The Youth Empowerment Program Teaching Skateboarding in Palestine

The Youth Empowerment Program Teaching Skateboarding in Palestine

Words Tori West

SkateQilya is inspiring a generation of kids to get on board.

Launched in the summer of 2016, SkateQilya is a three-week summer camp for youngsters living in the city of Qalqilya and the neighbouring village of Jayyous. Qalqilya only has a population of around 40,000 people and is completely surrounded by the Israeli wall. During the second Intifada—the second Palestinian uprising against Israel—the area suffered from long curfews and was overrun with invasions by the Israeli military. Although the intensity of the violence has dramatically decreased over the years, unfortunately, invasions still occur. Girls have limited opportunities and boys struggle to find outlets to express their community’s oppression.

In response, SkateQilya is offering a safe space for children and teenagers to work together as a community and in addition, teaching them art and leadership skills. The project’s creators; skateboarder Kenny Reed, local activist Mohammed Otham and New-York based artist Adam Abel, hope to encourage peer-to-peer learning and over time, watch the campers work together naturally and independently. “We want this to be sustainable and we want it to be Palestinian-run. We wanted to speak to that and encourage skaters around the world to get involved. Even a dollar. It goes so much further than you think.” Said Adam Abel in conversation with Huck earlier this year.

But why skateboarding? “It’s new and captivating; it is the hook. It is both simple to learn and offers infinite opportunities for improvement. Skateboarding is an incredible vehicle for discovering self-expression, confidence, belonging and leadership. Like other alternative sports, it is flexible to interpretation and does not promote “winning” as a priority. Any skater around the world can explain how a skateboard changes a person’s perception of their environment. In a place like Palestine, which has been occupied for decades and surrounded by walls, this sport and art form takes on a whole new meaning.” Say the creators via their website.

Find out more about SkateQilya and their work via their website.