Greater Responsibility a Necessary Part of Vlok’s Vision
September 14, 2009 Dan Burger
The big highways can only get you so far. Sometimes a route that is off the beaten path is required. Such a plan makes some people nervous. Nonetheless, it is often a good idea. More than that, it actually makes sense in many ways.
Do you think company CEOs are different than anyone else in this regard? A quick chat with Nicolaas Vlok, president and CEO of Vision Solutions, may change your mind. Vlok has become much more interested in an off-the-beaten-path approach since becoming involved with a charity called Children in the Wilderness.
Vlok only learned about the charity a little more than a year ago. He was drawn to it because of the emphasis on children from rural villages learning a combination of life skills and conservation of natural resources in Africa. One of the charity’s goals is to provide a spark that creates environmental leaders who are inspired to care for Africa’s wildlife heritage, a combination of causes that Vlok, a native South African, endorses.
Children of the Wilderness, which came into existence eight years ago, operates 61 camps that involves kids in the commercial side of the safari business. The camps operate for two weeks during the year in seven southern Africa countries in which Wilderness Safaris operates. Wilderness Safaris runs environmentally friendly camps and overland safaris that access 6.5 million acres of wildlife reserves. About 85 percent of the 1,600 employees at Wilderness Safaris come from the rural communities surrounding the protected areas.
To raise money and awareness for Children in the Wilderness, Vlok signed on as a sponsor and a participant in a four-day, 240-mile, off-road bicycle ride known as the Tour de Tuli, which crosses portions of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The ride, which also includes a 6,000-foot gain in elevation over the four days of riding, is no easy accomplishment, but the fund raising and awareness raising is no less difficult.
Historically the tour consisted of South African mountain bikers, but riders now represent 15 countries and a wide spectrum of business executives, like Vlok, who run companies and enjoy an active lifestyle. The most recent tour took place last month along animal migration routes in restricted wilderness areas where participants pedal amongst elephants, giraffes, antelope, and other residents of the disappearing African wilderness. (Yes, there were predators, too.)
Vlok, who has lived in the United States since 2000, intends to ride again next year and to continue his efforts to promote involvement by other U.S. citizens and corporations. For the 2009 event, Vlok and his small team of enthusiasts raised about $20,000 for the program. He says that was double the initial goal and about 10 percent of all the money the Tour de Tuli will raise this year. Corporate sponsorships, money from friends and family, and an internal program at Vision Solutions brought in donations that reached the $20,000.
“Part of the involvement is the thrill of being in the wilderness on a mountain bike,” says Vlok, who is a strong rider and a mountain biking enthusiast. “The other part is getting excited about being involved in a charity like this one. I really like how the charity is involved in communities and how it touches the lives of young kids.”
Vlok’s “Backabuddy” Web page can be found here.
As a late addition to this story, we’ve added two Web sites that feature photographs from the Tour de Tuli charity ride: