the voluntary position of CEO. This is after his year-long service as an ambassador to the foundation, working with Francois Pienaar and Terence Parkin.
Neethling is often praised by key figures, supporting his nomination to the position. Among these is Princess Charlene, who said that "Ryk is a true champion — a man of integrity‚ talent and remarkable inner strength. He is passionate about water safety and will‚ I know‚ take
my foundation from strength to strength in SA". Also Gavin Varejes, businessman and president of the foundation said that "Ryk is certainly one of the greatest swimmers this country has seen and he is keen to use his influence as an athlete to inspire young people and uplift communities. We are all thrilled that he has chosen to take on this new role — he is the right man for the job".
Last June, Neethling and former Springbok rugby player, Percy Montgomery, won the Riviera Water Bike Challenge, which, in the name of the foundation, managed to raise sufficient funds to build an aquatic rescue center in Burkina Faso, a project which is organized in partnership with the Monaco Red Cross and the Burkinabe Red Cross Society. The ProAm race, the first of its kind, spread over 21 km from Nice to Monaco on water bikes.
Neethling's concern is justified. According to the World Health Organization, over 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people worldwide die by drowning each year, making drowning the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents, according to the foundation.
Notwithstanding his new responsibilities as CEO, Neethling is also an ambassador for Hope Through Action and is involved in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation SA. His personal story is what makes Neethling believe in the important of the foundation. At the age of 5 he went through a near-death experience. But rather than shy away from water Neethling went on to pursue a successful swimming career, which he then used to spread awareness to water safety. Alongside Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, a friend of 25 years, he began representing SA at international swimming competitions. Neethling's dedication to the foundation's goal is clear: "It is an incredible honour for me to now be entrusted with the task of leading her foundation here in our country", he says, "the cause is a critical one".
Death by drowning is a pressing matter. It is the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents, with over 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people worldwide dying each year, according to the World Health Organization.
In 2016, only 4 years after its establishment, the foundation carried out 23 projects in SA. Thanks to these, 2,507 children were taught to swim and 27,242 children were taught about essential water safety skills. Last month, as part of its efforts to increase water safety awareness, the foundation has partnered with Lifesaving SA.
In its short life, the foundation has already seen major successes. Over 300,000 people worldwide are now aware and support its goal to reduce death by drowning by focusing on teaching children swimming and crucial water safety skills.