Nuka Lachman: The Skateboarder Making The World A Better Place
Nuka is a skateboarder with a passion for community projects. This Dutch-Trinidadian currently living in Scheveningen has a lot going on for a 20-year-old – from spearheading a sports-for-development foundation, and skateboarding, to surfing, bartending, constructing and repairing furniture. However, skateboarding is more to Nuka than just having fun – she invests 80 percent of her time into her passion project, Skaters for Skaters, a foundation that equips and trains local skate entrepreneurs living in marginalized areas in Morocco. The aim of her work? To build a brighter future for the skaters and their community.
We sat down with Nuka to discuss the impact of Skaters for Skaters, and to find out how she empowers communities through skateboarding.
Skaters For Skaters, the name of your foundation, implies that you are a skater yourself. When did you start skateboarding?
I started skateboarding in 2014. My younger brother was skateboarding at that time, he and his friends asked me to join them to various skateparks and -spots as their nanny and filmer. Seeing him skate and how it helped him cope with his struggles in life got me into it. Surfing helped me cope before I skated. Due to the lack of proper surf conditions and my curiosity towards the learning process of new things in general – I started using my younger brothers set-up at our local park in Wateringse Veld, a vinex neighbourhood just outside of The Hague. There was a small skate scene back then (instagram: @wvlocals), where I learned my first ollie, dropping in, and other basic tricks. The community there was really supportive, they gave me their old and spare gear so I could build my first set-up. Skateboarding ended up helping me through struggles, showing me that I could have a future, and to build up a future for others and their communities. In fact, it still motivates me, helps me face my traumas and grow from them. While I was homeless in a country where it rains and pours so much, surfing and skateboarding kept me motivated because the rain couldn't take my warmth and energy in a wetsuit; and with skating we used indoor skateparks and garages. It simply makes me feel alive. Helping makes me feel like it’s worth living another day for.
What inspired you to found Skaters For Skaters?
I noticed that some people, of course not everyone, have so many spare decks, hardware, trucks, wheels, shoes, clothing etc. Meanwhile there’s also people here, on Earth in general, that are beyond struggling in life to come around and could really use support in their lives. I know that there are people that need skateboarding in their lives, just like I did. Besides that, I think it’s a shame to let all that good stuff not be used, reused, recycled and/or upcycled. Supporting locals from marginalized areas and those in other unforeseen circumstances with their personal growth – to create more developed areas and better future prospects for these people throughout skateboarding, is something that is possible with hard work. I’ve always been the person who loves to give and share, whether it was my last euro while being homeless or last sip of water in the Western Sahara. In this case, I got inspired to found Skaters For Skaters because I wanted to share the various life lessons that skateboarding has taught me about equality.
I learned that one euro was worth ten breads in Fez, Morocco at age 13. There’s no reason why people own over a dozen houses while there are people out here starving – I have this drive to research how unfair and uneven it is to work so many hours more for less amount of money due to where you come from, how you appear or what your name is. Also with the thought in mind, that a diploma from some countries and or different schools located in certain neighbourhoods is considered worth more than a diploma for the same studies in a different country. That going to school is so normalized for some people up to the point that they don't even believe not being able to go to study exists too. The list goes on and on – there’s so much I strive to change, and so much to fight against.
Besides that, there was this one specific person I met skateboarding the boulevard while I was working at the surfschool The Shore Scheveningen, we connected immediately. He was actively looking for a job and housing, which was rough because of the usual stigmatization of immigrants. We told each other about our lives and experiences. I related to knowing what it's like to not have a place to stay, I fortunately worked myself out of that situation two years before and I was sure he would do too. He got hired at the surfschool and I provided him with housing. He got a place for himself within a short period of time. He is one of the most hardworking and inspiring people I know. A year later I headed back to Morocco, on my socials I asked for spare skate gear to donate. It was incredibly fulfilling to see people spreading the word, reposting the poster, reaching out and handing over their gear. It motivates me even more to see how empowering it is for them to feel a part of this initiative. I brought more than I could carry myself, many people I crossed paths with helped me carry the luggage. For me, experiencing the emotion from the local skaters receiving the needed gear, advice, a listening ear; someone who understands, and someone willing to live for seeing them grow – during that trip, I stayed a few months longer than planned because I could never not strive to be that person for someone else, whom I needed when I was younger, and it’s something I always keep in mind. I ended up living and traveling with local skaters, some of them happened to be youth friends of this friend that I met at the boulevard. I lived and traveled with them around Morocco. I shared ideas with people that were also planting positive seeds of skateboarding. When I came back to The Netherlands, I continued building the concept, working on building a better world with locals to actively participate in and decide on their futures – being able to initiate something with their best interest for the development of others. I guess that’s where it started.
