Educating the youth of developing countries will lead to a progressive future and hope for those in dire circumstances. Therefore, we will build skateboard parks in the neighborhoods of and inside the vicinity of youth centers. The park in Addis Ababa, built by Make Life Skate Life and Ethiopia Skate, is a perfect example of how effective this concept can be; children who go to the park are exposed to a safe environment that encourages a strong education.
Riders in the Addis Ababa community take pride in skating barefoot if shoes are inaccessible. If you can drop into a halfpipe without shoes on and kickflip with 4-year-old sandals, what can’t you do? What can’t you set your mind on, be resilient and create?
Falling down and getting back up is not simply a part of skating – it is skating. What goes into perfection is your time and drive to reach that level of the sport. It’s progress that pushes you along your journey. Imagine what skating has done for you and know that it also can be done for children around the world.
Getting up with bruised arms or blood running down legs, skaters in Ethiopia had this unparalleled ability to hop back on their board and finish a run or stomp their new trick.
The skating family is one of local change-makers who created what would have been simply impossible five years prior. I experienced a tightly knit community like none other. In skateparks across America, dozens of children learn how to skate alone. Here in Ethiopia, however, no one walks, skates or even falls alone. A sense of support rings throughout the rusting grind rails and the bearings of a recently donated board under a child’s foot.
Age has no significance. Have you ever seen that dad with a board in one hand and his son’s or daughter’s board in the other? Meanwhile the child trots alongside, wearing a helmet that’s slightly too large and covers their eyebrows. In the dozens of times I’ve been in the Addis park, not once have I failed to see this type of love in action.
For nations pursuing development like Ethiopia, the construction sector plays a big role in socio-economic progress. Building skateparks, and funding local companies to support one of Ethiopia’s largest sources of employment, will directly lead to a more developed society and grow the country’s GDP. Furthermore, the newly formed attraction to local youth centers can increase the funding of these education incubators and once again lead toward progress.
In Addis, working with what you have and creating something new out of your surroundings is essential. A rock becomes a file for your grip tape; box-cutter razor blades take priority over scissors; you can change a tire with a skate tool; and that park bench becomes your playground.
Think of all the things skating can get you interested in. While in Ethiopia, I had the privilege to engage in conversations about graphic design, woodworking, photography, film making and engineering with the local skaters. These are just a few of the interests skating leads to. To name some more: sales, retail marketing, painting, team management, welding and entrepreneurship.
“Hey, Yared, how does Babu skate that well without shoes on?” I ask the founder of Ethiopia Skate and soon-to-be business partner with a curious crank of my neck.
“Well, he’s never had a pair, but he’s been skating for about 6 years now,” Yared replies. His voice carries a note of pride, as if anyone who can skate that long without shoes is considered a paragon in Addis Ababa.
Watching 13-year-old Babu conquer the rails and halfpipes of Ethiopia’s first skateboard park gives an indescribable feeling that solid, tangible proof of my passion exists. The piece of wood under Babu’s feet was once a prototype of our now mass-produced longboard. The pavement upon which the Palindrome rolls was built from the combined efforts of 55 volunteers across Massachusetts running fundraisers for Skate 4 Africa.
Babu drops into the halfpipe again; my jaw drops just as quickly. Harnessing every last drop of momentum, he flies through the air. He approaches with a genuine grin revealing two missing teeth, but twice the charisma of a typical “youngster,” as Yared would say.
I physically look down at Babu, but the partisan in me looks up. Following the customary two-bump handshake, and hearing a brief thank you for Babu’s new board, I take his concrete-powdered hand and he leads me to the nearest shoe store.
Skateboarding has always been an outlet for me. It’s an outlet that I can plug into and recharge. It allows my consciousness to travel along the wires of my inner thoughts and arrive at a new state of being. Subsequently, I began looking for ways to connect the wires of skateboard decks with the potential energy of riders waiting to be plugged in. This is how Skate 4 Africa was born.
Educating myself through networking events and mentors, I discovered how to distribute boards through programs of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). With stacks of boards, schools of funders, volunteers to contribute toward study groups and an expanding lexicon to define our path ahead, I knew I could eventually write the design and publish the library of skating: a skateboard park.
If you’re a skater, chances are you have a few extra boards in your quiver. Perhaps you go to your local hill for weekly events and even bring home a few prizes from time to time. Whatever your situation is, if you have the resources to join our movement, we ask you to do so.
Currently we’re fundraising for the first public skateboard park in Zambia. We would love your help creating a chapter, running an event or even supporting us by grabbing a T-shirt on our website, with all proceeds going to the new park. We look forward to implementing similar programs and revolutionary skateboard parks in multiple developing African countries to come.
Make Life Skate Life & Ethiopia Skate collaborated to bring together over 60 volunteers from around the world to build Ethiopia’s first skatepark: Addis Skatepark. See how things came together and watch the local skaters and volunteers rip the park.
Special thanks to Michael Brooke from Concrete Wave Magazine.