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Social Skateboarding Organizations Provide Students With Needed Programs and SkateboardsWith its addition to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding has become increasingly popular and recognized in the mainstream. However, underdeveloped countries typically do not have access to high-quality or even necessary equipment to get involved in the sport. Therefore, social skateboarding organizations work to ensure everyone has access to this healthy and beneficial sport.

Social Skateboarding

Skateboarding and social inclusion are what comprise social skateboarding. It promotes the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to skate, including traditionally marginalized groups. Aspects such as conflict, costs and social norms prevent many from becoming involved with the sport. These aspects affect girls, those with disabilities, refugees and more. On a global scale, this also includes those affected by global poverty.

Skateistan

Skateistan is a global skate organization made up of one hundred staff and volunteers from around the world. It runs five unique programs in its Skate Schools around the globe, benefiting underprivileged children from the ages of five to seventeen. Currently, it has Skate School locations in Cambodia, South Africa and Jordan.

Skateistan’s Programs

One of Skateistan’s main focuses is Outreach in which it provides Skateistan’s educators to children with limited resources. By doing this, it introduces new communities to skateboarding, providing families with critical social services. This program offers weekly opportunities for economically developing communities to engage in creative activities.

Another project from the organization is Skate and Create. This project aims to provide an inclusive space for young learners to develop healthy social relationships and learn essential life skills. Skateistan’s educators provide four annual curriculums focusing on wellness, equality, creative expression and natural science. The program offers a valuable experience for children regardless of their gender, literacy or current ability.

Skateistan’s Educational Programs

Skateistan also runs a Back-to-School program. The organization partners with schools and services to ensure students have access to quality public education. Using its partnerships, it works to align students with their national curriculums. In Afghanistan, Skateistan offers an accelerated program for students; students join the Skate School for five days a week, covering three grades of public education within eleven months. Once students complete this program, they enroll in their country’s public school system.

In addition, Skateistan’s Dropping In program gives students access to safe and accommodating learning spaces. Here, young learners can develop goals and get a better understanding of themselves. Students have the opportunity to utilize the Skate School’s facilities. Students can participate in skateboarding and sports events, read in one of the organization’s libraries, participate in weekly book clubs and study groups and use the Skate School’s quiet studying areas. This program continues throughout the year, providing children with a safe space even on school vacations.

Skateistan’s Youth Leadership Program

Finally, the social skateboarding organization provides students with a Youth Leadership program. This program allows students to facilitate and lead their communities. In this program, students collaborate each week, working on media training, event planning, international cultural exchanges and foundational safety skills to assist educators in class. This program provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership skills from Skateistan’s educators and a chance for involvement in their communities.

Goodpush Alliance

In addition to Skateistan’s own programs, the organization developed an initiative, the Goodpush Alliance. This initiative focuses on providing inclusive skating spaces to children around the world, providing support and knowledge between social skateboarding projects worldwide. It also offers grassroots and established global skate organizations training through, workshops, support calls, awards and online resources. These resources cover topics ranging from developing quality skate lessons to providing an inclusive space for children.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co. is one of the leading suppliers of skateboards. Besides selling skateboards, the brand has a philanthropic stance on skateboarding, partnering with social skateboarding organizations to support their causes. For example, one of its most recent projects was with Make Life Skate Life. Rolling Thunder has promised to build two skateparks in 2021 and 2022 and support underdeveloped communities in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Make Life Skate Life has previously built skateparks in 20 economically developing communities across India.

The Heart Supply

Another social skateboarding organization is The Heart Supply. This is an organization that donates skateboards to underprivileged youth around the world. The organization uses a part of its proceeds from its skate decks sold online and in major stores like Target to provide quality skateboards to children in low and middle-income countries. So far, it has donated hundreds of skateboards in over 51 countries. This program offers impoverished communities a chance to experience creative and physical activity with high-quality equipment.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Skateboarding is creating changeA 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
Photo: Flickr

youth_refugees_in_jordan
Amid continual civil war in neighboring Syria and the threat of ISIS, the nation of Jordan has seen an influx of refugees fearing for their safety. Anywhere between 600,000 and 1.4 million refugees from Syria and Iraq have sought refuge in the neighboring country.

The Zaatari refugee camp is Jordan’s largest refugee camp and located just outside the capital of Amman. Nearly 82,000 refugees live in the camp and approximately half of the inhabitants are under 18 years old.

When one thinks of poverty and refugee aid, skateboarding is certainly not the first relief measure that comes to mind. But in December 2014, Jordan’s first skate park was opened in the center of the nation’s capital.

“We will be looking to work with NGOs to bring those refugees over to 7Hills in the foreseeable future so they can learn how to skate and find a bit of happiness,” says Philadelphia Skateboards founder Mohammed Zakaria.

