SkatePal, skateboarding as a social aid
The non-profit organization that in Palestine has transformed the table into a means of sharing and relief
At such a dramatic and turbulent time for the Palestinian people, we came into contact with SkatePal, a non-profit organization deeply committed to supporting this community through sport.
Keisha Finai 2019, Lara / Keisha Finai 2019, Ahmad
From 2013 to today, the projects carried out by SkatePal have reached hundreds of young people across the West Bank and have obtained support from all over the world. The primary objective of this organization is to improve the daily life of the young inhabitants of these critical territories, promoting the physical, psychological and pedagogical benefits of skateboarding.
SkatePal works with social realities heavily affected by the ongoing conflict. Over half of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories is under the age of 21, however, for many young people in the West Bank and Gaza, access to cultural, educational and sports facilities remain severely limited.
Keisha Finai 2019, Asira
Keisha Finai 2019, Ramallah
In this context, skateboarding has the potential to dissolve the barriers between classes, races, ages and sexes. Charlie Davis, founder of SkatePal, talks about it.
Where did this project come from? Why did you decide to bring skateboarding to Palestinian youth?
I was volunteering as an English teacher in Palestine after school and I had brought my skateboard with me. After classes I would skate around the town I was in, Jenin, and would always have a group of kids wanting to have a go. I didn’t end up skating much myself but there was no shortage of excited kids trying it out. The potential of skateboard was evident from that first trip, and after returning to the UK, getting a degree in Arabic and making several subsequent visits back to Palestine I started with a summer camp in 2013 to see how it would take off.
Charlie Davis, SkatePal
What does it mean to be a volunteer in Palestine, to travel in the West Bank territories? Have you have ever had any problems?
We usually have around 60 international volunteers who come out and give sessions throughout the year at our various locations in the West Bank. We provide them with housing and their main job is to skate with the local skaters and grow the skate scene in the country. We do face obstacles especially in getting equipment into Palestine, which is very difficult. Skateboarding has been met with a lot of enthusiasm there with both old and young wanting to have a shot. As it is a pretty unknown thing to do, it doesn’t hold and baggage like it does in other countries and you can skate pretty much anywhere – people would rather watch you then kick you out of a spot!
Keisha Finai 2019, Malak and ollie
Keisha Finai 2019, Sereen
Skateboarding has always been a sport with a strong cultural/lifestyle soul. What does skateboarding mean to you? And what does it mean for the new generation of Palestinians?
I think the culture around skating various from one place to the next, and is less prescribed than I once thought. To me, the key element of skating is the people I have met through it, more than the music, clothes, lifestyle etc… Of course there continues to be the thrasher / counter-culture aspect of skating, which is what draws a lot of young people into it, but as skating becomes more mainstream, the dimensions of what it means to be a skater are growing. When you speak to local skaters in Palestine and what it means to them, it is much the same as for anyone else – it is fun! There are less opportunities for young people in Palestine, and especially in some of the smaller villages there, so I think having a skatepark is a great way for both Palestinian skaters and international skaters to meet one another and learn from each other.
John Barker 2019, Diana
Have you had support and solidarity from important worldwide skaters? And by Israeli people?
We have had a lot of support from many people around the world in various fields. Rick McCrank came out to film an episode of the Viceland series “Post Radical” in Palestine and it was great to meet him. We have had a few pro skaters come out to volunteer and of course our ambassadors – Chris Jones and Ryan Lay. There are Israeli skaters who have heard about the growing scene in Palestine and who are supportive of what we do as well.
How much is the Covid-19 affecting your project in this period?
We have had to pause our international volunteer program from March last year, and it looks like we won’t be able to get that going again until next year. It has been frustratingly slow, but we have been focusing on working with our local manager, Aram, so that when things can get going again we can get a running start. The kids are all still skating an the scene is still going strong, but we are eager fro things to get back to normal soon so we can head over again!
Keisha Finai 2019, Ramallah ramp
Keisha Finai 2019
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