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Syria. The first thing everyone asks is whether it’s a safe place... and it’s definitely safer than I imagined. After 2 days of being in Syria all my worries had left me. It was safe. The people were nice and all I had to do was go down to the local skate park every day, skate, coach, laugh and hangout with everyone. I would show the kids some new tricks that they could learn and they would teach me some moves of their own.
Working with SOS children’s villages made my time in Syria easy. When I needed anything they were always there to help. Whether it was delivering supplies to our door, helping us out in strange Syrian situations or just someone to have a drink with in the old city. They always went out of their way to make me feel at home.
The local volunteers are the ones who keep the skate park going and they love meeting foreigners. You’ll be welcomed into their homes and you’ll always have people to hang out and drink chai with. They all love skateboarding and can take you to street spots with marble ledges or to bomb hills on some newly repaired roads. Damascus is a skateboarding gem in the Middle East.
The skate park is epic. You’ve never seen anything like it. It’s packed full of kids and everyone has fun, especially during the afternoon bowl sessions where everyone gets fired up. You’ll see bodies fly out over the extension and over a stack of boards which gets higher and higher each week.
Some mornings I would wake up still exhausted from the previous days skating. But just thinking about how amped the kids were to skate would make getting out of bed easier. No matter how early I would arrive at the park there were always kids waiting for us to give them a board.
The kids are for sure the best reason to come to Syria. They need to focus their energy on something constructive like skateboarding. There’s not much else for kids to do here besides play marbles, sell bread or climb around in destroyed buildings. So if anyone needs skateboarding it’s these kids .The work is exhausting, the country is confusing and the kids are high energy but I wouldn’t change any of it. I had some of the best times of my life at the Qudsaya Skatepark and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Text by Nigel, skate-aid Volunteer, Qudsaya Skatepark, Damascus, Syria January 2020-April 2020