This holiday season, we’re doing something new.
At the beginning of the year, we set out to do “One Thing Well” in 2017: sell skateboard lights, and do it better than anyone. In keeping with that theme, rather than the usual heap of holiday discounts, deals, and promotions, we’re focusing on one thing only – Skate 2 Donate. This campaign isn’t just a marketing gimmick. It’s the evolution of one of the most remarkable stories of my life. Here’s what happened:
When an extremely tall young black man with an unusual accent and a middle-aged white woman sat down next to me at a Starbucks, I hardly noticed. But, when she asked him “what are you doing this weekend?” and he answered, “I’m going to figure out how to use the washing machine,” I was instantly curious. I leaned over to introduce myself and learned he’d just arrived in the U.S. From there, a remarkable friendship was born.
I soon learned Claude was an orphan of the Rwandan genocide. Adopted by his aunt and uncle, they raised him and five children in a remote Rwandan village. After working for several years as a mountain gorilla tracker, Claude was awarded a full scholarship to come to America to study biology at Arizona State University.
After he spent the past two Christmases at our house, I finally committed to going to Africa to visit his family. It was an eye-opening adventure to journey down to Claude’s village to meet his family and experience his culture. Inspired by his story, our Skate 2 Donate campaign will contribute a portion of Board Blazers’ 2017 holiday sales to Pipeline Worldwide, a charity founded by the woman with Claude at the coffee shop. Pipeline partners with local organizations in Uganda and Rwanda to provide essential services in remote African villages.
The Skate 2 Donate campaign funds will go toward building homes for Batwa families in southern Rwanda. On the trip, I had a chance to visit their village, and can’t express how badly these people need our help. The Batwa have historically endured systematic discrimination, ethnic violence, forced displacement, and were a target of the brutal 1994 Rwandan genocide. Today, they survive by subsistence farming and live in shockingly decrepit mud shacks, using beds and roofs made of leaves and sticks, and without electricity or running water. They have no idea about the Skate 2 Donate campaign, but they long for a home.
Construction began on these duplex-style homes for the Batwa near their village of Mikamba, but the project is long since abandoned due to lack of government funding. Supported by the Skate 2 Donate campaign, Pipeline is now partnering with a local agency, CARSA, to complete the houses with floors, doors, windows, utilities, and basic furnishings. The village has elected four deserving families to move into the apartments, which is a remarkable display of selflessness by their community. For the first time, these people will have dry roofs, mattresses, locking doors, and most importantly, a home.
These folks need our help. Join me in supporting these deserving families, and learn more about the Skate 2 Donate campaign here.
Founder & CEO, Board Blazers