The 2022 President’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Volunteer Service Award are being awarded to Ruald Strydom, a South African business entrepreneur with a volunteer background going back over a decade. The ceremony will take place in Atlanta, GA. Along with this, he has received numerous congratulatory messages from many members of the Washington elite.
His passion for helping those in need goes all the way back to the fact that his late grandparents, Corrie and Christine Strydom, spent their childhood in a Johannesburg, South Africa children’s home. This led him to maintain a special place in his heart for women and children in need, which is where the focus of his company grew from.
Over a decade ago in 2010, Ruald spent time volunteering at a local children’s home, after which he founded CEO GOLF with a small group of other business executives. The Give-Back Initiative of CEO GOLF support organizations, those who have dedicated their lives to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and supporting the vulnerable. The funding comes from elite tournaments hosted by CEO GOLF and donations, through this, the company is able to support a huge number of charities. For example, the children’s home he volunteered at is on that list: it now supports over 200 children who are currently being protected by the court for one reason or another. The manager of that home says that “he is not just a volunteer but family,” and that they are thankful for all that Ruald has done for them over the last decade.
The pandemic presented another opportunity for Ruald to show his dedication to helping those in need. During the thick of it, he spent time in some of the poorest communities to purchase and deliver much-needed food and supplies to as many people as he could. For the better part of 8 months, Ruald worked hard to make a difference for those in that community. He was given a letter of appreciation by Councillor Elma Nel of The Democratic Alliance for his time and efforts, who stated “I will always remember how you singlehandedly managed to restore a whole community’s dignity. In all honesty, I don’t think we would have coped without your assistance.”
Ruald has also spent time recently helping the refugees from Ukraine and their struggle during this time of conflict in their home country. The invasion of their home has caused the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since WWII with over 8 million people forced from their homes, as well as thousands upon thousands of deaths on both sides of the war. Ruald made financial contributions toward these efforts, providing food and supplies to the refugees.
Returning to the current award, the Lifetime Achievement Award (also called the Call to Service Award) is an immense honor to receive. It is only given to those with over 4,000 hours of high-level volunteer time and it is administered by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and endorsed by President Biden. In the President’s letter that accompanied this award, President Biden wrote: “By sharing your time and passion, you are helping to discover and deliver solutions to the challenges we face – solutions that we need now more than ever. We are living in a moment that calls for hope and light, and love. Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another. Through your service, you are providing all three.”
Aside from this prestigious award, Ruald has also been honored with a variety of other recognitions for his work. In August 2022, he was nominated for The Order of the Baobab by North-West University (NWU), Prof W. van Vollenhoven, which is a South African civilian national honor for distinguished service in community service. His International Humanitarian awards include the HPASS Humanitarian Learner of the Year 2021 & 2022, the 2022 Humanitarian Social Service Award, Connecticut, USA, and the 2021 Global Humanitarian Award, Atlanta, USA.
Ruald is also a financial contributor to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of the Givers, Feed SA, Solidariteit Helpende Hand, and UNICEF. He has his hands hard at work in charities such as SAVF Belfast Children’s Home, SA Cares for Life, Moreson Child & Youth Care Centre, and The Eric Matthews Foundation.
He spends some of his free time as a licensed helicopter pilot. He was born and raised in South Africa and still has a deep connection to his home and caring for those in need. In his own words, Ruald’s reaction to receiving this incredible honor is this: “I am very grateful to President Biden for conferring this prestigious award upon me and for acknowledging my efforts in philanthropy around the world. This is a huge honor. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, ‘Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world’.”
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