Milena visits People First customer Skateistan in Cambodia
At one of our company meetings which took place earlier this year, I happened to have mentioned to some of my colleagues that I was about to travel to Cambodia for holidays. Our Head of Global Enablement, Andy Davies, suggested that I visit our new People First customer Skateistan in Phnom Penh. I knew nothing about Skateistan back then but when Andy briefed me about what they do, I couldn’t wait to visit them.
Skateistan is an international non-profit organisation which empowers children through skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. They focus on children who are often excluded from sports and educational opportunities, who are mainly girls, children with disabilities and children with low-income backgrounds.
When I arrived at the skate school in Phnom Penh, Tin, the General Manager of Skateistan in Cambodia, gave me a tour of the school and showed me their facilities. The main area of the school is the skatepark with various ramps and fun obstacles. It was much bigger than I expected it to be.
I was positively surprised to hear how fast children overcome their fear and become very good at skateboarding within just few months!
Next, Tin continued my tour by taking me to the rest of the learning spaces which were the library and a reading room. Some of the activities and tools children have in these areas are educational games, colouring books, computers, Rumie tablets (to access e-books, videos, and electronic documents), spaces to read by themselves or with friends, and even dancing!
Skateboarding is not the most common mechanism to develop future leaders, especially in Cambodia, and that’s why the Skateistan team has worked so hard to encourage and engage communities, helping people see the potential and benefits of what they offer.
Parents’ concern about the safety of children during skateboarding activities was a major fear to overcome, but the Skateistan team managed to do it by inviting the parents to the school and showing the safety equipment which included shoes, helmets, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards.
Children also participate in safety lessons in the skatepark in order to learn the importance of taking turns and listening to their educator’s instructions. Skateistan is doing an amazing job; Tin has mentioned that the interest has increased significantly in the past months and more students join the school with increased confidence.
Did I try to skateboard myself while I was there? Yes – for the first time ever! I jumped on that skateboard with fear and excitement! Did Tin stop me because I wasn’t wearing safety equipment? Also, yes and I’m glad she did!
I am very proud that Skateistan is now part of People First family and I would be thrilled to visit their schools in the future. Below is the picture of Tin and myself at the skatepark, holding a new edition of their skateboard and a picture of me with my first Skateistan t-shirt, which you can also purchase to help support the great cause here.