This summer, two of our staff from our South Africa team traveled to Europe to attend Pushing Boarders in Malmö and the Goodpush event in Copenhagen. Here, we catch up with Wendy (Educator) and Ayanda (Senior Finance Officer) to find out more.
Tell us about the trip you took and the events you attended.
Wendy: While I was in Berlin I had did some training with different members of the team and I made my preparations for the Goodpush Conference that would take place in Denmark. I also spent time doing a lot of sightseeing from the Brandenburg gate, East Side Gallery to the very famous Tempelhof airport. I spent my time connecting with the Skateistan HQ team from the various departments and exploring the work they do. This was a great opportunity for me to learn about Skateistan at a managerial level since I had been operating locally as an Educator in South Africa.
I went to Malmö to attend the Pushing Borders event and on the first day, I attended The Skateroom’s social impact presentation. This was based around the funding application process for NGOs and selection criteria and it was very informative. I was also involved in assisting with the Goodpush booth, where we encouraged participants to fill out a survey about their skateboarding projects, to place their organizations on our social skate project map and potentially forge some new partnerships. I also used the opportunity to network and learn about other skate projects around the world. The next couple of days I participated in and attended panel discussions by panelists in the skate community, skaters and academics.
Ayanda: After a few days in Berlin with the team, I headed off to Pushing Boarders in Malmö where I was invited to be a panelist in the “Globally Stoked – Grassroots Skateboarding” session and it was so much fun! I had three other panelists on stage with me: Leyla (Peru – Concrete Jungle Foundation), Aram (Palestine – Skatepal) and Atita (India – Girls Skate India) and we all got to speak about our experiences with working with each of our organizations.
On our panel, I had the opportunity to share my experience of working with Skateistan from the time it first came to South Africa in 2014; I started off as a volunteer helping out during outreach sessions and over the past 6 years have worked mostly in operations and finance. Some of my highlights were speaking about the importance of skills exchange between volunteers and the communities they work in, discussing with boys why it’s important to have girls-only days and a “Girls First” policy but I think my favorite was speaking about the soft skills skateboarding gives you. Falling down, failing, getting hurt, wanting to give up are all things we go through while learning how to skateboard but each time we get up and give it one more try – a lot of the students we work with in our organizations come from challenging backgrounds so building this resilience through skateboarding can help later in life or outside of the skatepark.
How did you like Berlin, Malmö and Copenhagen?
Ayanda: Outside of the panel, I got to meet some inspiring people and explore both Malmö and Copenhagen – I really liked how easy it was to skate around Malmö but enjoyed the friendliness and busyness of Copenhagen…I even got to watch FC Copenhagen play a match at their football stadium.
Wendy: This was my first time in Europe. I had never travelled aside from the southern countries in Africa, I spent most of my life in Johannesburg, in Botswana and Zimbabwe visiting family and friends. My first impression in all three countries I was visiting (Germany, Sweden and Denmark) was recognising sustainable green cities, how sports like skateboarding and cycling had been integrated in cities’ public spaces. There were designated areas allocated to the public to utilize. From drivers giving right of way to cyclists and pedestrians, to public spaces with visible security to explore the cities without worry. This gave way to a relaxed environment compared to a fast paced, busy city like Johannesburg.
Did you meet anyone you were really stoked about?
Ayanda: Although I didn’t get to meet him personally, I was super excited to hear from Leo Valls and the work he’s done to make Bordeaux (his home city) more skate-friendly – I’m passionate about urbanism and skateboarding, so listening to Leo speak about his city, the challenges faced by the skateboarding community there and how they overcame them with the buy-in of the local communities was a massive learning experience and eye-opener…whether it’s with grassroots organizations or city administrators, getting community buy-in seems to be a common thread across the board with skateboarding.
You also attended the Goodpush event in Copenhagen - tell us what you did there.
Wendy: In Copenhagen at The Goodpush event, I was pretty stoked about the conference itself since it was the main reason I had come to Europe. From the preparations to the build up of the event and finally being there was pretty exciting to be part of. I presented about the challenges of running a Skate School while the rest of the team touched based on Skateistan goals and methods for monitoring, evaluation and learning. There was also an incredible presentation by Joel Pippus from Hull Services that shared the medical study that proves how skateboarding can be used for therapeutic healing from trauma.
What were the best moments of Pushing Boarders/Goodpush event for you?
Ayanda: It’s really important to hear from the people who live in the communities we work in – I grew up in Troyeville (where Skateistan South Africa’s first ever outreach sessions were held) so know how important it is for our programs to deal with the challenges our students face; while an idea may sound amazing in theory, the reality on the ground may be different…so thank you to Pushing Boarders for allowing me, Aram and Leyla to share our stories and experiences with everyone!
Wendy: The thing that had the biggest effect on me was being in the same space with creatives, intellectuals and sports people from the skate community and academia - all in the same summit. And we were all ready to learn, share knowledge and experiences of our own. The experience still remains a game changer for me.
What are the key things you’ll take back to your job in Skateistan South Africa?
Wendy: A new perspective around urban planning and city skate friendly cities (this was one of the discussions that stood out for me at the Pushing Borders summit). The discussion was about integrating skateboarding into public spaces and this would mean more sustainable skate cities where skaters, urban town planners and policy makers worked together. I realised that this is a gap in my own city (Johannesburg). To finally get to a city like Malmö and feel safe to skate anywhere was amazing. Not having to worry about being hit by a car or being attacked. For the first time, I was really free - free to be me and forget how my gender previously was a barrier.
Secondly, other panel discussions that highlighted the use of skateboarding to educate from classroom to communities for practitioners to explore skateboarding as a learning tool. I loved the presentation from Joel about how skateboarding can help children heal from trauma and I definitely think that will be useful back home in my day-to-day work as well as for the rest of our team in South Africa.
Ayanda: Looking back at my experience with Pushing Boarders and the Goodpush event, I learned that the skateboarding community is so much bigger than what I thought it was and goes beyond using skateboarding as a tool for social change…if there’s anything I take with me from this whole experience is to follow what you love – I work in grassroots skateboarding in South Africa but met people from all over the world who work in skateboarding media, urban design, LGBQTI advocacy, academic research, pro skating etc. yet the one thing that brought us together was our love for skateboarding…and it was amazing to experience this!
Yes, you may not become the best skater in the world or even excel at it but that doesn’t mean anything - the soft skills and attitude we build while skateboarding are what will help us become the best versions of ourselves…thank you Skateistan, thank you Pushing Boarders and thank you Goodpush for bringing all of us together for arguably the best five days of my life!
You can find out more about the events that Wendy and Ayanda attended. There’s more information on Pushing Boarders here and you can find out all about Skateistan’s Goodpush project here. You can also see a recording of the Globally Stoked panel, which Ayanda spoke on, here.