Sophea is 21 years old and lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She came to Skateistan through our partner organization when she was 16 years old.
When Sophea was young, she had a hard time managing her behavior and she had no clear goal for the future. Sophea’s family didn’t know how to deal with her as a child. They felt like she did not listen to instructions and sometimes they lost hope for her. She hadn’t had access to the right education and she felt like she was always making mistakes.
In 2014, when Sophea was in grade 8 she started attending the Skateistan Cambodia programs. Sophea registered to take part in the Skate and Create program, and a Youth Leadership program which combines the fun and freedom of skateboarding with arts-based education on subjects like human rights, the environment, staying healthy and the importance of safety, leading events, learning about child rights and becoming a leader.
Sophea was scared to try and get involved in case she failed. This made her act out and her behaviour was hard to manage. Her friend from high school who is now a part-time educator and former skateistan student Suyeng said:
Initially, Skateistan staff in Phnom Penh found it very difficult to speak with her. She was so afraid to try skateboarding. But her educators never gave up supporting and motivating her and tried to motivate, encourage Sophea. They didn’t put pressure on her but they could see that she liked to watch her friends skate. So they let her watch and they talked her through each trick. After a while, she could see what she needed to do. She saw her friends can do it and that meant she could do it too.
‘‘Skateboarding made me so happy and built my confidence. I will keep learning new tricks. I don't want people around me to be disappointed in me." Sophea said.
Sophea’s role model is Tin. While Sophea was still a student at Skateistan, she noticed Tin, who was an educator at that time, and she gradually progressed to Programs Officer and is now General Manager of Skateistan Cambodia. She had also come from a difficult start in life and through Tin, Sophea started to see that things could be different.
“I want to learn from Tin in order to help me grow. Tin helps change my behavior and build my confidence.”
In 2017, Sophea started volunteering at Auscam (a partner organization which helps vulnerable girls) and also become a part-time educator at Skateistan Cambodia. She teaches and plans lessons and she does a lot of outreach, helping disadvantaged kids to get an education at Skateistan. Since then she has also graduated from Grade 12 and now has a bright future ahead of her.
Suyeng, Skateistan’s part-time educator, has noticed significant changes in the girl who used to annoy her during the last four years.
Sophea is now working very closely with other educators at the skatepark, helping children to succeed as she has done.
Skateistan is aiming to raise $75,000 by the end of July so that we can provide more spaces where girls like Sophea are supported, encouraged and celebrated. Donate today to show girls that they can be whatever they dream of being. It's Her Turn.
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