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Free local skatepark brings community together

By Camille Dupire - Oct 12,2017 - Last updated at Oct 12,2017

Youth from all social, cultural and financial backgrounds gather to the local skatepark to enjoy their passion in a safe environment (Photo by Samantha Robinson)

AMMAN — “A decade ago, there were only a handful of skaters in Jordan, but the construction of 7Hills has jumpstarted the community,” said Mohammed Zakaria, co-founder of the local 7Hills skatepark

A community built infrastructure set up to provide a safe and free access to skateboarding for all, 7Hills has become a local landmark where people from all walks of life gather to share their passion for the urban art.

“We see kids as young as three years old come with their brothers and sisters to skate,” said Zakaria, who added “7Hills has become a meeting point for people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds, breaking down social, status and financial barriers through skating.”

Every day, a bustling community of people pours into the local park near downtown Amman to learn how to skate, practise their passion, or simply socialise with fellow skaters.

A barren area filled with garbage three years ago, the space was revamped by a crew of volunteers into a 650sqm skatepark, with the support of some 180 individual donors.

“We have made sure that, once completed, the skatepark would remain a safe and secure zone with a lasting positive impact on the community,” Zakaria said, noting that a team of international volunteers has taken over to run the place and ensure its maintenance and safety.

Established in 2014 through a collaboration between Make Life Skate Life, Philadelphia Skateboards and the Greater Amman Municipality, 7Hills skatepark has gained widespread popularity despite some initial concerns.

“Whenever you bring something new into a community, people get scared and reluctant. But, with 7Hills, the community has been very supportive and helpful,” Zakaria said, noting that the locals have been involved throughout the whole construction process and are now the “backbone” of the skatepark.

The park currently facilitates four outreach classes every week benefiting over 150 participants: one for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, one for Palestinian kids from Jerash camp, and another organised for Sudanese children, according to the founder who explained that several programmes including the girls-only sessions, had to be cancelled due to shortage in funding.

“We have also set up a youth empowerment programme through which local kids get paid with skateboard products for every ten classes they teach to the refugee youth,” Zakaria continued, stressing that it helps strengthen social cohesion among the various communities.

Furthermore, 7Hills provides a loaner programme whereby locals from the neighbourhood are given free access to skateboards for the duration of their stay at the park.

“The loaner programme aims to make skateboarding accessible to diverse social groups that cannot afford buying the equipment,” he said, noting that, due to the lack of free public spaces, “most of the refugee youth have no recreational occupation due to limited resources”.

“Vulnerable groups have few outlets for creativity and play. Through skateboarding, they can be supported and once again believe in their own abilities,” he stated, stressing that 70 per cent of the class participants are refugees.

For Zakaria, 7Hills seeks to provide the youth with a “safe place for leisure and physical education, in an environment that represents safety, hope, friendship, and fun”.

“I like to skate a lot and this is a very new idea in Jordan,” said Azran, a 14-year-old Jordanian, who added that he “returns there every day after school to learn new tricks and meet people”.

With 60 per cent of the population in Amman being younger than 25, according to UNICEF figures, the potential for expansion is growing.

“7Hills is only the initial seed for what we have in mind: we want to expand to the host communities in the north of Jordan, and to the local ones in the south,” the co-founder said, citing the lack of public spaces in the country as detrimental to society.


“We are currently working with Amman Design Week to launch a public space designing competition to raise awareness on the importance of free public places to improve the lives of the communities in Jordan,” Zakaria concluded.

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