The park, better known as “7Hills” was funded by a crowdsourcing campaign initiated by Zakaria and Make Life Skate Life, an international nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage skateboarding to underserved, poverty-stricken children. The $25,000 required to build the park was gathered in a matter of days and was constructed using an international volunteer workforce in less than three weeks.

With a self-proclaimed mission of aiding the “under-served refugee youth in Jordan,” the park encourages and provides an outlet for youth refugees in Jordan and aspiring Arab artists to express themselves and share their ideas. Awareness & Prevention Through Art (AptArt) is another organization that has helped support the park and ostensibly, the refugee youth culture that the park gathers.

AptArt hosts workshops on creating large scale public art for disadvantaged youth and refugees. The subject matter of the artwork focuses on healing and rehabilitation from regional trauma and conflict. The motivation for these efforts is to unite the youth affected by expressing and sharing common experiences.

The Collateral Repair Project (CPR) is a nonprofit that provides an additional outlet of rehabilitation for refugees. CPR sponsors and hosts weekly skateboard lessons for displaced youth interested in learning. They also work to provide free skateboards and safety equipment to anyone that wishes to learn but do not have money to purchase their own.

The fear of playing outside and being robbed of a normal childhood are tragic side effects of more conventional signs of poverty. What the 7Hills skatepark has done is to provide a place for refugee children and young adults to forget their fears and regain a sense of normalcy by sparking an interest in a growing communal activity.

“In Syria, I couldn’t go out and play because of the war, but in Amman, I can enjoy my time, stay out late and make new friends at the skatepark,” says Ahmed Rayen, a 9-year-old skateboard enthusiast.

Zakaria first began skating the streets of Amman in 2002, before skateboarding had become a commonly acceptable pastime in the country. He recalls early on receiving societal backlash and consternation. Not to be discouraged, Zakaria founded Philadelphia Skateboards in 2009 which was the first and currently the only Arabic skateboard company. In an effort to popularize the sport in the Arab world and abroad, the company has supported local up and coming Arab graphic artists by using their designs on the skateboard decks.

“We wanted the decks to have graphics that represent us in the Arab world in a way. So we naturally couldn’t work with non-Arab artists,” says Zakaria.

These efforts have certainly inspired a wave of Arab skateboarders as the company now sells in multiple Arabic countries including, Egypt, Tunisia, UAE and Lebanon. European ex-patriot skateboarders living in the Middle East have even begun to take notice of popularizing sales in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Zakaria states that sales to Europe have begun to grow as increased publicity about Arab skating has sparked an international interest in the brand as well as the 7Hills skatepark and its charitable efforts towards refugee kids.

Zakaria and his company Philadelphia Skateboards have become synonymous with the evolving skate culture that is burgeoning in the Middle East and in Jordan in particular.

“Many of our skaters, and the new kids we hope to bring into the park, come from broken homes or refugee families. We want to give them a healthy, free, accessible resource to enjoy life. Creating a place where underserved refugee youth can have free access to skateboarding…It’s been tough, but it’s been great to see people pitching in from around the world.”

The Borgen Project

Sources: Mondoweiss, Make Life Skate Life, Al Jazeera, Jackson Allers, Huffington Post, 7 Iber
Photo: Mondoweiss

Skateistan-Kabul
Through the love of skateboarding, an unexpected collaboration between two organizations has brought together a melting pot of activities, cultures and a life-changing experience. It’s been said that the love of a sport can erase all boundaries; a fact that could not be truer for the organization ‘Skateistan’.

Started in 2007 by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, Skateistan has a plain and simple goal: to use skateboarding as a tool to empower girls and working children around the world. They now operate in Pakistan, Cambodia, Kabul and plan to open workspace in a second city in Afghanistan. Making skateboards serves a higher purpose than just a fun activity; it also gives children a creative environment where they can learn about craftsmanship, geometry, teamwork and leadership.

Skateistan provides both skateparks and classrooms. They ensure the safety of all the children and young adults who use and run their facilities, an invaluable gift to those living in tumultuous communities. Through workshops, students learn the basics of building a skateboard. They work together to transform their ideas into a tangible product, showing off their imagination and work ethic.

Recently, Skateistan started a cross-cultural relationship with Native American skateboarders from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Through the program “Connecting Dots”, both groups of skaters will design 10 skateboards based on the other group’s culture, symbols, and heritage. The skateboards will be on display throughout America, with Skateistan hoping to secure an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

This is an opportunity not just for the children in Afghanistan to learn about a completely new culture, but to develop important skills such as task delegation, accepting ethnic differences and successfully finishing a project.

So much can be said about organizations such as Skateistan. All it takes is for one passionate person to be able to convince those around him of the impact that they can make in a community in dire need of a powerful force to engage its youth.

There are no formal handshakes or political debates. The matter and means are simple: give children an outlet for creativity and leadership development. Changing their lives at a basic level can have such a strong impact on their individual abilities that in their own right, these children will change their circumstances and “break the cycles of poverty and exclusion” in their communities.

Deena Dulgerian

Source: Skateistan.org