"A special place" – An experience report from our volunteers Larissa and Jana.

When we think back to the two months in Syria, we have pictures of kids, a lot of skateboarding, screaming, Arabic food, rooftop mornings and of course Qudsaya and Damascus on our minds. We spent most of the time at the skate park with the kids…almost from dusk until dawn. Working at the skate park was wonderful and challenging at the same time. Many kids grew up there during the war, which can still be clearly seen and felt everywhere. Qudsaya was a stronghold of IS and especially the kids witnessed a lot. Disagreements or arguments in the skate park therefore sometimes quickly lead into violence. In addition to skateboarding, we had to show physical presence sometimes, resolve several conflicts and repeatedly establish new rules. In these two months we clearly felt the potential of this skate park and the extent to which skateboarding as a "sports" activity allows the kids to mature in their behavior and personality. Through skateboarding, the kids are strengthened, can act in a self-determined manner, learn to be considerate of others in a community, respect boundaries, try things out, fall and get back up again and treat each other with respect. We also learned that patience and relationship building, as well as sensitivity for the children and their realities, are very important and only in this way a good approach to them can be found. The time in Syria flew by. We had planned so much and we were able to realize a lot, but so much more would have been possible. While Lari skated with the advanced skateboarders, Jana was more responsible for the beginners. With Wasim and Helen (Syrian volunteers) she painted the skate park with new artworks. Together we organized our Halloween event, as well as our two-day music video shoot. This was definitely one of our highlights, because it was unbelievable how motivated the kids were, how many participated and how cool the result was. And just when our Arabic had made some progress (the kids had already gotten used to "our language"), we had internalized all the processes and made friends, we had to leave Qudsaya already. This whole time was so intense, challenging and special, that looking back, we were grateful to have been there as a couple. Lari had already been in charge of the skate park for two months two years ago. This time we had even more opportunities to implement things, plan, create events and be there even more for the kids, because there were two of us and we worked together with five other Syrian volunteers. The skate park is a place where the kids spend most of their time. Here they skate, let out their frustrations, make friends play and chill. It’s a kind of home for the kids. Religion, gender, skin color or social background have no effect here - which makes this skate park very special, especially in such a conservative Muslim area. The skate park in Qudsaya has become a very special place for us. It became our home within the two months.