Arissa is our 2022 Women’s Leadership Award winner, here’s why

Arissa is our 2022 Women’s Leadership Award winner, here’s why

Arissa is our 2022 Women’s Leadership Award winner, here’s why

Words by Sita Narayan-Dinanauth & Arissa Moreno Ruiz
Photography by Jesús Rengifo Saldaña

Versión en español

“I think a lot of the little girls in Peru don’t see a future for themselves in skateboarding, they think they’re going to grow up and it goes nowhere but I tell them look at me – I’m making a living from skateboarding. I can pay my rent, I can eat because of CJF.”

Arissa Moreno Ruiz never imagined that she would become a skateboarder. Especially when referring to her younger self who was “always too intimidated because I only saw males on skateboards.” It wasn’t until she lived in LA that she saw female riders for the first time. As someone who remembers skateparks before the recent wave of women in bowls, she probably has some wisdom to share with the Peruvian girls she reaches in isolated areas.

She says it was CJF who finally got her on the board.

“With CJF, there were guys who were teaching skateboarding and had the patience to teach me. I had the space to try it and be able to learn without being judged. It was a challenge because I became the local manager but I was just starting to skate then.”

Arissa and a peruvian kid on a mini ramp in Lobitos, Peru

Arissa in Lobitos, 2021

Arissa is grateful to CJF for many reasons. However, the Peruvian born, USA-educated anthropologist and Director of Development has an intelligence that suggests she chose CJF just as much as CJF chose her. Her gentle determination to encourage more Peruvian women and girls to take skateboarding seriously was noticed by the global team and her name came up pretty quickly when discussing the 2022 CJF Women’s Leadership Award.

“Arissa's level of caring for and connecting with the youth she worked with was matched by her passion for having fun and improving herself when she got on a board with CJF. She has brought an unprecedented level of organisation and professionality to CJF Peru that they benefit from every single day.”

Tim van Asdonck, CJF Programmes Director, says of the decision.

The CJF ethos is that skateboarding is for everyone. Going further, CJF know that females like Arissa are in a powerful position to teach young women about expression, safe spaces and boundaries using CJF skateparks.

Alongside her obvious skills, Arissa has worked hard since 2019 to build up the trust of local parents. She’s also observed why parents are more reluctant to let their young girls skate compared to boys.

“In some communities, it was really hard to get girls to participate. I think it’s because parents thought it was for boys. I still have problems signing up girls even though over 50% of participants with CJF Peru are female. It’s been a long process of me talking to parents and explaining I’m teaching the classes with another female teacher, they trust me now because they know my face. I also promise to walk the girls home as it gets dark after we finish classes sometimes. The parents need to know my face and they need to see me dropping the girls home after the CJF sessions. I’ve been in this community for a while and the problem with a lot of social developments is a lot of volunteers come and then leave so it’s hard to establish that long-term relationship with parents.”

Arrissa in a group picture of children at La Rampa skatepark with CJF Peru

Arissa and others in Cerrito de la Virgen, 2021'

Arissa’s commitment to CJF since 2020 and her relationship with local parents was something we wanted to reward. We chose to give her 1,727.50 PEN to spend on female-only activities through skate workshops and more in Peru knowing that she would make the money go far.

“The non-profit skateboarding scene is still pretty male dominated so it’s nice to have an award like this, a grant, especially reserved for getting more women involved.”

With her at the helm, we believe she’s the right person to make them feel good in our skateparks.

Thank you for your commitment to CJF and to the local communities who need this in Peru, Arissa.

Congratulations on the award!

Follow us on LinkedIn for updates on our interview with the second winner and on Arissa’s progress.

Help us do more!

Concrete Jungle Foundation is a non-profit organisation that builds skateparks and runs youth programmes for communities around the world.

If you’d like to follow what’s going on in Peru, check out cjf_peru, You can find Arissa as @arii.chan on Instagram or on LinkedIn here.

If you have the means to support our work, please consider joining our monthly donor programme today.

You can also get merchandise from our online shop. All profits go to maintaining the charity’s operations over the world.

Thank you for helping us share the joy of skateboarding and supporting local communities!

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