Two teens to skateboard 1,300 miles for charity

Longboarding burundi edmonton push for burundi
Jordan Smith, left, and Caleb Sinn, right, are hoping that by longboarding from Edmonton to Portland, they can raise money for Burundi. Photo: Push for Burundi

Caleb Sinn is a 19-year-old teenager from the suburbs of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Like many teens in the area, he has long enjoyed skating around the picturesque communities that surround Edmonton.

But, unlike most of his peers, Sinn has found a way to use his skateboard for charity: by engaging in a 37-day, 1,355-mile marathon longboarding session from Edmonton to Portland, Oregon, to raise money for the war-torn central African nation of Burundi.

“Back in 2012, I went to Burundi for a three-week trip with an organization called Loveworks, as I was friends with the founder of the organization and he asked me to come along with him to see firsthand the effects of their fundraising for the country,” Sinn told GrindTV. “And what I saw was such a broken country, whose people saw themselves as broken people. But I also saw hope.”

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Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, is in the midst of a 12-year civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Burundians. On top of that, they are currently experiencing heightened political unrest and violence, as the Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, is attempting to defy the Burundian constitutional term limit on presidencies and run for a third term.

“Some of the friends I made when I went back over there have told me how they’re hearing gunfire every night,” said Sinn, referencing the six-month period he spent working in Burundi with local medical clinics after his first trip to the country. “So one of the purposes of my longboarding trip is to help share their stories and tell the world about them.”

In order to do that, Sinn started up Push for Burundi, with the goal of raising money within the Edmonton community to support Burundian charities and has been posting his progress on Instagram.

“I remember being on YouTube and seeing videos of these guys longboarding across Morocco and South America,” said Sinn. “So I figured why not do it across Canada and try to make it into something bigger so I can build sponsorship around the community.”

It was while visiting a local skate shop to ask for sponsorship that Jordan Smith, a fellow 19-year-old in the longboarding community, got involved. “We knew each other from school, but we weren’t really friends,” Smith said. “But when I heard about Caleb’s experience in Burundi and the injustices going on over there, I knew I had to join him.”

And so, in 2013, they began their first push, this time across the Canadian province of Alberta. Their 10-day trip helped raise $9,500 for the medical clinic Sinn worked at in Burundi.

Last year they suffered a minor setback in their fundraising, as they decided to engage in a longer, more challenging push across the province of British Columbia. The 12-day journey through mountain ranges left them physically drained, and they raised only $6,000 for the clinic. Sinn says it was a learning experience.

“We saw that if we were smart, and we upped the ante on our end, the sponsors would follow suit,” Sinn said. “The support we’ve gotten this year has been fantastic.”

The boys teamed up with World Vision Canada to set up an official website this year, which allowed them to accept online donations for the first time ever.

They are now donating to a Burundian charity that helps teach citizens in the rural area of Rutegama how to maintain sustainable chicken coops, and they have set a goal of $30,000 in fundraising this year. With that goal, they have stated to gain more attention.

Vancouver-based Rayne Longboards gifted the pair two custom-made boards for the push and created a unique T-shirt especially for their journey. An Edmonton Chevrolet dealership loaned them a cargo van to work as a support vehicle, and local filmmaker Andrew Ipe of The Broken Culture decided to join them on their journey to film the whole experience.

Multitasking between driving the support van and filming Sinn and Smith, Ipe is filming a documentary of this year's push, the proceeds of which will go toward their final donation.

“We’re at day 13 of 37 in our trip,” said Sinn. “And we’re at a little over $8,500 raised so far. I know that between the push, the documentary and our fundraising efforts after the push is done, we should be able to hit our goal. But more importantly, we just want people to hear about what is going on in Burundi.”

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