The mission of Skateboards For Hope is to break the cycle of poverty experienced by young people from socio-economically disadvantaged communities by using skateboarding as a tool for social intervention.
Tell us about yourself?
I studied diplomacy and business management while I was an artist, street photographer, musician and championing social causes. I specialized in Afro-Cuban Jazz and was Vic Vogel’s Manager for 10 years where I fell in love with Cuba while touring the island back in the 1980s. Skateboards For Hope was born when I gave my skateboard to a Cuban young boy who later became the number one skateboarder, Yojany Pérez. As a result, a non-profit that collects and recycles skateboards to empower youth and break the cycle of poverty for children worldwide was born.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Slow down. You have time. The pandemic gave me perspective and time to grow. I feel privileged to be able to share my passions for business, sports development and social justice. But, you have to create time to absorb, digest and enjoy life.
What problem does your business solve?
- a) Recycle and reuse skateboards to make them available to young people from socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
- b) Allow the practice of skateboarding (through facilities, lessons, cultural exchanges, competitions, etc.) in a framework that promotes the empowerment and autonomy of young people.
- c) Fight against the taboos surrounding the culture of skateboarding.
- d) Support young people from targeted communities to promote their development, their social integration and lead them to become inspiring leaders in their community.
- E) Sending one less skateboard to a landfill site, of which 2 million find their way to each year!
What is the inspiration behind your business?
A Cuban young boy inspired me to be creative about finding resources and face financial challenges that most people would give up on. I partnered with airlines to get free excess baggage to ship skateboards. I turned to the skateboarding community in Montreal who have become the number one supplier of used skateboards in Canada. 9000 skateboards have been distributed across the world which has creating a global community of 100 ambassadors in 20 countries.
What is your magic sauce?
We are different because we don’t rely on funds to execute our mission. It’s 100% people-powered and we are educating children to value philanthropy at a young age which will develop social and problem-solving skills for a lifetime.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We want to be the largest recycler of skateboards in the world. We want every country to take on the responsibility to provide free access to equipment to underprivileged children and to support initiatives to break the cycle of poverty. We want everyone to learn the joy of skateboarding and build a global community to solve social problems.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Our biggest challenge has been funding for transportation. It’s quite costly to send 100 skateboards overseas where the need is greatest. During the pandemic, airlines were grounded and it halted our efforts. We can’t wait for business to improve or get back to normal- whatever the new normal might be. We welcome it.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
We want major brands in transport and freight to start collaborating with us. We would love for skateboard brands to donate damaged but useable equipment to increase our inventory. The more skateboards we have, the more children will be able to have the opportunity to grow healthy mentally, socially and physically. I feel like being greedy here, and ask that if business professionals with marketing skills can help us grown on social media too, we might get the word out to the right communities.