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Global Community Funds Jordan's First Skateboard Park


Alice Fordham is NPR's Middle East correspondent. And in that role, she often covers events that can be quite grim about war or political struggle. But on a recent trip to Jordan, a very different kind of story caught her eye. Jordanian kids are going crazy for skateboarding. And while the hilly streets of the capital city, Amman, are perfect to try to catch some air, skateboarders there have dreamed of a skate park of their own. So they asked the international community for help, and they got it.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: When I arrive at Amman's brand-new skateboarding park, I meet a half-dozen little boys helping sweep it. And once they're done, they run to a storehouse to fetch skateboards and practice as the Friday call to prayer rings out nearby.

SALEM ABU TALIB: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: Salem Abu Talib is 11. "It's nice," he says. The first time he tried, he fell over a lot, but now he's doing fine. This, the 7Hills Skate Park, is just a month old, and it's the dream come true of a skateboarding entrepreneur.

MOHAMMAD ZAKKARIA: My name is Mohammad Zakkaria. I've been skating in Jordan for a while - 12 years maybe.

FORDHAM: Zakkaria is an apple-cheeked 28-year-old with a fluffy beard. Growing up, it was hard to find boards or skaters. He had his aunt bring him a board from the U.S., learned tricks from YouTube and eventually met other skateboarders - at first online, then they'd meet up in a downtown street.

ZAKKARIA: And it has, like, marble ledges, a lot of benches, stairs, so it was like the perfect setting for us to start skating.

FORDHAM: He set up a business, calling it Philadelphia, an ancient name for Amman, and selling skateboards. The skaters had a community but not a home.

ZAKKARIA: So we've always had the idea about that we need a skate park.

FORDHAM: So he called on Make Life Skate Life, a nonprofit and kind of international fairy godmother of skateboard communities. They crowdfunded $20,000 and called for volunteers.

ZAKKARIA: It actually was really freaking cool. We had, like, volunteers from Belgium. We had volunteers from the U.K.

FORDHAM: They finished in 18 days flat. Some of them are still here. Harry Gerrard’s from just south of London.

HARRY GERRARD: These kids are already way better than me - way better. They've been skating for, like, three weeks.

FORDHAM: They are skaters, so they don't have, like, a fixed plan. But Zakkaria says he wants to partner up with NGOs working with refugees. For now, though, he says it's incredible just to be chilling here. Alice Fordham, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.