Skateboarding is for Everybody: Thyda’s Story

At Skateistan, we believe that every child has the right to a quality education and that all children should have spaces where they feel safe, where they can have fun and be themselves. Around 25% of our students in Cambodia are living with disabilities and Skateistan is often the only place where they can take part in physical activity. Join our Skateboarding is for Everybody campaign and help us to raise $150,000 by the end of 2018 so we can ensure no child is left behind.

Thyda lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thyda has learning difficulties and she struggles with walking. It’s been hard for Thyda to participate in a lot of the activities that other children enjoy because of her disability. There are very few recreational spaces for girls like Thyda and she has often felt left out of physical activities and sports. Before she came to Skateistan, she had never had a chance to take part in any sports.

Four years ago, Thyda started coming to Skateistan through our partner organization, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant.

“I had heard from my teacher we were going to skate but I had no idea what skateboarding was. When I first came to the skatepark I felt so happy to see how it looked.”

Because of her disability, Thyda assumed she couldn’t join in.

“I felt so excited to see everybody skating around in the park. I really wanted to try it but I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. And I was afraid that someone would hurt me during the session, so I just watched quietly.”

Thyda used to join classroom lessons as part of the Skate and Create curriculum but she didn’t want to skate. When her teachers asked her why she wasn’t joining in, she said she was happy watching. “But that answer was not really ok because I really wanted to try it.” At Skateistan, we always encourage our students to skate but we want them to feel ready and confident so we were happy to wait until Thyda felt like she could do it.

Eventually, Thyda’s friend suggested that she try it. He’s good at skating and he encouraged her to give it a go. Thyda told her teacher she felt ready next time they came to Skateistan. Her teacher was really pleased that Thyda wanted to start skateboarding. “That’s great! Don’t worry about it, we’ve got you,” is what she told Thyda.

The next week when she arrived at Skateistan, Thyda went straight to the safety gear basket and got ready to skate.

“The first time I stepped on the board, it felt so much fun.”

After a year, Thyda had made lots of progress. She can push, drop in and do small kickturns. She loves skating together with her friends while they hold hands. Learning to skate has shown her what she’s capable of.

“I feel so happy about it. I thought I couldn’t do all of these things because I’m disabled. But now I know I can do whatever my friends can do.”

Thyda’s teacher from Pour un Sourire d’Enfant agrees that Thyda has changed:

“It’s hard for people living with disabilities. They often feel sad for themselves or left out, but the students really change at Skateistan. They speak so much more and they are really fun and active. They’re so happy to come here and all of that makes me proud that they can take part in sport.”

In the Create classes, Thyda enjoys drawing, singing and dancing. Her confidence has grown so much over the past four years.

“This is totally different from the past. I used to be quiet all the time but now I’m laughing and playing with my friends. I feel so much change in myself. I used to be afraid to talk to everyone and I was so scared of doing sport. But now I know that sport is really good for me — it makes me feel better and makes me healthy.”

Do you want to be a part of it? Donate now and help girls like Thyda, who are living with disabilities, to experience the feeling of being included in something amazing. www.skateistan.org/beapartofit

Thyda was interviewed by Rattanak and Tin.