Teen to tackle Robben Island swim for mental health

Mental health activist Christopher Kleynhans at St James.

A 17-year-old Wynberg Boys’ High School matric pupil will swim from Robben Island to Big Bay Lifesaving Club, on Saturday February 27, to raise money and awareness for mental health.

Christopher Kleynhans says he has loved swimming for as long as he can remember.

In 2015, he founded the non-profit organisation, Swim For Change, to address the stigma around mental illness. Christopher felt mental illness, despite its impact on countless lives, wasn’t spoken about enough. The NPO advises teachers and parents on how to support youth with mental illness.

In 2017, when he was 13, Christopher held a 12-hour “swimathon” fund-raiser for mental-health programmes. It became an annual event.

The swimathon can’t be held this year because of Covid-19, so Christopher is doing the Robben Island swim instead.

“The date is weather dependent but if all goes as planned, I’ll swim the 7.5km Robben Island crossing. It will be my first crossing,” he said.

In March last year, Christopher represented South Africa at an international youth summit in New York. He was chosen as a 2020 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation.

In 2019, Swim For Change was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize Award and Christopher was invited to the Nobel Peace Laureate Youth Summit in Merida, Mexico. He was a nominee in the International Children’s Peace Prize Award for 2019 and 2020. He is a recipient of a silver President’s Award for Youth Empowerment.

He is using GivenGain for donations.