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Skateboarding Brings Change to Young Cambodians

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Download In Phnom Penh it’s now easy to spot young Cambodians skateboarding in the capital’s skateboard park.

The new sport was introduced by the international NGO Skateistan and targets poor young Cambodians.

The kids don’t just learn how to skate, but also how to improve their self-confidence.

Khortieth Him in Phnom Penh asks how skateboarding changes their lives.

It’s late in the afternoon in Phnom Penh and it’s skateboarding time!

There are dozens of young people in the skateboard park.

20-year old Chan Sopheakna is flying up in the air with his board on a makeshift railing and tumbling at full speed into a large wooden half-pipe.

“When I see the different styles from skateboarding, especially from the best skaters, I just want to be like them, to be a good skater, this is the reason I want to practice more and more.”

He learned how to skateboard seven months ago.

He used to work at a dumpsite with his mother and study at the same time.

“I help my mother in the dump site and also work at construction site to earn more money for my family. In a week, I can only go to school for one or two days, that’s the only spare time I have. And both my study and my health was not good.”

His health worsen so he decided to quit school for a year.

After he felt better, he went back to school. That’s where he learned about skateboarding.

“I learn a lot from skateboarding. They teach me how to step on the skate, how to move forward, how to stand up again after failing, how to jump and fly. I have a lot of confidence now. My health has also improved. And moreover, I have more friends and learn how to cope with hard situations through different styles of skateboarding. I can apply them in my study and life.”

Now he’s studying regularly and teaching skateboard too. He earns 100 US dollars a month.

Skateistan is an international NGO that introduced skateboard in Cambodia last year.

Country manager Benjamin Pecqueur explains why they’re using skateboard to reach out young Cambodians.

“It’s not that skateboarding provides a better life for the kids. That’s not true. Behind the skateboarding, we take each kid and study the his family problems and try to find a solution, to encourage them to go back to school. So skateboard is like a hook because when you arrive somewhere with a skateboard and you show the skateboard, everybody wants to try it.”

Skateistan’s first project was in Afghanistan. It’s now the largest sporting organisation in the country that is accessible to females, with a total of 400 students.

In Cambodia, they have 200 students – they’re mostly young Cambodians who are forced to work instead of studying.

“Skateboarding is something that they can believe in and they want to do. So with this patience, we can bring them back to school slowly, step by step. So we say, OK you want to practice skateboard, so come with us. But if you come with us, you have the follow the rules. You have to wear a helmet, safety jacket, and you have to listen to your teacher, or don’t practice skateboarding at all. This is the first step to bring back the kids to school, we introduce a system with rules. That’s the way we’re helping the kids.”

17-year old Sem Mean thought about leaving school in order to work to support his family.

But now he’s proud that he can pass all his school’s exams.

“After I joined the skateboarding program, I attend school more regularly. I could manage my time for doing sports and homework. I know now that education is very crucial for me and my future, so I have to work hard at school. I’m very happy that I can skateboard with all my friends. We’re good students at the skate park and a school.”

19-year old Kov Chan Sangvra is the only female skateboard teacher here.

She is helping her students wear helmet and safety jackets before skateboarding.

She thanks her skateboard skills for her new life now.

“I can’t skate without help before, but now I can do it myself. This helps me with my study and life too. It helps me a lot. And I am so proud that there are not many girls skating but I can do it, so it is good for me and I am proud that I can stand on this skateboard. I will teach skateboarding to other students, especially the students who come from the poor family like me.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 September 2012 13:41 )  

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