A skateboard for most children in the U.S. is just another toy, hobby or sport, but halfway around the world in Bangladesh, a simple skateboard deck and four wheels is becoming a beacon hope for the future. The organization Bangladesh Street Kids Aids (BSKA) for ten years now has used skateboarding as a way to connect with street children of Bangladesh.
There are approximately 600,000 children left homeless or at-risk on the city streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the country’s capital. And the harsh reality of the everyday lives of street children is reflected in the staggering 1.56 million children predicted to live on the streets by 2024. Most of these children face hunger, extreme and dangerous work conditions, drug abuse and a refusal of education on a daily basis. Many are forced to beg for food and in the entire country of Bangladesh, there is a daily average of 75 women and children sex-trafficked.
BSKA identifies these children and attempts to provide them with different resources that will guide them on a path of success through skateboarding, mentorship and education. There is a dark history of treating street children in Bangladesh as “non-human beings.” So another goal of BSKA is to instill a sense of confidence and interpersonal skills in the children that will allow them to be safe and successful in their futures and functioning members of society.
Different Ways BSKA is Making Change Through Skateboarding
- Skateboarding Lessons: BSKA’s skateboarding program is the second most popular service the organization offers, with their Drug Awareness and Mentorship program being the most popular. Skateboarding is creating change in the country of Bangladesh because the sport teaches discipline and determination. BSKA aims to provide its members with different skateboarding tricks within the program to boost their confidence in learning new skills, and the organization has seen many members now interacting with their community empathetically since participating in the program.
- Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program: According to the Bangladesh Human Rights Forum, 85% of street children in Bangladesh abused drugs in 2018. Now, skateboarding is creating change in the lives of these children because BSKA has taken it one step further and created a Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program. The program recognizes the exposure and proximity young children have to harmful drugs and began to educate their participants on the risks and consequences of drug abuse. Many street children have parents that abuse drugs themselves, which put them at a higher risk of drug use in general because of its accessibility. Also, many street children specifically in Dhaka, become addicted to inhalants to ease hunger aches and other pains. One of the most prevalent inhalants street children in Dhaka are addicted to is sniffing dendrite or glue. BSKA’s drug awareness program provides education on the adverse effects of this drug abuse and created an alternative outlet through sports teams to promote health and fitness for the country’s youth.
- Education: Street Children in Bangladesh are an extremely marginalized social group that lacks basic education. Many children cannot afford to attend a private school and most are often classified as “working” children and in turn, refused a public education. One of the most significant barriers street children face is that there is not a policy in Bangladesh’s government that requires 100% of children to be enrolled in school, and the National Child Policy 2011 and National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh exposed this flaw in the education system.
Now skateboarding is creating change in 800 Bangla children’s’ lives daily. Since the beginning of this year, BSKA has seen tangible improvements in the lives of street children through their education programs. Most of their participants are currently attending private schools, writing their names in Bangla and English, utilizing BSKA’s tutoring services and improving behavioral tendencies.
Skateboarding is becoming a popular phenomenon around the world and is recognized by millions as a legitimate sport. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic is even going to include skateboarding as an Olympic game. But BSKA sees that skateboarding is merely a stepping stone for underprivileged children and that this sport will lead them to more opportunities on a path of success and confidence.
– Josie Collier