It’s not always possible to donate unlimited amounts of money to a favorite charity, but it is reasonable to give time and effort through unique opportunities. And just as they do with successful companies, today’s leaders are looking for opportunities to lend a hand, while providing a sense of accomplishment to all involved. Nicolaas Vlok is indeed one such leader.
Not only is Vlok president and CEO of one of the world’s leading providers of information availability and systems management services, Vision Solutions, he’s also a part of a growing population of business executives making a difference in the world. In fact, a conversation with Vlok may implore one to join him in his unique philanthropic work since his somewhat off-the-beaten path approach has led to exciting involvement with a charity known as Children in the Wilderness.
To raise money and awareness for the organization last year, Vlok participated in a four-day, 240-mile, off-road bicycle ride, known as the Tour de Tuli, crossing portions of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The ride includes a 6,000- foot gain in elevation throughout four days of riding and is no easy accomplishment, but raising funds and awareness are no less difficult.
The event consists of riders representing more than 15 countries and a wide spectrum of business executives, like Vlok, who enjoy an active lifestyle. The most recent tour took place last August along animal migration routes in restricted wilderness areas where participants pedal amongst elephants, giraffes, antelope and other residents of the disappearing African wilderness.
“Having grown up in South Africa, I’m the first to admit that part of my involvement with this worthwhile endeavor is the thrill of being in the wilderness on a mountain bike,” says Vlok, an avid rider and mountain biking enthusiast. “Most of all, I enjoy being involved with Children in the Wilderness because they’re significantly changing young lives for the better.”
Vlok only learned about the charity a few years ago and was immediately drawn to its emphasis on children from rural villages learning a combination of life skills and conservation of natural resources in Africa. One of its goals is to provide a spark that creates environmental leaders who are inspired to care for Africa’s wildlife heritage. This is a combination of causes that Vlok, a native South African, endorses.
The charity works in conjunction with Wilderness Safari to host 61 camps which operate in seven southern Africa countries. The environmentally friendly camps and overland safaris provide access to 6.5 million acres of wildlife reserves. About 85 percent of the 1,600 employees come from the rural communities surrounding the protected areas. The Tour de Tuli mountain-bike ride greatly benefits the overall efforts of the nonprofit organization.
Vlok, who has lived in the United States since 2000, plans to ride again this year and looks forward to promoting involvement by others. Last year, he and his team of enthusiasts raised significant funds for the program and actually doubled their initial goal for the team. This year, the organization hopes to raise even more as riders will suit up on August 3 through 8, 2010. Vlok plans to participate again and is already preparing for the grueling yet undoubtedly worthwhile trek.
“It means a lot to be a part of this,” adds Vlok. “By exposing young ones to their heritage, Children in the Wilderness is building and strengthening their capabilities to cope with life’s challenges while educating them with the life skills necessary to realize their greatest potential.”