“A Future on Wheels” skateboarding in Cambodia has been one of the most incredibly beautiful experiences I’ve had in my life, a project loaded with the excitement and motivation we have to transit our passion for longboarding to a small community of children in south-east Cambodia, specifically in the village of Chiro. This project has been made possible thanks to the NGO Organisation for Basic Training (OBT), which is situated 6 km from the city of Kampong Cham, along the Mekong river in Chiro village. This NGO provides education for the children, teaching them English, maths, music, IT skills and a range of activities which help them to create and access more opportunities when faced with their futures. 90% of the families in this village survives off agriculture and fishing and the children help with the tasks of the land, cultivating and collecting crops after finishing at school for the day. It is essential that all the families work and collaborate daily to make ends meet, seeing as one family earns approximately one to two dollars a day, making it important that all members of the community contribute.
My name is Antonio Luis Ballesta, also known as Culiba, and I have been working with this NGO as an English teacher for the last two years, since the end of 2016. I was fortunate enough to begin working with this organisation thanks to a very special friend, Silvia. She contacted me about this NGO where she was working and assisting with organising activity workshops and she suggested I go for a few months as an English teacher. I didn’t hesitate much, I bought a flight and threw myself into the adventure. I didn’t know what an amazing experience awaited me over the next few months.
Origin of the project
As with every trip I do, I always bring my longboard with me everywhere I go. So one day I decided to give some longboard lessons to the kids after the school. I was teaching one by one for a couple of hours every day, and at the end of the first week I had more than eighty kids interested in learning how to skate. One day I decided to do a session myself outside the school and show some tricks to the kids and more than a hundred were looking at me with such expressions of amazement that I could tell they were seeing longboarding for the first time in their lives. That moment was incredible!!
Then I decided to do more longboard lessons and posted some photos on social media to let people know about the skate sessions I was doing in that little community, Chiro Village. At that time, I only had my own board for the classes, so it was a bit hard sometimes to teach so many of them with only one deck. I promised them that I was going to bring more boards next time I came back to the village. Then, my very good friend Jildou, a social worker from the Netherlands got in touch with me and sent me a message with the great idea of creating a little project. She was finishing with her Social Work studies and proposed to create this longboard project for her final project in her degree. It was a great opportunity to make my dream come true and bring lots of boards to organise a real project with the kids in Chiro Village.
At the end of my stay, in December 2016, Jilldou and her boyfriend Tim decided to come to Cambodia to see this beautiful village and meet the kids. I asked them to bring a set of trucks and wheels to donate to the kids so that we could leave a complete set-up board for them to use while we were in Europe organising the continuation of the project. So our mission was then to develop this project. We started by collecting second hand skate gear and money from all over the world at many different skate events. Meanwhile in Europe Jildou, my very good friend Jay Alexis and I had a few skype meetings to discuss and organize this amazing project. We decide to named it A Future on Wheels, because it is an opportunity for the kids to discover and develop talents through longboarding in order to full fill their personal development.
Members of the team and mission of the project
At the moment our team consists of four ambassadors. All of us help in a very special way. I, Antonio Luis Ballesta, (AKA Culiba) am from the Granada, south of Spain, am the creator and inventor of the whole project. Co-Founder, creator and social media manager of the project is Jildou from the Netherlands. She helped to create a project out of the idea we had in the very beginning. Jay – a very good friend of mine from Madrid – is also one of our ambassadors who helped a lot with all the tasks in Barcelona which had to be done to make the shipping of all the packages possible. Last but not least is Philippe – a very good friend from south west Germany – he helped to collect second hand stuff on his own country, and he was also there in Cambodia managing and organizing the longboard classes with me.
Our mission was to collect second-hand longboard gear and money to create a budget for our organisation. For this we had different ideas. One part was to participate at all the longboard events in Europe by creating a stand. At this stand the visitors could donate second hand gear and money. The second part was to contact people from the worldwide longboard community to ask them to donate second hand gear as well. We edited and created a video to tell the community we are in need of second hand stuff, longboard equipment and money for our project in Cambodia. Even though this was the first time we had got in contact with the longboard community the reaction was huge. Everybody shared the post to make it viral. Within one weekend we had collected a huge amount of second hand gear from our loved community.
Organization of the project
The first time we came into action was in April 2017 at SYCLD ( So You can Longboard Dance) in Eindhoven, one of the biggest longboard events in the world.
We set up a stand with flyers and information about the Future on Wheels project and also a big box where people could donate their second hand stuff. We also ran a longboard workshop where the kids could come and learn how to longboard. It went really well.
The second event where we collected second hand stuff was at the “Dance with me” longboard contest in Tarifa (Spain) organized by Oh my Long. People there welcomed and helped us to collect and spread the word of our project.
The next event was in June 2017 in Brighton (UK) at the “Sun Sea and Skate” longboard dancing and freestyle contest. The organisers Sabina (longboard thrill magazine), Smile longboards shop and timber boards all helped us to collect a big amount of second hand stuff. Also some of the winners donated their prizes such as wheels, boards and helmets to our charity. It was really awesome!
