Today she is known to us as Princess Charlene of Monaco married to Prince Albert II of Monaco. She was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe), but her family relocated to South Africa in 1989. We see her as a devoted mother, humanitarian figure, fashion icon and a beloved Princess. We also know that she is very humble and tends to shy away, without revealing too much of her private life.
What draws our attention is how much she has given back to her adopted country which she calls home, by taking her biggest fear: fear of drowning as she mentioned during her interview with Radio Vatican. And by turning this fear into something great, making it her duty, to teach, show, educate and save lives. Therefore the birth of her foundation – the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation – launched on 14 December 2012, to make us aware of the dangers of drowning. Every minute a child drowns worldwide, it is the third largest cause of unintentional injury and death in the world.
The mission of the foundation is to be able to give the necessary tools for kids to feel safe in their aquatic environment, teach them how to swim and provides C.P.R. programmes to children. To educate communities, make them be alert and raise public awareness. Since its creation to the end of 2019, close to 730,000 people, mostly children, benefited from the foundation’s “Learn to Swim”, “Water Safety” and “Sport & Education” programmes in 34 countries.
Supporting children in South Africa
The foundation supports the Gugulesiwe Primary School in Daveyton, Benoni. A school from her hometown, which the foundation helps with its educational development and progress. She even visited the primary school with her two children, Princess Gabriella and Hereditary Prince Jacques. They spent the day bonding with the school community, planting trees in a garden named after her. South Africans call her “our Princess” because she has not forgotten her roots and the “fundamentals” that makes her a “South African”. “I have taken a personal interest in the school and I will support and do my best to make sure that the leaners at the school are exposed to great sports, health and safety, so that they can build a great community around them,” she said.
Sports as the essence of being South African
Sport is an excellent part of the South African culture, and it brings them together, it unites them and makes them forget their differences no matter race and circumstances. It imposes discipline, determination, how to have good sportsmanship, makes them feel like they belong, and to be part of a team. These are the values the Princess communicates through her foundation. That is the essences of being South African.
Her work does not stop there in the year 2016 she becomes Patron of the South African Red Cross Society and has also been fully involved in the Nelson Mandela Foundation. You could say that she sprinkles a bit of her heart right across South Africa and through the whole of Africa. Her love for South Africa goes beyond just giving. She once said during her trip in South Africa: “I am African, and this is my heritage. It will always be. It’s in my heart and in my veins”.
She inspires, she gives hope and teaches us that heritage is significant, one should be proud to wear it on one’s sleeve. It is a great advantage to have, not a setback. She also told Top Billing in an interview, that she misses the “HOWZIT“, and that the twins are learning how to speak Afrikaans and Zulu, that they love biltong and potjiekos.
Now we all know that you are not genuinely South African at heart if you do not have the taste buds for biltong, and it looks like the royal twins are heading in the right direction, and hope they as well will later share the same love for South Africa as their mother.
“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.”
By Samatha Kanjee. Samatha is South African now living on the French Riviera.