Supporting Social Skate Projects in Iraq, Palestine and Jordan

Back in June 2018, we announced the Goodpush Alliance, Skateistan’s first step in supporting and sharing knowledge among social skate projects worldwide. We are keen to empower as many children and young people as possible through skateboarding, and one of the ways we can do this is by sharing our experience and building connections with other organizations who are already doing amazing things.

After an initial research phase, which included the first ever global survey of social skateboarding projects, we have ramped up our support. Last month, our Skate Project Specialist, Rhianon, travelled to Iraq, Palestine and Jordan to visit Goodpush’s three partner organizations in 2018. Her aim was to help them grow their programs and reach more children through skateboarding.

Words by Rhianon.

Make Life Skate Life, Iraq

In May of this year, global NGO Make Life Skate Life (MLSL) built their newest skatepark in Sulimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan — the first concrete skatepark in the country! About one month after its completion, Skateistan’s Program Director Talia and I visited for a week of workshops and exchange with MLSL’s Executive Director Arne and their team of volunteers. As a new project location for MLSL, it was a great chance to share Skateistan’s experiences and help build up Iraq’s young skate scene. We also discussed ideas on how to set things up in a sustainable way and make the Suli skatepark a safe space.

The Goodpush workshops had a much bigger turnout than expected, with up to 15 local skaters joining in. MLSL’s on-the-ground coordinator Safen and volunteer skate teacher Amber (who also co-founded the Women Skate the World project) joined us for the whole week to cover a range of program-related topics and some strategy sessions.

Goodpush skateboarding workshop with the Suli Skatepark volunteers and Make Life Skate Life's Executive Director Arne Hillerns.

Highlights of the visit included a skatepark tour via Skype video between the Suli skaters and Skateistan’s youth leaders in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, as well as a skate workshop for 40 children at the special needs learning centre of Kurdistan Save the Children.

About the Goodpush visit, one Suli skater said: “Involving local youth will help our ideas to grow even more and more over time. It’s like throwing one seed into a field, only to come back and see many more trees than one.”

Special thanks to Metrography for providing a free workshop space for the week!

7Hills, Jordan

Since the 7Hills skatepark was built in Amman in 2014, it’s become a hub for young Jordanians and refugees to come together and build friendships through skateboarding. I spent the week with Mo and Kas, who organize several skate sessions a week at the park for partner NGOs as well as children who come to use the loaner boards.

Kas and Mo had both visited Skateistan Cambodia for a week of Goodpush workshops this past May, and it was super cool to see how that visit had inspired them to get a youth leadership program off the ground, as well as provided tools like Cambodia’s skate lesson plan template which they’d adapted for use at the 7Hills skatepark.

The 7Hills skatepark is a hub for young Jordanians and refugees.

Their youth leaders took part in skate training and child protection workshops while Mo and Kas also worked on strategy and program structure so that 7Hills can reach even more children in need.

Building friendships through skateboarding at 7Hills park in Amman.

SkateQilya, Palestine

In July, SkateQilya held their third annual summer camp for Palestinian children, this time at the Jayyous skatepark that they built last year together with SkatePal. I joined for the first week of their month-long camp, in which they combined skate lessons with life skills, meditation and media training. During this time, I took part in the camp activities and ran some workshops for SkateQilya’s founders (Moh, Adam and Kenny) and 10 youth counsellors on managing skateboard sessions and child protection.

It was amazing to see the SkateQilya team integrate some of the lessons into their camp right away. Everyone was really excited to learn about new activities for the skate sessions and built the skate games from our training into the summer camp. One major highlight was the SkateQilya counsellors taking initiative to run their own workshops about child protection and skatepark safety with the 65 girls and boys attending the summer camp.

One of SkateQilya’s founders said: “The workshops with our counsellors were incredibly empowering for them because it both identified them as leaders while also providing them essential and interactive tools in helping them empower the students.”

Group photo after Goodpush workshops with SkateQilya in Palestine. Photo: Adam Abel / SkateQilya

The next phase of the Goodpush Alliance will be the launch of a suite of free, online resources which will help social skateboarding projects to build up their own programs. Subscribe to the Goodpush mailing list to find out about new resources, events and opportunities for social skate projects!

The Goodpush Alliance is supported by a WeWork Creator Award that Skateistan won in 2017 so that we can scale up our impact around the world.