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15.10.2019 - Ausgabe: 5/2019

Making children strong

©Kukuk Freiflug GmbH

It is our children who hold our future in their hands. A world which needs strong children for a good future. So it is of utmost importance to fulfil the basic needs of all children, needs such as food security and a secure environment which allows all children to grow up safe.     

However, apart from these basic needs human beings need something more. They long for something anchored in their innermost selves, which drives them. It is the feeling of belonging and closeness, the experience of appreciation and respect, support and the deep yearning for self-fulfilment. Therefore it is important that all basic needs are fulfilled already at an early childhood stage to enable our children to develop strong personalities.     

In particular during the orientation phase as so-called „pubescent snotty brats", the creation of meaning and identity is of utmost importance.  Thus, our children need self-determined free spaces to socialise, grow up and develop strong personalities on the basis of intrinsic motivation.

Any outside influence and its relevant effect of becoming a "blockhead" has a disturbing effect on children's free development.  On the contrary, the educational effect of skateboarding is a beneficial one. Skate-aid helps children and youngsters to become self-determined personalities who will enrich their society as strong individuals, especially those who live in adverse living conditions without any perspectives or hope. 

Skateboarding is an exercise-oriented youth culture which does not know any frontiers or wars, without distinctions of race, religion or status. Quite the contrary, skateboarding unites. Due to the fact that it makes children strong personalities, this commitment is a sustainable contribution to the development of our civil society, to socialisation, prevention and peace work. Thus, it is an approach which will make our world a little bit better.

The Kukuk Kultur e.V. (a registered association) follows a similar approach. For the past 15 years, the charity has created protected play areas all over the world.


The Damascus Skatepark

This extraordinary project was implemented in the Syrian capital in cooperation with skate aid and the charity SOS Children 's Villages Worldwide. The skatepark is situated at an already existing open square right next to a school, which is just the right place to be used every day also by the schoolchildren.

An important aspect of the skatepark design was it to create a place where both well-advanced skateboarders and beginners would have fun. Apart from the skating elements, the largely dimensioned concrete surfaces provide sufficient space to allow even newcomers to roll through the park on their skateboards or to be introduced to this type of sports in the mini ramp and step by step. However, also experienced skateboarders will be challenged and have a good time by skating through different rails, banks, transitions and curbs. In short: it's great fun for everyone!

Besides the mini ramp and street elements from in-situ concrete, on the property adjacent to the skatepark, a playground with a wide range of play devices and public toilets has been established. Thus, also the youngest children have been provided a place where they can play outside with other children. Furthermore the entire area has been replanted, which will have a very positive effect on both atmosphere and privacy.

The park was built by using mixed types of concrete from regional building materials. Also the necessary steel elements such as edges, tubes and grids are from Syria. Both the coping of the mini ramp extensions and the edges of the street elements have been provided with regional Syrian marble which both looks good and makes the skateboarders' hearts beat faster due to the perfect grind and sliding conditions. Some elements of the park have additionally been refined with mosaics which reflects the relation to Syria and specifically to Damascus as such. The place is mainly open-sided and, as the most important factor, freely accessible to anybody. This is the core idea of Maier Landschaftsarchitektur, the planning office: Skateparks for everybody!

Both activists and skateboard park builders from skate-aid as well as numerous Syrians from Damascus and employees from the Maier planning office were involved in the building process. They mutually supported each other, spent their lunch breaks together and also had much fun. A family from the immediate neighbourhood of the skatepark, for instance, would almost every day do the laundry for all the helpers or provide them with food. Thus, also external parties were shown that the construction of a skate park can bring people from different ethnic groups together. This has also continued to show after the completion of the park.

Already now the skatepark is used daily by many schoolchildren and plays an increasingly important role for the entire vicinity. At regular intervals the children from the charity SOS Children's Villages, which is situated some kilometres away, are brought to the park to be taught skateboarding by well-advanced and experienced skateboarders.

Critics will say that Damascus requires more important things than the establishment of a skatepark.  At first sight this may seem to be true, but it is things like such a skatepark which makes the children in Damascus return to their everyday lives. The time they spend there will help them to forget about the adversities happened to them. "We are proud to say that we have already achieved the main objective of this project, to bring a smile to the faces of all children, youngsters and adults who spend some time in the Damascus skatepark," says Ralf Maier.

It is the landscape architect's office Maier from Cologne which has been planning all skatepark projects for skate-aid within the past 10 years. Apart from Damascus, since 2009 other skatepark projects have been implemented in Afghanistan, Palestine, India, Kenya and Namibia.


Socially designed play areas all over the world 

The original game does not resolve any conflicts, it makes them become unnecessary. (Fred O. Donaldson)


Based on this premise, the charitable organisation KuKuk Kultur e.V. has established protected play areas all over the world within the past 15 years. Their projects are mainly realised at places where the space for playful development and the development of one's full potential, that is to say an essential basis which enables children to have a good start into life, is scare or not at all existent. So the charitable organisation works in crisis regions, such as the Middle East, in Roma slums in Macedonia or at a children's hospital in Moldova. One special project has brought the employees of the organisation to Iraq. Since the last genocide of Yezidis initiated by the Islamic State, thousands of families of the village called Xhanke have lived and are still living in tents. However, hardly anyone can understand what these people had gone through. 

Against this background it is the firm conviction of the charitable organisation that PLAYING has a therapeutic effect which might even help to dissolve traumata. 

At 10 degrees below zero, students of the Leuphana University have converted a freight container into a playground in front of the famous Liebeskind building and have then sent it by road transport to Kurdistan. 

Together with a small team, the container has then been built up by the children from an orphanage called "our bridge". However, the access had to be regulated by the KuKuk employees because right from the outset this playground was very popular among the children.

In addition, two further projects are currently being developed for Africa. One is focused on the support of physically and mentally handicapped people from Ethiopia. The other one will be implemented at an educational institution in Malawi.

Usually the organisational staff builds up the playgrounds with young adolescents from Germany.  In this way, everybody involved benefits from both the experience of designing quality places and from getting to know new, so far unknown cultures. Strangers become friends and all parties involved learn how to be creative in a useful way.

Once or twice a year, KuKuk Kultur organises trips to countries which due to their specific security situation or the particularly long journey are only offered to adults. Thus, several projects, such as in Nepal (leprosy village), in Lebanon (school of impaired children) and Brazil (Favela Monte Azul) could be implemented. Furthermore, the association has implemented a project in a refugee camp in Turkey together with the organisation "Stelp" and Timo Hildebrandt (a former German national goalkeeper).

"We would thus like to encourage you to contact KuKuk Kultur if you would like to accompany such a project or if you know a place where such kind of protected play area is particularly necessary. The association is also pleased to receive donations. The company Kinderland Emsland Spielgeräte, for instance, has kindly contributed one of its couple swings for the Ethiopia project", says Bernhard Hanel from KuKuk Kultur.

Besides, KuKuk Kultur is committed to promoting the importance of free playing for the development of children. It must, in any case, play an increasing role in the public and political discussion. Already Rainer Maria Rilke was convinced that supporting the free development of children is the most prominent task of this century." This task has to be assumed by the children themselves. But it is our role to create the conditions which encourage them to do so.



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