Little Zulu children rolling around on skateboards and grinding on a half pipe in their village is not something I expected to see when I visited South Africa for my winter term travel course.
But there they were at Indigo Skate Camp, a place we were fortunate enough to visit during our second week in South Africa.
Set against a backdrop of the breathtaking Valleys of 1,000 Hills, Indigo was started by professional skater Dallas Oberholzer and offers an after school program to the rural children of the Isthumba village.
They come to the complex, made up of two half pipes and a concrete pool and are given a meal along with warm-up time with their coaches and free time to hang out and skateboard.
I watched as young boys starting from age 4, to older men my age, 21, shred and conquer the half pipes countless times.
Even young girls had a turn whenever they were able to quietly sneak a skateboard away from the boys and they were just as good at it. Oberholzer has created a place where children can come and be positively influenced by a sport that often carries negative connotations with it.
Not only that but Indigo has created job opportunities for some of the young men in the village who have been with Oberholzer since he started the skate camp in 2004.
Working at Indigo Skate Camp as coaches provides them with a way to support themselves and their families.
Having a skateboarding camp in a rural Zulu community has also offered new avenues in tourism that only a place like that can provide.
Volunteer opportunities are plentiful and groups or individuals can stay overnight to help out around the compound and experience a culture that is both incredibly hospitable and welcoming.
When we arrived we were put to work right away and helped clear an overgrown garden in preparation for a new one, dig trenches so electricity could be available throughout the camp, fill up the pool for the children to play in and weed, a lot.
It was brutal work under the South African sun but it was the most amazing feeling looking back on everything we had accomplished and seeing the progress we made from the beginning of the day to the end.
I know that Indigo Skate Camp has never been affiliated with Pacific University before this trip and a lot of people may be wondering why I’m even putting this editorial in the sports section but I’m hoping to make Indigo relevant to Pacific by writing this.
Skateboarding is a sport after all. Being at Indigo was one of the most rewarding and inspiring two days I’ve ever experienced and for that reason I strongly encourage everyone to get involved with a Nongovernmental Organization, and this camp could be the perfect start.
Witnessing a program that combines both sports and youth left our whole group of 14 people hopeful for these young children’s future and greatful we got to offer our help to something bigger than ourselves.
Even if this NGO doesn’t fit your interests there are so many other ones out there that offer a variety of opportunities for underprivileged people and there’s nothing more satisfying then seeing your work go toward helping improve someone’s life or situation.

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