This piece was originally published on the Playmaker Discussion group. You can read the original post here.
GOOD Magazine recently ran a piece on a new skatepark in Uganda - in fact, the FIRST skatepark in East Africa -- here's what they have to say:
Located in the a working class suburb of Kampala, Uganda, the park was created both for and by local kids, without assistance from either NGOs or government. Gross describes it as both a source of pride and empowerment, a space that not only keeps kids out of trouble, but fosters the development of a real sense of community. It’s one defined by respect and solidarity, and it feels like a realized dream.
Some lovely images, too, from Yann Gross, who photographed it, and you can see the whole set here - it's well worth it.
It also reminds me of SKATEISTAN, a non profit that teaches kids how to skateboard in Kabul, Afghanistan. They are, in fact, also a first -- Afghanistan's first dedicated skate school, and doing amazing work. Skateistan is dedicated to not only teaching skateboarding but developing "skills in skateboarding, skateboarding instruction, healthy habits, civic responsibility, information technology, the arts, and languages." Wow.
They have both male and female students, and have received donations of equipment and boards from skating companies, and now they're raising money to build a full facility.
At any rate, both of these are examples of play not being restricted to a playground, but wherever it can be expressed. A great movement behind skateparks is moving along in the United States, and we've got examples of Mike DeLuca and his Progressive Skatepark in Canton, Georgia, where it's a gathering space, learning environment, and a place where local skaters come back to teach up-and-coming ones the rules of the road.
That reason to come back is what keeps these kids engaged with their community, and turns these skateparks into something more - something that the community becomes invested in. That investment is what we all strive for when creating places to play in our neighborhoods, and it's why we champion the community-build model, and it's not easy, but it is absolutely achievable.
Are there public spaces near you that people are committed to? What's different about them? How can we maintain that connection within the community? What have you done in your community to build that investment?