By Gabriel Kim, Community Outreach Coordinator, Skateboards For Hope
In 2019, in one of Quebec’s northernmost communities, Flore Deshayes brought a new kind of cool to Salluit. Working as a social worker for youth and family, she wanted to bring a project that would get Inuit kids involved in sports within their community. Alongside wellness worker Katsuak Saviadjuk, they initiated a skateboarding project for the children of Salluit. Being a member of a Montreal-based board group called Skateboard and Chill, Deshayes wanted to share her passion for skateboarding. And so began the planning and preparations to find partners, as skateboard shops are non-existent in Salluit, and new skateboards can be costly.
Deshayes contacted Betty Esperanza, Founder of Skateboards For Hope, a charity that collects, recycles, and donates used skateboards to children and communities worldwide. They also advocate for mental and physical well-being through their leadership and entrepreneurship programs. It seemed like two pieces of a puzzle fitting nicely together. With this collaboration, Deshayes was able to bring 12 full skateboards and protective equipment to Salluit. When the day came, roughly 50 kids had shown up to experience skateboarding, for many, their first time. With only 12 skateboards, Deshayes had to split them into groups and teach them in waves.
By proposing such a novel and new activity, Deshayes built a bond with the youth in the community and created a much-needed link with the community in line with Deshayes and Saviadjuk’s work. What was even more important was the support she received from parents, who celebrated this alternative activity that got their children hooked on being active.
Current Reality Unfortunately, the pandemic put a hold on this project until 2021. Yet, Deshayes and Saviadjuk agreed to put all their efforts into keeping the project alive. Deshayes had discussions with the municipality for an outdoor space that could allow for skateboarding platforms while at the same time providing an area for board sports (snow skate, toboggan, luge) during wintertime. It would allow for a safe space for children of the community to participate in sports throughout the year. This idea was well received and is currently in process with various stakeholders.
Rolling into the future Looking towards the future, Deshayes hopes this project will be taken over and led by youth. With the help of Saviadjuk, this initiative would help empower those involved within the community. It goes beyond just providing physical activity to youth; skateboarding is also a tool for self-expression. Teaching discipline and perseverance, such as performing an ollie, isn’t intrinsic to humans! Skateboards For Hope is committed to supporting this project. Its mission is to promote children’s physical and mental well-being and provide access to recycled skateboards to Salluit children. Skateboards For Hope remains committed to the youth in Salluit by bringing joy and allowing kids to be kids. We sincerely hope to see them back on their wheels in 2021.