What is the mission of Skaters For Skaters?
I don’t think there’s just one mission. For me it’s about helping to the fullest extent, to really stay connected to the origin of skateboarding, and the most beautiful things that skateboarding can teach you about. What I think distinguishes Skaters For Skaters is that we provide communities with the best aftercare. I, myself, live with them for a while. I know their stories and I care about them with every vein in my body.
What we strive for, it’s not there yet but I am working on it, are enough opportunities and equal opportunities. Educational programs and life coaching are definitely on my agenda. I want to use skateboarding as a tool for building communities in Morocco and to help people find their purpose in life.
What is your daily routine being the founder of Skaters For Skaters?
There is no daily routine in my life. Besides checking the weather forecast, checking the surf forecast, checking the chart of the tides, and checking in on friends who might need a listening ear – I do what I got to do. I make appointments, collect ideas for the foundation, do hours of research and most of it is impulsive.
At the moment it’s almost impossible to travel to Morocco due to the restrictions caused by COVID — actually scratch that, it is like a frontfoot impossible switch. Therefore, I have plenty of video calls right now. I am staying in touch with everyone that is going to need the help of Skaters for Skaters and everyone that wants to be a part of making a positive change through skateboarding. I’m in contact with the skateboard association of Temara, through Rashid El Khadraoui and Nassim Lachhab. Occasionally I have calls with Ali Tamara, who is the owner of Tamara Skateshop in Agadir and the co-founder of Taghazout Skatepark.
On top of that, I host donation days where I just spend the whole day at a skate spot to collect donations. I make a poster beforehand for the social media networks and then the word just spreads around due to goodhearted people. Sharing is caring – giving is living. I also get lots of clothing donations distinct from the donation days. These clothes I then sell online. The profit goes fully into the foundation. The customer service, photo shoots for the clothing, collecting pre-used packaging materials and sending out these packages in sustainable packaging – and when less then 15 kilometers away, I deliver these items personally by skateboard or bike –, are all done for the sake of Skaters for Skaters and the love for combining sustainability with affordable fashion.
That’s what I do, but it still feels like I’m not doing enough.
Where in Morocco does Skaters For Skaters work, and do you plan to expand the foundation into other countries?
I have this urge to provide and help those who don’t have access and opportunities for creating a better future to the fullest extent, without consideration of borders.
I brought donations to Imsouane, Tamraght, Taghazout and I’m working on building a skatepark in Temara right now. For now, I’m focusing on building the skatepark in Temara and the aftercare in Morocco, the aftercare is really important to me and it’s what Skaters For Skaters stands for.
Is Skaters For Skaters funded solely on donations, or do sponsors also contribute to the foundation?
Definitely solely on donations at this moment. Some of the donors are foundations where I personally know the people behind it. For instance, there is Skatepark Sweatshop and Wegdeck in The Hague, whose owner provided me with a workspace and he makes donations on a larger scale from time to time. There are donation spots throughout The Netherlands and Raion Skate in Belgium. Then there are people who offer to help, share their stories, experiences and other useful information, which have been necessary. One of such is the organisation Women Skate The World. However, Skaters For Skaters currently has no big company or on-paper sponsorship behind it. There’s currently the local people in Morocco and myself that enjoy helping and learning from this work experience.
Have you faced any challenges running Skaters For Skaters?
Well, obviously COVID right now, it’s hard to travel to Morocco. In general, it’s a lot of time and a lot of work – but it is worth it. It fulfills me.
I saw on Instagram that you are nominated for the Young Impact Awards in the Netherlands. How does it feel to be recognized for making the world a better place, and to be known as a game-changer, at such a young age?
I don’t care if someone finds what they want to do with their life at age 12 or 100. For me it is about doing what you have in mind, with your right mind. I wanted to be the person that I needed when I was younger. I struggled a lot and I want to make this world a better place for those who live in uncertainty.
Skaters For Skaters is already having a huge impact on communities. What do you hope for the future of the foundation?
I want to finish building the skatepark in Temara. It’s a work in progress and unfortunately due to COVID it’s behind schedule right now.
I want to empower the people that I help to make opportunities for themselves based on what they want for their futures, reflect on their current needs and continue to work for it. It's hard to make a euro out of a dirham when there are not enough and not equal opportunities. I want the generation that I am helping right now to become a generation that will help out others too. I want them to feel satisfied with their work, because they are going to participate in shaping a better future for the next gen.
Thanks so much for your time Nuka! Keep on doing what you do because you rock!
Follow Nuka on Instagram @nukalachman.