The hope comes on four wheels
skate-aid offers development work around the globe with the help of the skateboard
Projects for kids and teenagers in countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Albania, Bolivia, Brazil , Costa Rica, Germany India, Kenya, Mozambique, Palestine, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda
Titus Dittmann (63) has been a "free-wheeler" for over 30 years. Those are the words used by the skateboard pioneer and initiator to describe himself. Because since he turned his back on a safe career as a tenured teacher in the 1980s his life has been about one thing only: skateboarding. In the summer of 2010 he retired from the management of his company "titus GmbH". Together with his team, the 63 year old now focuses fully on his foundation which he established in 2009. The foundation, with the initiative skate-aid, supports child and youth projects around the globe that carry out development work through skateboarding. Where life is overshadowed by terror, violence and destruction, they start hope rolling for children. This enables the maverick and trend pioneer to be faithful to him and his passion: boards that mean the world - and can make it a better place.
Hope that comes on four wheels
When Dittmann first heard of the dedication of the Australian Oliver Percovich in Kabul in 2008 he was electrified: "What a great idea for working with kids in such a desperately troubled area" thought the skateboard entrepreneur and shortly afterwards started a fund raising drive for the initiative Skateistan in his 40 shops. Two tons of skateboards and around 15,000 euros were collected. Together with Percovich he picks up the delivery sponsored by DHL from customs in Kabul and goes to start teaching in the orphanages of the capital city. A moving experience which motivates Dittmann to continue.
Two men. One mission
It is the chairman of the Committee for Foreign Relations in the Bundestag (German Parliament) Ruprecht Polenz, who brings Dittmann and Rupert Neudeck together in the spring of 2009. Rupert Neudeck, the founder of Cap Anamur and the Grünhelme (green helmets) has already built 32 schools in Afghanistan. "As soon as we met it was clear that we wanted to join forces to get things moving. Shortly afterwards we were in a place heading for Afghanistan to check out the situation for skateboard facilities there" explains Titus, as he is known to insiders. "The eyes of the public and the media are on Kabul. We are concentrating on the forgotten rural areas" the initiator says; it is his own personal commitment that pushes through projects.
Help across the Board
At the end of 2009 Dittmann creates the foundation as the umbrella organisation for the skate-aid projects that carry out development work for children and young people around the globe using skateboards (www.skate-aid.org).
"Skateboarding knows no borders or war, no skin colour or hate, rich or poor. Skateboarding unites. Skateboards don't just offer children diversity and enjoyment in their daily lives in Afghanistan overshadowed by terror" the former teacher is keen to emphasise who recognised early on the meaningful effect of this putative sports equipment on a sense of identity - especially in the social orientation phase of youth development. Dittmar has been involved in youth work in Germany for decades. It was always important for him to "put something back into the scene". He was awarded the Order of Merit of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2009 for his work. Today his activities cover the world.
Help that makes its mark in Afghanistan
In just under two months and with the help of around 15,000 euros of donations, the first concrete park in Afghanistan is created at a school in Karokh, in the western province of Herat. A cooperative project in conjunction with Rupert Neudeck's initiative "Grünhelme e.V." and with the active participation of villagers. The idea is that this is their project. And it is. The 7,000 schoolchildren are thrilled. "It's the first time that someone has shown they care, that someone has done something just for them, simply for their enjoyment" as Dittmar characterises his experience there. When children grow up without a childhood and without hope, surrounded by violence and destruction, they rightly view strangers with scepticism, as he sees on his travels. "But beyond linguistic and ethnic barriers skateboarding can create what could be considered an impossible bridge to children and young people" Dittmann explains. And girls are allowed to use the skateboards in Karokh. Of course only when there are no boys near. That is a small sensation because they are not allowed any other sporting activity. But the skateboard is not a "recognised piece of sports equipment" and does not even have a name in a region where there are scarcely any televisions or telephones, let alone internet access. The school janitor calls the board with four wheels a "mouse car".
Help begins to roll in Africa
In addition to the foundation's work in Afghanistan there are a number of projects currently underway in Africa. In the summer of 2011 a cooperative project with the partner organisation "Don Bosco" created a concrete skate park in Tanzania's capital Dodoma. Torben Oberhellmann is the vice chairman of the Titus Dittmann Foundation and recognised expert on Africa. He runs skate-aid's projects in Africa. The 29 year old is currently supervising construction and renovation work to skate and sports parks in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. In collaboration with various aid organisations he is rolling out hope for kids in orphanages and the townships of Africa.
Dittmann and his team carefully target their publicity: As Dittmar explains "attention is an extremely important resource for the work of the foundation in attracting potential donors and sponsors". Milestone: In November 2010 skate-aid is awarded the prestigious "Laureus Medien Preis”. According to the jury headed by Boris Becker this is a project that embodies the "Laureus concept" - social change through sport - in a very special way. Celebrations were in order at skate-aid on receiving the award. "This award means a lot to us" says Dittmann "because it has propelled us into new dimensions in the eye of the public and the media.
Prominent "supporters" are also relaying the message of skate-aid: Musicians such as Gentleman or Blumentopf, actors Wotan Wilke Möhring and Leonard Lansink or TV hosts such as Shary Reeves or Dr. Hajo Schumacher as well as comedian Simon Gosejohann. Each year these stars and around 400 guests gather for the "skate-aid night". It has long been a social highlight that offers amusing insights into the work of the foundation and youth cultures - and which regularly channels five-digit sums directly into projects.
The world continues to be a building site: a skate park is being created at this very moment with auxiliary support programmes in Costa Rica. For the forgotten children and young people of the "rich poor coast" in Central America. The world is a skateboard.
More information and impressions
Donation account skate-aid
|Account holder||skate-aid e.V. München|
|Account number||55 17 39|
|Bank routing number||400 501 50|
|Bank||Sparkasse Münsterland Ost|
DE57 400 501 50 0000 55 17 39
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