The Grootbos Foundation and the Stanford Canoe Club in the Overberg area in the Western are celebrating after winning the runner-up award for their ‘Rock the Boat’ initiative at the annual Jack Cheetham and Letsema Awards run annually by Murray and Roberts.
The development programme provides canoeing skills and basic water safety to youngsters from the rural Overberg region and has been influential in creating a paddling culture in the region.
Founder of the programme Felix Unite has seen the initiative grow in leaps and bounds over the past year and it has grown into something that he and the Stanford Canoe Club are proud of.
“The intention of the initiative was to get to the underprivileged kids in the area,” he mentioned.
“We had a number of boats donated and we scrounged around to get equipment and then we teamed up with the Grootbos Foundation based in Gaansbaai.
“It allowed us to send a few guys through to Cape Town where they learnt how to build boats and we have built a few K1’s but mainly guppies for the junior paddlers.”
The Rock the Boat programme has grown in the past year to the point that they now employ a half-day manager of the youths that is in charge of dealing with all the admin related to their training and racing.
Unite has also stepped back from his involvement and has handed over the reins to the Grootbos Foundation who are now in control.
“I think we are now up to about 40 kids that are part of the programme.
“Wilien van Zyl is the manager who deals directly with Canoeing South Africa and along with the Grootbos Foundation the relationship is a strong one.
“A highlight for us was definitely having one of our girls with the Under 12 victrix ludorum award at the SA Schools Sprint Championships earlier this year,” Unite beamed.