DAME Awards

Changing lives - Meet the 2019 DAME Charities

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Sailing4handicaps and the Little Optimist Trust are the fortunate charities chosen by the DAME Design Award committee. They will share the donations gathered as entry fees for the DAME DESIGN Award. Wojtek Czyz (Sailing4Handicaps) Greg Bertish (The Little Optimist) tell us what this news means for their charities and what they have planned to do with the donations they will receive.

The Little Optimist: Everybody can achieve something
South African Greg Bertish spent a total of 200 days in hospital battling a tropical heart infection for over six years. He was lucky enough to come out of it alive after multiple surgeries. Bertish: “I saw all these kids in hospital who, despite their illness and injuries, were happier in the hospital then they were at home. Many of them were very poor and came from homes with absent parents and little hope.” In 2016 Bertish sailed 200 kilometers along the Cape Of Storms And South African Coast in an Optimist dinghy and wrote a children’s book ‘The Little Optimist’. Bertish: “The Optimist is a Children’s sailing dinghy. It’s small and square, but it can do much any other yacht can do. I want to show children that that you can follow your dreams and have something to look forward to, even when you’ve had an amputation. I try to give the kids something to live for, to teach them a skill and to show them that they can go on, no matter what they look like or where they come from.” 


Building a base
In 2017, Bertish set up The Little Optimist Foundation, which inspires and teaches children optimism through unique projects and sailing. Bertish: “We work hard to find funding for our projects. We are rejuvenating old optimist dinghies we pull out of garages and fields, turning them into sailable boats again. These children don’t have any money for a day out, so we pay a fortune to get all the children safely to us.” Recently Bertish found a new base at Zeekoevlei lake within Cape Town, closer to the kids. “Now we can build a base and an academy next to the yachtclub. We can have stands to put our Optimists in and we’ll be ready to go sailing in no time. Being selected as one of the two DAME Charities really is an honor and will make a huge difference to our foundation and these kids.”

Sailing4Handicaps: Changing 35 lives
“Something like this never happened before” Says Wojtek Czyz about his charity. On the catamaran Imagine, athlete Czyz and his wife Elena Brambilla-Czyz, a famous sportswoman in high-jump from, sail to those with a disability but cannot afford a prosthesis. After a sport injury, Czyz lost his left leg. Czyz: “I have seen many people without the support of health insurance and the luck I have had. We wanted to help and the idea for Sailing4Handicaps was born. Everybody thought we were crazy and now we have already made 35 prosthetics and changed 35 lives. Those people get a new chance in life and that’s simply unique.” 


Parts and education
“The help from the DAME Design Award is a big whow and it makes us really proud,” says Czyz. “With the donations we will finance prosthetic parts and the orthopedic technician who will come on board with us. We also need to educate people so that there is always someone who knows how to make small repairs and knows how to contact us for help or spare parts.” Being a frequent visitor of METSTRADE himself, Czyz is happy with the feedback from the industry: “We always try to combine maritime action and something unique. METSTRADE is the best exhibition and for us to be chosen as a DAME Charity prize makes us really proud.”

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About the DAME Design Award
The DAME Design Award has been an important part of the METSTRADE Show for years. It is the most significant marine equipment competition of its kind, anywhere in the world. The METSTRADE Show will take place from 19 to 21 November in RAI Amsterdam. Exhibitors can enter the DAME Award from mid-July, allowing them to show off their latest marine equipment innovation. The application deadline is mid-September, and all entry fees will be donated to help Sailing4handicaps and the Little Optimist Trust.

Read more: Press release - DAME 2019 charities announced (June 11th, 2019).

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