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Xiomara Getrouw

Xiomara Getrouw

Growing up in Paramaribo, Suriname, Xio, as she is known to her family and many friends. was a highly motivated child in both academics and athletics. A capable, talented, and well-trained swimmer with a specialty in the backstroke, Xio has also achieved success in competitive cycling, marathons, and triathlons.

Her climb to success began in her home country when she began a course of study at Alpha Max Academy, a competitive international private school. Upon graduation she matriculated to St Andrews University in North Carolina where she was a member of their swim team.

With a goal of representing Suriname at the pinnacle of competitive swimming – the Olympic Games- she has trained with coaches in the Netherlands and the United States. Xio participated in international competitions including the Dutch Caribbean Invitationals where she earned both gold and bronze medals, the 17th Fina Championships in Budapest, Hungary, and the 18th Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Xiomara has a strong interest in developing athletic programs for the hearing-impaired community around the world, especially children. As such she can communicate in American Sign Language (ASL).

As Help A Star becomes a fully certified nonprofit in both the USA and the Netherlands, Xiomara Getrouw, one of the organization’s founders, will be at the forefront of its success. As she has said many times, those that have received a lot must return to support others. To be a proud descendant of Suriname she cannot envision anything less.

Tariq Getrouw in Lesotho

Tariq Getrouw

Having spent his formative years in Suriname, Tariq acquired and honed the skills of competitive swimming thanks to the support of his mother who managed a local swim academy in Paramaribo. Blessed with natural ability and talent, he was able to compete on the international level as a teen. His athleticism also provided opportunities to receive scholarship offers from schools in the United States. He studied and swam for St. Andrews University in North Carolina while he maintained a personal goal of representing Suriname at the Olympic Games.

Tariq has taught swimming and coached athletes at all experience levels, both nationally and internationally, since 2005.  As a result, after having narrowly missed selection for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil he made the decision to retire from competitive swimming and further his career as a coach.
In October of 2018, he joined Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, North Carolina as a swim instructor. His responsibilities include developing leaders in and out of the water as well as coaching the master’s program which entails instructing swimmers from different backgrounds such as collegiates, former Olympians, seniors, and people new to competitive swimming.

As one of the founders of Help A Star / Swim for Life international, Tariq wears many hats: he is the webmaster of the organization’s internet presence, board member of its Netherlands foundation and leader of the US team that will be seeking 501C(3) nonprofit status in the near future.

Edwin Vermetten at the Invictus Games
Edwin Vermetten with Prime Minister Mr. Mark Rutte and Secretary Mrs. Ank Bijleveld

Edwin Vermetten in 2018 with Dutch Prime Minister Mr. Mark Rutte and Dutch Secretary of Defence Mrs. Ank Bijleveld, after returning from the Invictus Games.

Edwin Vermetten

Edwin Vermetten, a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident while deployed to Croatia in 2001.  For the next eight years, he endured numerous surgeries and a painful course of rehabilitation.

During his physical rehabilitation, he began to participate in athletics to support the therapy and regain his abilities. Edwin joined competitions in wheelchair tennis, para - rowing and he climbed the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour De France in a wheelchair.

Edwin participated in both World Cup and European Championship competitions and was quite successful, medaling at those meets. He also participated in the last two Military World Games, the 2015 edition at Mungyeong, South Korea and the 2019 games at Wuhan, China. He medaled at both meets.

Mr. Vermetten has competed in the Invictus Games three times (2014, 2016 and 2018); the games are an athletic competition supported by Britain’s Prince Harry for soldiers incapacitated by injuries suffered during their term of service. At the Sydney games he was competing in the wheelchair tennis mixed doubles tournament with his competition partner, Paul Guest of the United Kingdom. During the pool competitions, Mr. Guest had a recurrence of his PTSD as a helicopter was passing over the tennis venue. Edwin calmed Guest by singing  “Let it Go” from the Disney movie, “Frozen”; he was recognized by the Prince for his decisive action and he was awarded the Jaguar Land Rover “Above and Beyond Award.”

He was looking forward to serving as an ambassador for the 2020 games that were scheduled for The Hague, Netherlands. Due to the pandemic they will be rescheduled for 2021.

During the 2016 Invictus Games, he met siblings Xiomara and Tariq Getrouw, official games volunteers. This chance encounter led to Edwin’s decision to support Swim for Life International.  

Mr. Vermetten has also been officially recognized by his home country for his athletic efforts, courage, and perseverance. He has received an award from the Dutch Olympic Committee/ Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) recognizing him as an “athlete with talent.” Just recently, he was awarded the prestigious “Michiel de Ruyter Prize.”

Edwin is a particularly important member of the Help A Star family. His courage, motivation, perseverance, success, and support for his fellow warriors motivates the entire team and has opened new avenue – he is now recognized as a motivational speaker.

When not working on his myriad of interests, he is at home enjoying life with his family – wife Suzanne and daughters Iris and Sophie.

