How We Came To Be
In 2016, a first successful project was carried out in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Lesotho is enclosed in South Africa. The initiators...
April 16, 2023
The Help A Star Foundation completed a successful mission to Paramaribo, Suriname in November. This mission was our debut since becoming formally registered in the Netherlands in 2021.
The swim coaches: Sushmita “Xiomara” Getrouw, David Getrouw, Marcel Van Vendeloo, and Maddie Lablaine were responsible for the instructional aspects utilizing the foundation’s proprietary swimming curriculum, “The Starfish Method.” They were supported by Edwin Vermetten, and Tessa Van Hout (who also acted as team physician). with assistance from local Paramaribo volunteers. Overseeing the entire project was Loes the very inspiring mom of HAS founders- Xio and Tariq Getrouw.
The team taught about 40 hearing & sight impaired children in basic swimming & drownproofing techniques that will, hopefully, protect them from accidental drowning. The children were joining us in Paramaribo from the Kennedy School, Sudobe (Stichting Surinaamse Doven Belangen, (Foundation of Surinamese Deaf Interests) and the Louis Braille School. HAS Founder Xiomara stated: “It was a blessing to work with Deaf and the Blind community. Together we achieve much more.” These sentiments were echoed by Loes: “I thought it was a great mission that was done with all the love for people with disabilities.”
At the conclusion of the four-day program, the team met with the President of the Republic of Suriname, Dr. Chan Santokhi, Suriname Minister of Regional Development and Sport Gracia Emanuel and the Director of Sport, Dr. Gordon Touw Ngie Tjouw. These officials as well as students and staff were presented with official commemorative coins minted for this mission.
The local community as well the government of Suriname praised the efforts of the foundation and the education community in the area looks forward to the next visit of the Netherlands / USA non-profit organization. The HAS team was already looking towards 2023 and the next mission. This was made clear by Jack Getrouw: “It is beautiful to witness that love for humanity can save lives”
September 10, 2022
Our organization, Help A Star, will be travelling to Suriname in November in its first mission as a foundation.
We are proud to announce that the purpose of this trip will be to provide 40 hearing and sight impaired children with swimming lessons to prevent drowning. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death around the world particularly in underdeveloped regions. Children are especially in danger, particularly in geographic regions that contain wild flowing rivers or deep bodies of water.
As we transitioned from an idea in the minds of the organization’s founders to a certified foundation we were looking forward to the day when we could return to supporting children. That day has now arrived and we want you to join us in this mission by making a small donation and by following our progress on our social media outlets.
Please check out our Suriname 2022 Project page for more information: Suriname '22
September 9, 2022
Ambassador Henry Mac Donald who previously served as Suriname’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations at their headquarters in New York City has agreed to join the Help A Star Foundation as an official ambassador.
Ambassador Mac Donald will serve as an official advisor to the foundation providing his years of knowledge, experience as well as his vast network of contacts to ensure that the organization is proceeding appropriately as well as assisting on project development
His Excellency served in many key positions for Suriname before taking up the UN post. He served as both Deputy Chief of Mission at the Permanent Mission of Suriname to the Organization of American States as well as the as well as Charge d” Affairs of Suriname’s Embassy in Washington, DC. He also held leadership positions at CARICOM.
While serving as Permanent Representative at the UN, Ambassador Mac Donald was the “HeForShe” Campaign spokesperson as well as a tireless campaigner for the initiative. This included his strong efforts at presenting multiple Barbershop Conferences at the United Nations. In addition, Ambassador MacDonald was a Vice President of the 65th General Assembly, and he served on numerous occasions as Acting President.
Most recently, Mac Donald served as President of the World Development Foundation, a USA based Section 501C3 Not-for-Profit Tax-Exempt Organization concerned with development of sustainable initiatives.by binging together governmental representatives, civil society organizations and media.
Henry Mac Donald has also been the developer of a sustainable tourism initiative for the Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname region that he formally presented to the United Nations in 2017.
Read more here: The Resume / Biography of Mr. Henry Mac Donald
September 24, 2021
It is with great pride that we announce that Help A Star has finally completed the process to receive “ANBI” status in the Netherlands.
We are, as of the seventh of August 2021 an official non-profit organization in the Netherlands. This will add to our abilities to fundraise and undertake efforts for the children we seek to provide support. We became an official foundation in the Netherlands earlier in the year.
