Our wonderful partners, Free Movement Skateboarding, are excited to announce their plans to open a new skatepark in Athens! Their brilliant work, in collaboration with the Refugee Youth Service, has improved the lives of many young refugees – and locals – in the area. We’re so proud to support them, and can’t wait to see what the new centre could bring.
For Refugees. For Locals. For Everyone.
The mission is to build a skatepark and youth centre in Central Athens, for the young refugee and local population. We need a safe and secure environment to run our sessions, while also offering a space for the wider skate community: integration is key to our operation.
In association with Refugee Youth Service, we will offer support for vulnerable young people and collaborate with other organisations to promote dignity and well-being for all.
With regular sessions – day and night, seven days a week – the skatepark will offer a safe place where people can meet, hang out and skateboard. Our studio space will also provide yoga, art therapy, music and other cultural activities, encouraging a more diverse user group. We will create long-lasting social bonds through therapeutic skate and art sessions, and offer access to other services and support networks.
Affectionately referred to as the Gnarthenon, this skatepark will be open to everybody, with mixed sessions, Girls Only sessions, lessons and cultural events. The skate park will cater to the needs and passions of our community.
Empowering Young Refugees Through Skateboarding
Gender Equality – Skateboarding is for everyone. While western skateboarding is often a male-dominated activity, we encourage female participation by promoting skateboarding as a mixed sport, using female instructors and offering women-only sessions. We hope that skateboarding will be an activity that can empower girls and women beyond our sessions.
Integration – The majority of refugees in Athens are awaiting asylum here or further afield, and this wait can take years. During that time, people need a sense of community beyond the camps or squats where they live. By employing local skateboarders and including Greek young people in our sessions, we are creating a new and diverse generation of Athenian skateboarders. Everyone slams when skateboarding. Everyone can help up a friend. Everyone likes to land new tricks. Everyone likes to see friends do the same.
Mental & Physical Wellbeing – Refugees have suffered – and continue to face – trauma, loss and adversity. The impact that this can have on their physical and mental health is especially apparent in the behaviour of some of our young skateboarders. Our sessions help them to find a new focus. We begin each one with a ‘skate yoga’ warm up, to calm the mind and help them to concentrate throughout the session.
Skills for later employment – We will run volunteer and leadership schemes, offering skill-building opportunities to young skaters. We want to explain the ins and outs of our work, and help them to develop skills for use in later life.
Jobs for locals – Youth unemployment in Greece is currently over 40%. Our skatepark will bring employment opportunities for locals, including positions like Skatepark Manager, Youth Support and Inclusion Manager.
Cultural Education – Our skatepark facility will provide a space for collaborations with other projects, as well as activities including music, film, art and cooking classes. These sessions help to show young people that skateboarding can go hand in hand with other mind-expanding activities.
Friendship – Skateboarding is about community: girls, boys, young, old, Greek, Syrian, Afghan, British. We’re all skateboarders, and we’re all focussing on improving ourselves and encouraging each other.
Sanctuary – Skateboarding has saved the lives of countless lost adolescents – through the mental calm it requires, through the skate scene who support you, through the lust for exploration and development. It is a pure sanctuary.
Crisis – Athens is in the midst of a dual economic and refugee crisis. Greece’s €323-billion debt has resulted in increasingly harsh austerity deals with the European Central Bank and the IMF. The effects are particularly evident in the capital, where over 15,000 refugees inhabit the city for the foreseeable future. This stagnant economy is not equipped to sustain these people, and the poverty is palpable. We are committed to keeping our team local and creating jobs for Greek people as the project grows.
First Response – The city is a first port-of-call for many refugees who have made it to mainland Europe, but it often fails to provide the security that they deserve. Many inspirational projects, which operate outside the limited state provisions, have emerged that bring hope to refugees and Greeks alike. We play a small part in this, bringing dignity and well-being to some of the most deserving people in Europe.
However, Free Movement Skateboarding need your help to realise their plans. If you are able to donate to the construction of the Gnarthenon, or would like to read more about their plans, please click here. As ever, all our projects depend on the generosity of people like you. Thank you.