David Getrouw

David Getrouw

A technologist by choice, David Getrouw, or “Jack” as he is known to family and friends, is also a highly educated electrical engineer. He studied at the Anton de Kom University of Suriname (AdeKUS) and the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

His mother manages a swimming academy in Suriname, the nation of his birth. As such, he learned to swim and his experience in the pool led to his role as a swimming instructor; he is experienced in developing the aquatic skills of both disabled children and adults.

His interest in giving back to the world, particularly to those less fortunate, led him to join Help A Star. Jack looks forward to supporting the work of the foundation when they make their next journey to the continent of Africa. As he recently said: “I find it to be my duty to instruct people who are potentially at risk of drowning with the necessary surviving skills in water. Hence, my interest in contributing to the ‘Help a Star’ Foundation.”

Dakota Lee Getrouw

Dakota Lee Getrouw

When Dakota discusses her trip to South Africa in 2017 it is clear that she has developed a strong bond for the country. She states: “I absolutely fell in love with the region. I got to visit a few different villages and surprised myself with how much I connected with the people living there.”

Having been introduced to Xiomara and Tariq Getrouw, the irrespressible sister- brother team from Suriname, a year before as they were beginning their first trip to Lesotho, it was only natural that she would join the team at the NGO that they had founded and were developing. The three motivated young people were energized and passionate about creating programs to improve the lives the youth of Africa.


Dakota has been Inspiring kids since her preteen years. At age 12, she wrote a novel, the “Flash of Freedom”, that led to a nation-wide speaking tour after being published. The tour inspired thousands of children, and adults to live their dreams.


​Dakota earned a B. A. In Anthrozoology from Carroll College in Helena, Montana. As the wife of Tariq Getrouw and the the Public Relations Specialist for Help a Star / Swim for Life International, she is completely involved in the organization. Her responsibilities include the logistics, and scheduling of the trips to Lesotho.


This misson planning is large responsibility but not something she finds overwhelming. As she recently said: “Our mission is big, but we have faith that with hard work and the right people, we can make anything happen.”

Rob Bernstein

Robert Bernstein

Robert is a New York City native who served as a public-school educator in several positions for over 25 years that include pedagogy, governmental affairs, emergency planning and counter terrorism.

In 2005 he became a co-owner and one of the board members of Prince George’s Suite Magazine (, a lifestyle publication for the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC He was instrumental in  developing new business contacts as well as media coverage in travel, culture, sports, & regional development. His interest in military affairs led to a key relationship with the US Air Force and Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs, Maryland.

Upon his retirement from schools, he began writing as well as photographing for several African and Caribbean media platforms in the New York City area. These include: Afrobeat Radio, “Applause Africa” magazine, Island Voice and Africa Connect Online.

As a result of his work in the Diaspora Community he has been privileged to advise as well as join the boards of several organizations. They include “Enlighten the Youth”, working to rebuild the educational infrastructure in Sierra Leone, “Giving Back for Tomorrow” working to improve educational outcomes in Guinea and “I AM CULTURE”, based in Brooklyn, New York, committed to providing a voice for youth through art, fashion, music and other creative mediums. His goal is to ensure that young people achieve successful outcomes.

He has supported the Accra based “Girls Education Initiative of Ghana”, serving as their board chair for media & public affairs in the US as well as representing them at the United Nations, the World Bank and the United States House of Representatives. He has also served on the United Nations NGO Committee on Education, Learning and Literacy (NGO CELL).

Most recently, he has lent his experience and knowledge to continue the work of the Center for Media and Peace Initiatives (CMPI). This includes developing their media presence as Managing Editor of their official publication –“Journal of Media & Public Policy” as well as working extensively on the planning of their annual event, “The Gershowitz Conference” in conjunction with Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration (RUTGERS SPAA). He represents them at media conferences, speaking on topics as diverse as governance, national security, development, and education.

Robert’s role with Help A Star is to serve as their advisor on media, public affairs, and content development. He aims to ensure that the organization has the maximum degree of visibility.

Peter Troon

Peter Troon

In a career of more than twenty years, Peter Troon has become a highly experienced computer programmer, test automation engineer as well as a website designer / webmaster. While matriculated at Delft University in the Netherlands in the course of study for a civil engineering degree he became interested in computer technology; he subsequently left the engineering program and earned a degree in computer science. After a career of employment at various software firms, Peter has been self-employed for the last five years as a consultant.

Born in Paramaribo, Republic of Suriname. he moved to Amsterdam in 1985. Even though he has lived for the greatest part of his life in Europe, he has strong affinity with people who live in other continents, particularly Africa. He believes that everyone should contribute to create a better outcome for the children of the world.

Peter has a particularly important role in the leadership team of Help A Star- he not only works with Tariq Getrouw on the technical aspects of website development / maintenance but also advises the United States team  on the development of Dutch nonprofit “ANBI” status and the HAS Foundation.

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