Afterwards in July 2017 we took part in the Mannheim Longboard Open, organized by our ambassador Philippe Koffi-Gue and his brother Joseph. They collected so much stuff for this organisation, maybe the most out of all the events. Timber Boards from the Netherlands took care of the stuff and sent it to Barcelona.
In July we did a presentation of our project in Barcelona (thanks to Casa Gracia Hostel for giving us the opportunity to make this happen!) All the longboard community in Barcelona came to support us and also helped with donations.
At the end of the summer 2017 late September our great friend Ben Donoghe from the UK drove to Paris with his school bus van and collected lots of stuff for our project at the docksession skate meeting and brought it to Barcelona. I was really happy about it, he drove from the UK to Barcelona to drop off all the stuff collected in Paris. Huge thanks my man!!
In the middle of October our friends Marc Bienzo and Pol, organizers of longboardnight Barcelona offered us the idea of organizing a longboard event in Barcelona in order to collect second hand stuff and raise money for our charity. Great work from these guys. We really appreciate their help and contribution with our project. The event was a blast and we collected a lot of stuff.
The last months before my departure from Spain we were been very busy with our charity. Kaina Longboard Shop from my town Barcelona was a big supporter during this time. They gave me a workshop in their property to organise the project and set up all the boards. They also donated huge amounts of gear like bearings, wheels but also complete boards. Great people with a big heart!!
Last but not least of all our supporters during the last months is Goat Longboards – very good friends from Spain. Just because of their help all the donated boards which where in a really bad condition – or even broken – are fixed now. They took care of the shipment from Barcelona to the Basque Country where they started to repair everything. As soon as this was finished they sent it back to Barcelona. After all this support – which was already more we could have dreamed of – they even took care for the shipment of five parcels from Barcelona to London where the packages went on the journey to the south east.
In only one year we collected a huge amount of longboard equipment and raised a budget of about 750 euros from all the donations through heroesandfriends crowfunding website.
The arrival of “A Future On Wheels” to the Community in Chiro Village
The first day we arrived with the boxes lots of kids , between 30 and 50 , helped us with the unpacking and setting up all the boards. Our first class was the “Setting up” and we counted around 30 kids, all of them different ages from 5 years to 16 years old. On the same day once everything was set up we headed to the spot with the double amount of kids, around 60.
The first session ever took place with about 60 kids – while only 22 of them could use a board in the first part. After a while everybody had to switch. It was pretty clear that those kids would spread the message to their families and friends. So after only one week later we shared the session with about 120 kids – which is the double amount of the group size from the beginning. We were not really prepared for this huge amount of participants for our project. So after the first session with this huge amount of kids we came together to set up a new plan. Now the sessions were better organized… we divided the whole group in smaller groups to play games in those groups.
Our basic teaching days were the Saturdays and Sundays. We had the plan to use the weekends to concentrate on teaching them new things. During the week we skated daily for 2-3 hours with a bigger amount of kids.
After we had this type of organization within our workshops the group started to get a bit smaller which is very good for our project.
As usual when you start something like this, the group size is very big in the beginning. After a while there is a core group of kids who are more dedicated to the skating than the rest.
At first we concentrated on the basics like carving, pushing and holding the balance on the board. In the next weekends we concentrated more on learning special tricks with a bigger group of people.
The age of the kids varied a lot. It is quite usual for Cambodian kids to take care of the babies while the adults have to take care for the fields etc. So sometimes girls want to use a board together with a baby, this is quite difficult. The average age of the kids is about 10 years. But also older people up to the age of 15 and younger kids till the age of 6 come to use the boards. We would say between 5 and 16 years old.
The Project’s goal
The main goal of our project is to found a longboard community. The participants should develop their own skills in skating. Besides this we want to make sure they also develop their own personal values. Just with the participation in the project they can learn a lot of skills which are not directly connected with longboarding. They will gain patience, concentration and hopefully they will learn to share more than fighting for the things they really want. Apart from happiness, love and positive energy that the participants of the project – including us – gain from this project we hope to reach our goal transmitting our passion of longboarding to other communities. Our greatest wish is to fulfil this goal. This is our biggest benefit we could get out of this amazing project.
The project is not over after we left this place. Our goal is to create a longboard community in this place. This means they are going to be self organized, will learn tricks on their own and skate on their own. For this they do not need our presence. At the moment we put the focus on mediating the basics of skating as well as basic longboarding tricks. With this we want to make sure they have a basis level on which they can rely when we are gone. So our job basically is just to prepare and guide all this so they can continue to reach their goals after we are gone.
So we can say the project is going to start the moment we are leaving this place. To guarantee this we have to make sure everybody has an access to the skate equipment. For this we will set up a concrete plan to make sure this is going to happen in the right way.
The future of “A Future On Wheels”
In the future we are going to make projects like this in other countries as well. “A Future On Wheels” Cambodia 2018 is the pilot project of all this. Currently we are in contact with schools from other places in Asia and South America. We sell T-Shirts to gain an income within our organisation. Also we are looking forward to start new Crowd-Funding to collect second-hand skateboarding equipment again. With this we will head out and spread the stoke in another part of the world. Spreading peace, love and for sure longboarding for everybody is our mission.
Instagram – @afutureonwheels
Facebook – A future On Wheels
Website – www.heroesandfriends.com/afutureonwheels