ANBI status is described as follows (by the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration): “ANBI is the non-profit tax designation in the Netherlands issued by the Tax Office (Belastingdienst) in accordance with the general tax laws (Uitvoeringsregeling Algemene Wet Rijksbelastingen 1994). ANBI stands for (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling). This status can be helpful for fundraising in the Netherlands.” “A Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) is a foreign ANBI, which means in Dutch: Algemeen nut beogende instelling (ANBI). An organisation can only be an ANBI if it’s organisation’s efforts are almost entirely committed to the public benefit.”
As we begin a new cycle of activity and programming the effort to become a recognized non-profit in the United States will be re-started. With 501c (3) status in the United States we can fundraise and collaborate with American based organizations as well as present our story to the major US foundations and aid consortiums. The effort to become a recognized as a non-profit was paused due to the pandemic.
Our organization looks to the upcoming year to begin full programming overseas because of our certification in the Netherlands.
May 23, 2021
When Help A Star was organized as a charitable organization, the goal was to incorporate swimming as the vehicle to better the lives of children particularly the disabled. This may lead to the question – why swimming? There is a truly clear and direct answer and that begins with our founders – Xiomara and Tariq and their introduction to swimming as children.
Growing up in a nation like Suriname teaches an important lesson early on – opportunities to reach your full potential are not easily acquired. When there is a chance that you can take advantage of scholarship or additional skill training you jump at the opportunity. The path to success is not always a straight line in the developing nations of the world.
For Xio and Tariq that first opportunity was presented to them by their mother, Lucia “Loes” Vroom. Loes had been a talented runner and loved athletics for an exceptionally long time. Unfortunately, she did not have the funding to secure a proper coach and training regimen. Thus, she realized that athletics was not going to be something that she was going to be able to pursue with any level of competitive success.
Loes discovered that she also loved swimming from a young age. Sometimes she and her sisters would just sneak into Parima, the only 50-meter pool in Suriname’s capital – Paramaribo. Swimming was not allowed by her mom, because she was very protective of her kids. At that time there was a lack of swim instructors in Suriname leading to many incidents of drowning among children. As she matured, Loes came to the realization that she too was given an opportunity - to use her love and skill in swimming to develop a swim school to teach and prepare children for swimming with the goal of reducing that terrible number of drownings in Suriname.
As of Mother’s Day 2021, the academy started by Loes, La Luz Swim School, has been in existence for 30 years. Before the onslaught of CoVid -19, the academy had 80 students. Not only that, Xio, Tariq and another family member, Jacques “Jack” Getrouw, also began nurtured their swimming abilities here and eventually served as instructors.
The opportunity presented to the three young people led them far from the Parima pool to academic scholarships in the USA and Europe as well as careers teaching new generations of children how to swim. Xio, for her part, now has her sights set on earning a master’s degree and eventually working with disabled youth.
The La Luz academy is not finished with the training of a new generation of swimmers. The school is inclusive, and everybody is welcome from age 2 to 100. Loes has taught many students with a disability. She never utilized formal advertisements but has distributed flyers and sent letters to schools at all levels; of course, word of mouth also brings new students.
If a disappointment exists, it is the lack of official funding from the government, its Olympic Committee or swimming federation. Loes has observed that many of her students are talented and have extraordinary competitive skill. While some can compete both nationally and in Caribbean competitions there are obstacles to reaching the FINA championships or the Olympics. Some children do not have supportive parents or suffer from a lack of financial support. Most of the talented in Suriname come from poor families.
Other neighboring such as countries Trinidad and Jamaica have more efficient and successful athletic development programs because they realize these programs lead to success in international competition. The increased positive visibility for their respective nations provides a leverage to improve their nations overall and a source of national pride.
While Loes is very hopeful that things might change, and she will often provide tuition for some children who cannot afford the school she realizes that this is an unsustainable and temporary solution. At the same time, she understands the importance of her efforts to contribute to the world and make a difference.
She is clearly motivated to continue leading La luz for the coming years and hopes that eventually, her children will take over as the leader.
While the current pandemic has necessitated changes to school procedures, students still attended La Luz and for that Loes is incredibly happy. She believes that living with CoVid means we need to push ourselves even harder to stay fit and healthy. As she stated very clearly: “We are living in challenging times, but you need to push yourself no matter what obstacles you are dealing with. You need to move forward! Stay positive because it is part of life.”
