4 Sep ’14
Eli-Research Task 1
I am still fairly confident as to where I am going with my research. I am going to follow my original plan of researching how skateboarding can help build communities from the ground up in Sri Lanka as well as other places, but this time I am going to focus a little more on the Skateistan NGO model. Skateistan is an NGO in Afghanistan and now in Cambodia that was founded by an American skateboarder who saw the situations in these places and wanted to help. What he wanted to focus on was getting kids involved in something active that would bring them together in a safe environment, and from there, other NGOs and people working for aid, education and healthcare can come to that safe place to enroll kids in school and provide them with life benefits such as healthcare. That safe place he created was an indoor skate park.
Skateboarding gives kids an outlet, and since it is not a team sport, it gives kids as much flexibility with it as they desire. They can skate as much or as little as they want and make friends along the way. While in Sri Lanka I was very conflicted as to whether I wanted to continue on with my skateboarding research, because after traveling the country, I thought that it wasn’t quite ready for skateboarding and that it would really take decades for it to become recognized there. I thought ok so what if a kid gets a skateboard but lives on a busy street with blind turns, beccause they are everywhere in Sri Lanka, and he goes to skateboard in the street and gets hit by a car. There just aren’t enough safe places for kids to ride skateboards there. Even in Colombo there was hardly anywhere to put my board down. But everything has to start somewhere, and skateboarding does to. That is where PUSH skateboards comes in. They are fostering a growing skateboarding scene in Colombo and are already in the works of having a skate park built in a safe location in a more business like district in the city. The kids who will be going to the park first are the PUSH family of skateboarders, and once they basically found the park as a designated skate spot, they will always be there and will be able to further foster a skateboarding community.
So really the key for skateboarding in ‘developing countries’ is to have a skate park. Though skateboarding’s beginnings happened in the streets elsewhere, I think that for it just to be transplanted to any country, it needs to be done by way of a park. It legitimizes the whole idea and will give kids a real place to go, not just side streets and sidewalks where they could get kidnapped or exposed to various other dangers. I think that in some cases, there not only needs to be a skate park, but there should be be an organization like Skateistan that is there to make sure it is happening in a healthy way; to teach kids how to skate and to enroll them in schools. This kind of introduction of skateboarding is not the same as the nitty gritty go shred the streets kind of skating, because the focus areas of projects like Skateistan are very different in many ways from western areas. There are different dangers to consider, and different hoops to jump through to make humanitarian projects work once a park is established.
Next, I am going to look at the new Skateistan center in Cambodia and try to really learn the workings of the organization and how other organizations interact with it, including what their goals are and what projects they are creating. Then I will be able to use their model to look elsewhere. I am also still in contact with PUSH and they are going to be sending me all of their plans and legal documents that have gotten them where they are. I am mainly going to be looking at how they worked with local government to receive clearance to build a skate park in the city.
Thanks for reading,
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