Back on Board: Meet Lesedi

Lesedi* is 12 years old and he’s been coming to Skateistan for four years. He has always been a social butterfly and his educators describe him as friendly, chatty and enthusiastic. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit South Africa, something happened which made Lesedi feel unsafe in his neighbourhood. Inner-city Johannesburg can often feel unsafe, especially for children. When the lockdown began, these feelings of insecurity became especially apparent for Lesedi and he was really struggling emotionally and mentally.

“When the lockdown started, I felt terrible because I knew I could not come to Skateistan. I knew I would not see my friends and I missed them. I missed Tshepo, my educator at Skateistan, because he is kind and sweet.”

Vuyo, our Programs Officer, remembers feeling really worried for all our students.


“That was such a hard time. Many of our kids live in neighbourhoods or buildings where you don’t feel safe to play and have fun. They need safe spaces like school or Skateistan to come and just be kids. The lockdown made all of that impossible.”

Many parents also lost their jobs during this time because they were not allowed to go out and work. That’s what happened to Lesedi’s mum and she was getting really worried about being able to pay the rent. They were being threatened with eviction and the stress was piling up for them. 


“That’s when we got to thinking about how we could support the families of our students. We had a lot of ideas around remote lessons and activities they could do from home. But what they needed first was security around food and housing.”

With that in mind, the team in Johannesburg started distributing food and hygiene kits from the Skate School, which was closed for programs. They also started fundraising to help support families in Johannesburg with rent payments during the lockdown.

“Once we had taken care of those more basic needs, we were able to move on and start helping the students with their learning from home.”

This support really helped Lesedi’s mum, so she was then able to focus on Lesedi and what he needed to get through this hard time.

“I can say that Skateistan is really doing a lot for our children and our families.”
Lesedi's mom

Vuyo explains how the team reached out to Lesedi during the lockdown:

“We were very worried for him as we could see that his personality had changed. He wasn’t the same kid anymore and he had lost his courage and his confidence. We made it a priority to contact him frequently and to help him out. We encouraged him to find activities at home that he could do to cheer himself up. And just being there for him, letting him know that we were thinking of him really helped him.”

When the Skate School reopened, Lesedi could not wait to get back.

“It felt so good to be back on a skateboard.”

He really enjoys dancing and the team are giving him lots of opportunities to express himself through dance. Now that he is back in a safe space, with adults he can trust, his old, sociable personality is starting to shine through again.

“Sometimes his moods affect him. He can get angry suddenly and take this out on others. But we know this is coming from a place of stress so we are simply being there for him and helping him to build himself back up. He is taking his courage back.”

Stories like Lesedi’s really highlight the need for safe spaces where children are free to express themselves. When the Skate Schools closed because of Covid-19, many children felt they had nowhere in their lives where they could feel truly safe. Now that our Skate School in Johannesburg is open again, we are focusing on helping children like Lesedi to process what has happened and to rediscover the joy of community, connections and skateboarding. 


Will you support us to get more kids like Lesedi Back on Board?


*Lesedi's name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan's Child Protection Policy.