SkatePal: Joy, freedom and development through skateboarding

SkatePal is a non-profit organisation that works with communities throughout Palestine to provide alternatives to sports and personal growth to the lives of young people through skateboarding.

They are run by a dedicated team of local and international volunteers who, through teaching skate classes, building skateparks and providing equipment, are helping an increasing number of Palestinians, especially children, to empower themselves.

In 2012, SkatePal founder, Charlie Davis, committed himself to his idea of a skateboarding project in Palestine. He contacted cultural centres around the country looking for possible places to start building some skate facilities. 



Kids at the Sareyyet Club in Ramallah, where classes are held from Sunday to Wednesday.


The project took off in 2013 at the Sharek Youth Forum in Ramallah. Then it moved to a few different locations such as the Islamic Club, Ramallah, the Nazih Khalil Foundation and in Zababdeh, Jenin, where they built the first SkatePal organised concrete skatepark.


Today, the classes are held in the Sareyyet Club in Ramallah and in Asira Al-Shamaliya, a village in the Nablus region where they built ‘Rosa Park’, SkatePal‘s second concrete skatepark in the West Bank, and the largest in the country.



Asira Al-Shamaliya Skatepark. Photo: Ben Bravenec



A volunteer with Skatepal, Martijn Van Hemmen, from Rotterdam, Netherlands, told Palestine Monitor that he decided to apply for a volunteer position because he was always deeply interested in what skateboarding can do to benefit people around the world.  

“I think a project like this can be especially beneficial in a country like Palestine where the options for children to express themselves freely and educate themselves through sports is limited,” Van Hemmen said.


“It’s very easy to participate, it doesn’t cost any money, you don’t have to have any skills, it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, the only thing that matters is learning and having fun,” he added.




Asira Al-Shamaliya Skatepark. Photo: Ben Bravenec

17-year-old Zaina Amous started skating around 3 months ago when she found out about SkatePal lessons. 


She told Palestine Monitor that she loves skateboarding because skateboarding has no rules, “it’s like a way to express yourself, to improve your skills and to make a better version of you,” she said.


Fares Awwad, 11-year-old, used to play basketball at Sareyyet club until he saw the skateboarding lessons that were taking place in the club. He said that skateboarding is the best sport he has ever done in his life, “I just feel like I am free.”





Zaina Amous and Fares Awwad.

On their website, when talking about why skateboarding as the sport of choice, SkatePal describes it as one of the most inclusive sports in the world. It has the potential to dissolve barriers between class, race, age and gender while also engaging the youth and helping them to build confidence and form long-lasting friendships.

When asked about how skateboarding can help to break barriers in the community, especially for women, 15-year-old Malak Battat, told Palestine Monitor that “skateboarding is a very different sport, you can be whoever you want, there are no rules, it helps to open people’s minds.”




Malak Battat, 15-years-old, at Sareyyet Club in Ramallah


According to the last report published by the United Nations Development Programme, Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People in 2014, Development for Empowerment, for children growing up in a conflict situation like that in Palestine, sports can be one of the safest alternatives to nurture freedom and personal growth, both physical and mental. 

Also, according to the report, there is no real sustainable structure for youth sports in Palestine. The club system found mainly in the bigger cities, provide limited sports alternatives for young people. 



Sareyyet Club in Ramallah, where classes are held from Sunday to Wednesday.



Mahmoud Kilani, 17-years-old from Asira, told Palestine Monitor that he started skating because of the community ties he saw forming and how it just “brings joy to everyone around.”

“Here in Asira, we didn’t really have a place to interact before, but now we do, people are much more social, in skateboarding everybody just helps each other out,” Kilani said.

When asked if he intended to keep skating for a long time, he said he didn’t think he could ever stop now. “I just feel like I am a complete person on a skateboard,” he added.



Asira Al-Shamaliya Skatepark. Photo: Ben Bravenec





SkatePal exists solely from donations of people worldwide. Also, all the volunteers try to fundraise in their own countries, where they put a lot of effort to get the community together to collect old and new equipment as well as financial donations.

Their constant presence and award-winning projects, SkatePal has reached hundreds of young people along the West Bank and won acclaim from supporters around the world.

With an increasing number of participants and volunteers joining each year, the skateboarding community in Palestine only intends to get bigger, helping to inspire and empower the next generations of the Palestinian youth.



Equipment acquired through volunteers fundraising.





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