Having vision and purpose to affect our local, national and global culture is a lofty and noble idea which may sound nice but in reality, involves sacrifice, smart work, focus, effort, patience and tremendous perseverance. In our stock market driven global economy, money is king and lots of it seems to be sign of success. But is it possible that their are some success stories which are perhaps more important than the dollar given the time money has historically had to bring about positive change in the limelight? Can business and goodwill somehow create a marriage made in heaven? How do we bring about hope and positive change into the life of people when we are not the heads of multi-national corporations with deep pockets?
As part of the continued growth of the social enterprise endeavor I am spearheading, one that brings together typical and special needs youth into the American Originals Skateboarding League, my interest in other similar, yet different social entrepreneurial ventures is of interest as an example to learn from, been inspired through, study and support. I found out about Skateboards for Hope through social media and have followed their actions and growth. Their organization functions out of Canada, yet their operations are very much international. I recently asked Betsy Esperanza for a short interview to bring greater awareness to their mission. check out their website at SkateboardsForHope.Com
Below are my four questions and her answers on behalf of Skateboards For Hope.
Thank you Betsy. The servant leadership of your organization is a shining light on how business and servant leadership can proceed forward.
All my best,
1. Skateboards For Hope, as a social enterprise based in Canada, is it feasible to operate your social endeavor in Cuba?
At first I had no idea how much resources might cost. I learnt over the years that money is not what is needed. Since there are no skateboards, skateboard manufacturing in Cuba. I started collecting used skateboards locally and internationally to achieve my goals. So to answer your question, it became easier to transport skateboards as gifts when I received recognition from the Cuban authorities as a humanitarian organization. I collaborated with airlines, University Volunteer Groups, Missionaries and generous Canadian citizens. If the goal is to be sustainable- then raising funds in North America through events and awareness campaigns is the route to start with. Corporate sponsors that are sensitive to poverty and to the empowerment of children will also offer their goods and services for a specific project.
To create your livelihood doing something you love is necessary. But you will have to let go some of your preconceived notions on how things should work. Working with or in an underdeveloped country is like a puzzle with pieces missing. You might have to create your own path or piece to achieve your goals.
2. How do you achieve your vision on a daily basis?
I am very passionate about helping youth achieve their potential. Whether it be through skateboarding or education or mentorship. I am genuinely happy to offer my fun and positive outlook to anyone who needs a boost of energy. I tend to have a short TO DO list to move projects forward. Also, I rely on volunteers to do some of the heavy lifting. ( Not kidding, the duffle bags full of skateboards are heavy!) Plus, I am stimulated by my kids, The community and creativity. I can't get enough and I need to share it. It's really about sharing and having a purpose. Mine is to see children smile!
3. You are an international operating social enterprise. If Skateboards For Hope could expand to its desired next level, what would that look like?
I have this dream that I will travel to cities worldwide setting up Skateboards For Hope clubs or after school projects. I would like to give motivational talks to inspire youth to become entrepreneurs using skateboards to start. I see this as an extension to education. Since skateboarding is a sport, leisure activity and a lifestyle, I would love to see it influence communities where it's needed the most. Most of our youth swear that without skateboarding, they would feel lost. So we want children to feel empowered by the benefits of exercise, using their creativity, solving problems and achieving success using skateboards as a tool.
4. Why do you think skateboarding can bring real hope into the hearts and minds of the people you serve, and how do you envision that hope you help cultivate flourish into something beyond skateboarding?
Proof is in the pudding right? So far, youth in Cuba, Uganda and First Nations have given testimonials about how skateboarding gave them a purpose. For some it thwarted them from negative behaviour or even suicidal thoughts. For others it gave them hope because they began to see their failures ( learning to skateboard is really hard) as lessons in life. Not giving up or setting realistic and attainable goals brings hope and a sense of achievement. For example, our First Nations Ambassador, Justin Darrow is the first Mohawk ever to compete in World Cup Skateboarding. Not only did this achievement benefit Justin personally, Justin brought pride to his community and became a hero.
I see the impact of skateboards for hope directly. Our Ambassador of Gulu, Uganda, Magada Collins has influenced his community to embrace skateboarding as an activity to keep boys and girls safe and secure. He has also created opportunities of income for the skateboarders by entrepreneurial projects. Twenty-five skaters were paid to demonstrate their skate tricks at Festivals and public community events. The Mayor of his city had the skateboarders lead a parade. Funds were even donated to pay for some of our skateboarders to finish school. This is incredible and promising. When an entire village recognizes the benefits - it leads to hope and dreams.
ALL THIS is what I had hoped for and more. For the future, My hope is that some of my skateboarders get to experience the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 whether as athletes or volunteers.
I hope I will be there to show the boys and girls that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE! I feel this is my purpose to inspire youth and young adults. I gave one skateboard to one boy and over 10 years - it's grown to 1000 children. Whatever your passion, just start with one then share it multiple times and have fun doing it. REUSE-RECYCLE-REVOLUTIONIZE!