“Don’t measure your success with someone else’s ruler”
Do you wonder why you get so stressed out sometimes? Do you ask why you cannot think straight at certain moments? Why we have so many kids and youth sitting home doing nothing after school? What can we do to lessen the number of kids on the streets? These could be some of the many questions Johnny Kalenga has been answering. Johnny is a 20-year-old from Mongu, Zambia and founder of Weskate Mongu, an active group which gives free skate lessons to people especially the younger. It is aimed at keeping them occupied and growing the culture of skate boarding in Zambia. Any physical activity can help with stress relief but skateboarding has a very powerful way because it helps sharpen a person mentally.
“Its Physical and mental, you have something to focus on.”
“All skateboarding is, is putting ideas into action.”
Here are few questions we had with Johnny so we know more about this great initiative;
What is Weskate and when did start?
WeSkate Mongu is an active group based in the western part of Zambia, we have been giving free skating lessons to youths for the past 4 years to keep them occupied and off the streets. We have hosted a public charity event where we fed more than 200 kids, gave away school supplies, food stuffs, shoes and shirts to vulnerable kids.
What’s the favorite thing about what you do?
Bringing positive change to the lives of the young kids and to see them forget all their problems when they are skating and smiling.
Do you think you influence people?
I don’t know if I really influence people but am seeing change in my communication and that matters the most to me, kids are behaving well and their perspective towards life is changing but I think I might have a lot of influence on the kids because I spend a lot of time with them and everything I do I have to consider it first and see that am doing what’s right and being a good example. I have had a few people tell me they admire me and that I inspire them.
What more can you do to influence the Zambian youths positively?
All Zambian youths poses a lot of potential to achieve a lot great things, all they have to do is believe in themselves and not pay attention to the criticism. If there is one thing I can do to influence the youths in my country is to just be an example for them. I want to show them what consistence, belief, hard work, ambition, dedication and commitment does, if we all believe we can achieve it all and work towards it then nothing is impossible. If we stop listening to people who say “you can’t do this because this is Zambia” then we will all prosper. I encourage all our youths to follow our dreams no matter how big or small they are, things will seem like nothing is going right at first because no one is supporting you but you’ll come across that one person or a group of people who will give you the support you need.
What’s the one thing you cannot go a day without doing?
I can’t go a day without dancing, I really love dancing.
Which place in Zambia you like the most?
I really don’t have one at the moment because there are so many awesome places I need to visit in the country, but am sure the skate park that I’ll build will be my favorite.
Which 3 Zambian people if any who have influenced you so much?
The first one is my father who has been a huge influence to me growing up, he is one person who is a go-getter and a dream chaser and I have gotten that from him.
The second one is a woman who was my mentor throughout in my high school and is the one who made realize that dreams do come true, she changed my whole perspective on things that I can achieve in my life.
The third one is all my close friends they have been the biggest influence to me and we all know friends influence us more than anyone else, we should all have passionate and ambitious friends. Those friends who are willing to do anything to achieve their dreams, if we have friends who speak dreams then you’ll speak dreams if you have friends have speak about alcohol all the time then so will you, they say show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.
What thing you’d change about Zambia?
The people’s perspective and view on things either on dreams or politics, there’s nothing wrong with Zambia but what’s wrong is the way people think out here.
What’s a typical Johnny day like?
Skateboarding with the boys, dancing with my crew, chilling with my friends, playing video games home, some time with my family and some time on social media.
Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What advice would you have given yourself?
I would tell myself to keep believing in me and not to listen to the critics of other people, ignore the bullies and embrace the changes, nothing is permanent and everything happens for a reason.
How do you want people to remember you?
I want people to remember me for the life I lived and how hard I fought to bring positive change to my community and country. I do not want to be remembered for the money I made, the clothes I wore the or the type of phone I used because material things are not important to me.
What are some causes you are passionate about?
I am really passionate about women empowerment because I grew up with a lot of sisters and some of my close friends are female, the environment, and most of the Social Development Goals.
What other things do you love doing?
Well I like to spend some time with my friends playing video games, sometimes on YouTube learning new things and hanging out with some of my older students.
What publications have you regularly read and what are your favorite?
I have read a couple of them but mostly on social skateboarding projects and I do not have any favorite book
What would be your personal motto?
Don’t measure your success with someone else’s ruler.
If you had any advice for the youths what would it be?
Keep believing in you and do what you love, discover what you are good at and invest in that. Stop following what everyone is doing and be your own leader, we all have different lives so stop pleasing everyone else. What you see on social media isn’t always what’s real, people will show you their good times but never their bad times so relax and just do you.
By Kantumoya Derrick Mpaka
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