It started as a simple idea, and before we knew it, we made so many plans that there was no way back. The goal was clear:
helping a country that is suffering from gangsterism, drugs and poverty. How we would do it? By doing what we love to do most: Skateboarding! Jaime Prins, cofounder of GYST.
It was April 2017 when I first visited South Africa. It was a journey where we got to know the extremes: from luxury villas to inhuman living conditions in the townships. Breathtaking nature on one side and depressing environments on the other side, where we could only conclude that we have it really nice here in Europe. What I remembered most is that most kids don’t really have a chance for a better future: no money for education and no money for sports or an other activity where kids can simply be in the moment for a while and have fun.
The culture shock came when we got back in the Netherlands. A question I asked myself was where I would have end up without school, hobby’s, work and all friendships that grew from there? At the same time, I wanted to go back to South Africa, but this time not with empty hands…
Looking at my own youth, I know that skateboarding brought me a lot. I felt free, living in the moment. I had a way to release my energy and I had a creative outlet. I felt part of a community that is shaped by respect, solidarity, self-improvement and FUN. It taught me social and mental skills that no school could ever teach me. It goes without saying that I am still a fanatic skateboarder.
Our first project
Johan, one of those best friends that I have been skateboarding with all my life, also felt an urge to do something and GYST was born. We started collecting used skateboards within our network and via skatestores. We gained some sponsors and started working towards our first project. We contacted South African organizations where we could collaborate with, organizing workshops for kids and it didn’t take long before we found 4 organizations that shared the same vison as ours: Bringing kids together through skateboarding and coach them in social and mental skills.
In January 2018, our team traveled to South Africa and we donated 100 skateboards on multiple locations throughout the country. During this trip, we filmed a documentary where the locals are telling their story. The documentary, called ‘Wheels of Change’, shows in which extreme circumstances many of these kids grow up. In the movie, passionate skateboarders are fighting to reverse the effects that poverty and gangsterism have on the younger generations.
The film had it’s première in June 2018 at the SCENECS International Filmfestival in Hilversum. We won the audience prize which was a perfect result to wrap up our first project. We also started working on a new project where we incorporated insights from our first project:
- Kids need a positive role model. Many kids consider gangsters as their role models because they have the money and the power. Kids are manipulated and drawn into criminal prostitution.
- The potential and interest in skateboarding is enormous in South Africa. There are so many talented kids, there are skateparks and other facilities but a skateboard is unaffordable for the majority.
- We can have more positive impact if we can also support kids on a continuous, sustainable, level. Only then we can think of reaching out to other countries in Africa.
The Talent Sponsoring Program
These insights brought us to developing a new project called the Talent Sponsoring Program. This program gives talented kids in South-Africa the opportunity to further develop their skills, to become a positive role model and to finally get in touch with other potential sponsors.
Together with our partners and the people who donate, we provide these kids with a new skateboard every month. By doing this on a monthly basis, they give away their old skateboard to someone who needs it, also on a monthly basis. By doing this, we can help 12 kids per year, per kid we sponsor.
Our local partners coach these kids in their progress and ensure that we can share the progress of these kids on social media, which will also benefit these kids in becoming familiar because of their skills. We are expanding the program with more kids, aligned with the amount of funding we receive. We released the program on the third of September, we are currently sponsoring three kids and helping 36 kids per year.
How can you help?
Support the program! With a small monthly contribution, we can add more talented kids tot he program. You can see for yourself how they are progressing in skateboarding.
The first 20 subscriptions will receive our documentary ‘Wheels of Change’ completely for free! Watch the trailer here.