The organisation works between London and Palestine, where they have numerous roles from managing their online shop to hosting volunteers at their skateparks across Palestine – where they host classes for local children.
Since 2019, Aram Sabbah has worked with SkatePal – essentially covering all the work that happens on the ground in Palestine. He enjoys the beautiful message that skateboarding sends to both society and those involved, and also watching these new spirits and inspirations unfold within Palestine’s youth.
By Olivia Melkonian
My work with SkatePal started through helping out in classes when they first launched back in 2013, helping out in translating the instructions to the kids, showing them how to ride the board and other stuff that I was able to share my knowledge on. I finished my studies abroad and came back to Palestine to continue my help with SkatePal, and they offered me the position of Local Manager which I accepted and became the first local employed skater in the organisation.
So now, I manage everything that needs to be covered on the ground in Palestine. This includes: taking care of the volunteers and helping them settle in Ramallah or Nablus, keeping up the houses we rent for the volunteers, keeping up with the kids in the skatepark and the class space in Ramallah. I also manage the skate equipment to provide what’s necessary for the classes, I have to make sure that nothing is missing and if there’s something we need to make the classes better – we have it. It’s a lot of ground work.
Skateboarding is a powerful tool to make an individual feel welcomed in a community. It brings so many different personalities together in the same space – we have classes in the skatepark as well as in Ramallah, but because there’s no skatepark yet in Ramallah we host our classes in a safe place that we try to welcome everyone into. In our classes, you can see how much the kids are being themselves without judgement of each other or being judged by society, as they only focus on skating and learning new tricks.
As much as skateboarding is considered an accepting sport within itself, the kids show exceptional acceptance and heartwarming acts like a girl helping out a boy without the thought of “Ah, I’m a boy I don’t need a girl to help me out.” That is what my dream is based on: to have a bigger and wider skateboarding scene in Palestine so that all of us feel welcomed and accepted as who we are without facing judgement. After a while, this builds character to the point where no one cares about the judgment society gives them and allows them to focus on building more bridges with each other and a better future for everyone.
We have established multiple skateparks which are spread out in the West Bank. The one in Jayyous was built by us in collaboration with another organization based in Qalqilya, who now run it, called SkateQilya. The one in Zababdeh, Jenin was passed onto us by the people who gave us the space to build the skatepark. There’s also one in Asira Shamaleyeh, Nablus where we are still holding classes, but slowly passing it over to the local skaters of Nablus and Asira.
Well, skateboarding affects every individual differently to the next, but it has definitely empowered the youth involved in so many ways, such as: having their voice heard no matter their age or gender, having a time in the day to blow off some steam from the atmosphere that they live in, and much more than that. All of this can give power to the youth and build something in them that is hard to break, making them shine in their community.
I have learned so much in this process of being a manager on how to take care of other people without making any problems and acutely solving problems instead. I have learnt how to deal with different people from all over the world, as well as dealing with local people and learning how to be the middleman while problem solving and making things easier for the organisation. I have found that I can deal with more things than I thought I could, and that encouraged me to feel stronger and play my role even better. Things can get confusing sometimes because everything in life is a lesson, but these types of lessons make so much difference when you pass them on and learn from them over and over again.
The skateboarding community is international and at the same time it’s domestic in every country of the world. In Palestine, it’s pretty much a new and young crowd. This allowed space for much better things to be done. Without having the background of the Boys vs Girls, it’s almost 50% girls and 50% boys in all of our classes, which can lead to so many outcomes in the actual community. It will empower the young girls in our community and pave them a bigger path than the one than the community draws; it affects them directly when comparing life itself with what they feel and see in the skateboarding classes or when skating in the streets. We try our best to give as much space as we can for the youth to grow and have their own thoughts and feelings processed by themselves at their own pace.
I was offered the position of Local Manager in September 2019.
I wish to achieve a sustainable skateboarding scene in the whole of Palestine, with all of its missing pieces including a skate shop, more skateparks, competitions, and much more. I want to achieve a better path for the youth to grow up around here, and make it easier for them to build better things. I want to achieve a better future for everyone here who is involved in skateboarding and art.
Thank you so much for this kind compliment. Every sale from our shop goes directly toward our annual budget to source more skateboarding equipment to the country, to hire more local staff, and to continue our work. Hopefully we can soon build a new skatepark somewhere in the country, but in general, it helps us to carry on our work for the youth of Palestine.