IN THE BEGINNING…
"I didn’t know that skateboarding would become an amazing tool to help and motivate kids in Cambodia."
Skateistan Cambodia was a natural response to the energy and enthusiasm of a small group of Cambodian youth who experienced skateboarding for the first time by chance in 2011. Operations Manager Benjamin Pecqueur was working as the Marketing Manager for the youth NGO Pour un Sourire D’Enfant (PSE) at the time, and had his sister send his old skateboard from France to Phnom Penh by post.
"When I received my deck I was super excited to use it again so I just started skating in front of my office. In 10 minutes, 20 students were around me and asked to try. All the kids were super excited to try this new thing, and each time one of them got on the board another started laughing. The NGO’s director walked over to see what was happening. He was surprised to see so much interest from the students and asked me to start a skateboarding activity at PSE – it’s what I did! At this time I didn’t know that skateboarding would become an amazing tool to help and motivate kids in Cambodia."
– Benjamin Pecqueur, Skateistan Cambodia Founder and Operations Manager
Shortly after this, PSE provided a space to build a small skate park to add to their sports and recreation program. This would be the first skate park in Cambodia, so Benjamin began seeking support to build the ramps.
Benjamin was told about a project called Skateistan, which was teaching marginalized youth in Kabul, Afghanistan. With his years of experience working for NGOs in Cambodia (in prevention theatre, organizing the first Carnival in the country, and working with PSE) Benjamin reached out to Skateistan’s founder and Executive Director Oliver Percovich for some project direction and support for a skateboarding-based youth outreach project in Cambodia.
Skateistan agreed to contribute partial funding for the ramps at PSE and facilitate donations of skateboarding equipment. Within a few months, Skateistan Cambodia was Skateistan’s second project, after the NGO’s initial success in Afghanistan, with Benjamin committing full-time to the project.
"Youth are drawn to the newness of the sport in Cambodia – they can make it their own and this inspires their imaginations about what they can do with it," says Benjamin, also listing skateboarding’s natural connection with arts as a benefit for engaging with youth.
With the support of Skateistan, PSE and the Cambodian National Olympic Committee, Skateistan Cambodia rapidly developed its educational and recreational programs for Khmer youth, focusing on engaging girls and other vulnerable groups. After a year and a half of street outreach activities and sessions at the PSE skate park, taught by Khmer and foreign volunteers, Skateistan Cambodia opened its own facility in September 2012 in a quiet neighbourhood near the Russian Market.
Skateistan Cambodia works in partnership with local NGOs such as PSE, Friends International and the Cambodian Women’s Development Agency to bring skateboarding, arts and leadership opportunities to girls and boys of all backgrounds and abilities in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. Currently, with a total staff of nine, Skateistan Cambodia works with 150 – 200 youth each week. Today the organization’s main focus is on building the skills of local staff, training youth leaders, and expanding its reach to engage more of the most vulnerable youth in the city with community supports and recreation opportunities.
With the ongoing support of the Cambodian National Olympic Committee, and a partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Skateistan Cambodia is uniquely positioned to help make skateboarding more accessible throughout Cambodia.
- The Cambodian Women’s Development Agency
- Damnok Toek
- Friends International
- Pour un Sourire D’Enfant
- Tiny Toones
- Hope for Justice