Our sessions continue at Friends Mith Samlanh NGO on a weekly basis, and over the weekend of Pchum Ben (Cambodian holiday) we added three other Friends locations to our program, getting 80 new kids on boards over a couple of days. The reaction was so positive that we have now set up a Saturday morning session just for those kids at the Olympic stadium where they arrive by bus from their Friends homes and get their skate on. Last week also saw us begin staff training for the Friends men and women, which has already paid off at our Tuesday and Thursday morning sessions, with the staff members directing the entire class in the Khmer local language.
It doesn't end there either. This week the entire Skateistan team along with some local bladers performed a demonstration at Northbridge International School on new ramps that have been built especially for the Cambodian Country Club (CCC). The day was a huge success and promoted the new skateboard facility at CCC which will be attended weekly by the students of Northbridge.
Skateistan Cambodia is well and truly taking off this month. September sees the addition of three new team members. Frauke Meyn is from Germany and recently volunteered as Education Coordinator with Skateistan in Afghanistan for six months. Steve Tierney is an ex-pro skateboarder from Australia who has just made the move to Phnom Penh. Both have a good deal of experience to offer which is great news for Country Manager Benji as Skateistan has just begun running very popular skate sessions with the Friends International NGO twice a week, as well as running ongoing classes for the boys and girls at PSE (Pour un Sourire d'Enfant) NGO. Young Cambodian Chada Leng is now Benji's assistant and is keen to help build skateboarding opportunities for youth in his country.
Skateistan Cambodia also just moved into a new building on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Benji has set up office in the residence which can also house staff/visitors to Cambodia, and work has already begun on some new skate obstacles in the workshop downstairs. The past weekend saw Skateistan host a launch party at the house with live music, skateboard demos and a BBQ. The turnout was huge with most of the local neighbourhood showing up to see what all the fuss was about. Since then, Frauke is unable to walk out of the house without a few neighbourhood kids asking her to teach them skating.
Last weekend, the kids from Skateistan Cambodia's feeder program got to check out their first off-site demo -- both skating and watching a good amateur skateboader from abroad. Although most of the event was ruined by rain, as soon as it was dry the kids snapped up the chance to skate, showing the crowd all they've learned in the past month. On Sunday, they were joined by Thai skater Pit Potarach, or "Tam", a flow-team rider for Preduce from Chiang Mai who was just coming off a contest in Bangkok.
Smart Mobile, another benefactor of the program, transported the ramps, obstacles and kids from the Pour un Sourire d'Enfant school to its promo event and concert on Koh Pich, or Diamond Island, just across the Bassac River in Phnom Penh. The kids waited out the rain alone, but when it dried up and they warmed up, crowds formed quickly on the popular weekend spot.