Imagine having to explain to your parent, who happens to be a teacher, that you’ve failed Grade 11 for the second time and you’re dropping out of school. That was Charl Jensel’s harsh reality in 2006.

“This was due to bunking school and hanging out with the wrong people. I then started skateboarding and my life slowly came back to the path I was born to be on. In 2007 I went back to finish my matric at Northlink college. It was in 2008 when I started working in the youth department at my then church. This is where I developed the passion to use my skateboarding for the greater good…” recalls the 32-year-old from Eersterivier, Cape Town.

“I wanted out, I wanted to grow. I then saw a group of skateboarders in my community who looked different. That is all I wanted to be – different than the rest that fell in the depths of mischief. I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of them… We got together every day to share skateboards, tricks and positive vibes. Through this magical shift, I was urged to be a better version of myself day to day.”

Charl’s love for skateboarding saw him rolling with the Indigo Youth Movement, which aims to create safe spaces for the youth through skateboarding.

“I was approached by their team to head up their expanding project in my community. After visiting the Indigo Skate Camp in KZN and witnessing the effectiveness of the program in a rural Zulu village, it gave me hope to bring the same change to my community. In 2010 we launched the program in the township where I went to high school, called Kleinvlei. I was the only coach to work with a group of approximately 25 youth.”

He’s also enjoyed a fair share of benefits from Indigo.

“Through this program I got certificates in sports and event management, IT, radio journalism, facilitation and sports administration. This then gave me the qualifications to become an area manager for Indigo. From there I became the practitioners’ trainer and operations manager, which I am still today. Besides the qualifications I got from this program, it really shaped me into the individual that I am today.”

In case you’re also wondering why Charl chose skateboarding in particular, he assures me that these are all calculated moves.

“Skateboarding is very beneficial. As the old saying goes: A child in sport is a child out of court. Besides the mental and physical benefits, skateboarding really gives an individual a sense of control, focus and a positive identity which builds your confidence and social competency. As most of our youth feel outcast, skateboarding connects you with a community of caring people and reinstalls that sense of hope for a brighter future. Skateboarding also teaches you that if you fall, you can get up and try again.”

“This is very important as most of today’s youth are easy to give up on themselves, due to the embarrassment of failure. Through skateboarding you are constantly challenged to want to win, this makes you accept and defeat failure at the same time. Our youth are also caught in a web by thinking that they are destined to turn out bad and have accepted this negative misconception. With skateboarding this can change; a positive mindset is installed and the youth can reclaim control of their lives and circumstances,” he adds.

Running an NGO is never a smooth ride, you are bound to meet obstacles along the road.

“We will always be in need of funding and resources. This gives us the ability to strengthen our capacity in making effective change. At the moment we offer skate lessons, literacy support, fitness exercise, arts, and life skills. We often run out of resources for the above mentioned and could do more with more support. Transporting our participants to and from events are one of the common demands. Indigo’s main motto is ‘let skateboarding take you places’. How are we to even say this when we expose our youth to a dream they are unable to live?”

Despite all the hurdles, Charl is grateful for the support they get from communities.

“We couldn’t do it without the buy in from community members, friends and family of our participants. They love us. I guess they see the positive outcome of our work through the change in the kids participating in our programmes. Every time I enter a community people will shout my name and kids will run after me to get my attention. This I would never have imagined. From being totally judged by my community I have become a hero of my community.”

He wraps up with a few words of encouragement.

“Do good and good will follow.”


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