Princess Charlene patron of Lifesaving South Africa
Her foundation helps to raise R2m for 200 rescue boards
HER Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco might be European royalty, but she hasn’t neglected her duties back home.
Following her passion for swimming, she has become the ambassador for a local anti-drowning organisation.
Princess Charlene of Monaco, who was formerly Charlene Wittstock, was announced as patron to Lifesaving SA (LSA) in Durban on Wednesday.
The LSA aims to promote water safety and support “learn to swim” projects in the country.
Since 1913, the organisation, which is the national association for lifesaving, has saved more than 120 000 people from drowning.
It is now leading the fight against drowning in South Africa, with more than 3 500 volunteer lifeguards patrolling various aquatic venues on weekends and public holidays.
“It is a great honour for me to be named patron of Lifesaving SA, an organisation that shares the same vision as my foundation and one that I have always been inspired by,” the princess said.
“Lifesaving SA’s commitment to drowning-prevention is remarkable and the spirit of volunteering that you are instilling in our young people is infectious,” she added.
Princess Charlene is no stranger to the water, and as a patron, has a lot to offer.
She was a professional swimmer for many years, representing South Africa in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
“During those years, I learnt the importance of discipline, team spirit, dedication and respect for the water, oneself and others; values that I know LSA lifeguards appreciate and demonstrate every day,” she said.
She established her own water-safety programme, The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, in 2012.
Since then, it has reached more than 300 000 people worldwide, with operations being established here in South Africa in 2013.
The work of the foundation is internationally acknowledged and celebrated for raising public awareness about the dangers of water, teaching children essential water-safety skills and how to swim.
Last year, the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation SA taught 2 507 children to swim and 27 242 children essential water-safety skills through 23 projects in her home country.
Lifesaving SA aims to provide similar education about water safety, it said.
The Water Smart Programme is a classroom-based educational water-safety programme developed to complement the current Grade 4 Life Skills curriculum.
The programme, presented by Lifesaving SA water-smart facilitators, will be delivered free of charge to more than 80 schools nationwide during the course of 2017.
President of The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation SA, Gavin Varejes, also announced at the event that 200 rescue boards, valued at R2 million, would be distributed to Lifesaving SA.
The donation, which was also made in collaboration with Cell C and Richmark Holdings, will see every LSA-affiliated lifesaving club in South Africa receiving rescue boards to continue their crucial service to the community.
“The new partnership will hopefully continue to encourage different sporting codes to work together and form bonds and strengthen partnerships that make such a wonderful difference in our country,” said Varejes.
Cell C was also thrilled to help out. “Cell C endorses this initiative in growing an awareness around water safety in South Africa and deems it a great privilege to be associated with the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation SA,” said Cell C’s head of marketing, Doug Mattheus.
Meanwhile, Lifesaving SA president Dylan Tommy and SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam also expressed their gratitude to Princess Charlene and Varejes for their contribution to raising the profile of lifesaving in South Africa, both on a social level and as a sport.
“We are extremely grateful to Princess Charlene for agreeing to serve as the patron for Lifesaving SA.
“With the princess as our patron and the partnership we have established with the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation SA, we will be able to achieve far greater success in our fight to curb drowning in South Africa,” Tommy pointed out.
Sam also commended the princess for giving back to the community and described her as “an inspiration to the global community, and a particularly special South African”.
“It was noted that the princess gives so much to the country she grew up in, but also so importantly to the serious issue of water safety and water education.”
With water safety being an important issue in South Africa, corporates have consistently been urged to support the cause.
Continental Tyre SA has also heeded the call this year by committing to a three-year investment and sponsorship of Lifesaving SA.
“You can’t put a price on saving a life and it’s fantastic to see the investment in lifesaving as a result of the partnership with the princess,” its product communications manager Ryan Visagie said.
2 507 kids taught to swim in 2016, 27 242 learnt water safety
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Gareth Wittstock (left) with Dylan Tommy and Princess Charlene of Monaco (pictured right).