May 1, 2021
On February 12, 2021, Help A Star was officially registered as a foundation in the Netherlands.
With the official designation we also have appointed our first Board of Directors:
Xiomara Sushmita Getrouw: Co- Founder & Foundation Board Chair
Tariq Getrouw: Co- Founder & Foundation Board Vice - Chair
Rob Van Maanen: Foundation Secretary
Peter Troon: Foundation Treasurer & Director of Information Technology
Jacques “Jack” Getrouw: Director of Technical Programs
We have added additional team members from both the Netherlands & USA in the following roles who will be added to the foundation board in the near term:
Dakota Getrouw: Executive Director
Edwin Vermetten: Organization Liaison to Athletic & Creative Sectors
Robert Bernstein: Director of Media & Public Affairs
Currently, we are beginning the process for non-profit status in the Netherlands known as “ANBI” status. That will permit Help A Star to begin the collection of funds for future endeavors.
With this official recognition the organization is planning a mission to Africa in the first quarter of 2022.
Additionally, we will be pursuing non-profit 501©3 status in the USA as soon as the federal government permits. The pandemic has led to massive schedule changes on both continents with respect to our work.
January 10, 2021
Royal Netherlands Air Force veteran and celebrated sportsman Edwin Vermetten was awarded the Michiel De Ruyter Prize for 2020 in a modified ceremony; the ceremony was changed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Vermetten received the award for his quick actions at the 2018 Invictus Games.
During a tennis match, one of the athletes, Paul Guest from the United Kingdom suffered a bout of PTSD after hearing a helicopter flying overhead. Edwin quickly soothed the upset athlete by singing to him.
One of our key team members, Vermetten has been with Help A Star since our inception,as Swim for Life International. The founders of Swim for Life International, brother and sister Tariq and Sushmitra Getrouw met Edwin at the 2016 Invictus Games and shortly thereafter he joined the team.
The Michiel De Ruyter Prize is awarded annually for those "who distinguish themselves by praiseworthy acts of duty for the Netherlands." Edwin Vermetten has certainly demonstrated courage, perseverance and we are very proud of him,
January 10, 2021
Those of you who follow our work know that we are motivated to protect children from drowning. Our goal during the two previous missions that we made to Lesotho were focused on teaching children how to swim and to learn how to drown proof themselves.
According to the World Health Organization drowning is a very serious cause of concern, They have stated the following on their website:
Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
There are an estimated 320 000 annual drowning deaths worldwide.
Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.
Children, males and individuals with increased access to water are most at risk of drowning.
It is very sad when we hear that a child drowns and it is especially sad when that report emanates from Lesotho. In November of last year a seven year old boy, Mpho Petros Masoabi, fell into a river in Quthing, Lesotho and subsequently drowned,
We hope to begin a new cycle of missions to Lesotho as soon as the Coronavirus Pandemic abates making travel to Africa safe once more.
December 6, 2020
It is with great sadness and sympathy that the Help A Star team announces the death of Dr. Harold E. Robles. Dr. Robles, a great friend to the organization passed on July 31, 2020 from complications due to an ongoing struggle against prostate cancer. Born in Suriname, South America in 1948, he founded the Albert Schweitzer Center in the Netherlands in 1973 and remained affiliated with international Albert Schweitzer organization until the mid-1990’s.
His most rewarding efforts were made for the organization he founded and directed in Africa, the Health Promoters, formally known as HPSA (Health Promotion South Africa). HPSA provided basic health guidance and information in the townships of South Africa.
His work was recognized throughout the world and was confirmed by the honors that he received: honorary degrees, Doctor of Humane Letters from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut and Doctor of Public Health from American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts as well as a royal decoration, Knight in the Order of Oranje-Nassau.
When the King of Lesotho, Letsie III, visited the Netherlands in 2019, the Help A Star team was advised that Dr. Robles would be one of the King’s hosts. Since we had made missions to Lesotho previously, we contacted Dr. Robles and thus began an especially important relationship. He provided us with tremendous guidance. His knowledge of both NGO development as well as regional knowledge of the southern portion of Africa proved invaluable as we began to scale up our NGO. His friendship and support in our formative and early days will never be forgotten.
Dr. Robles will certainly be missed.