Jordan skate park puts smile on faces of refugee children

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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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A refugee child skates on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2018
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Jordan skate park puts smile on faces of refugee children

AMMAN: Hair flying in the wind Manar, Amniya and Farida hurtle down the slopes of “7Hills Skate Park” in the Jordanian capital Amman where refugee children come to play.
The 650-square-meter (almost 7,000-foot) concrete space was built in December 2014 by skateboard enthusiasts from around the world.
The money was raised during a fundraising campaign by a German NGO and a local association that offers free classes for the children of refugees from countries such as Syria, Iraq or Sudan.
Mohammed Duma, a 40-year-old Sudanese man who fled the war in Darfur, looks on with pride and a touch of apprehension as his two daughters, aged four and eight, learn to ride a skateboard with their trainer.
“We come here every Monday. Life in Jordan is very expensive, it’s the only place where I can take my girls to play and have fun for free,” said Duma.
He has applied with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for relocation to the United States, Canada or Britain.
Salima Issa, a 26-year-old housewife, sits on a patch of grass with her two-year-old son, who is busy nibbling on crackers.
She watches as her son Mohammed, four, and eight-year-old daughter Amniya cruise by on their skateboards.
Issa too fled Darfur, where the conflict that broke out in 2003 has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of others.

The skatepark’s name was inspired by the topography of Amman, a city built on seven hills.
“This park has become a breath of fresh air for young refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Palestine,” said Mohammed Zakaria, one of the park managers.
Skateboarding “is a difficult sport, which allows you to gain self-confidence and learn that falling is not the end of the world, and that you have to try a second and third time to succeed,” he explained.
“Life is like that and we all learn from our mistakes,” said the 32-year-old Jordanian.
He said around 140 boys and girls take free classes every week, mostly run by foreign volunteers.
Jordan hosts refugees from more than 40 countries, including over 650,000 people from Syria, according to the UNHCR.
Yussef Khaled, 14, who lost his father in Somalia’s war, arrived six years ago with his mother and sister, and does not miss an opportunity to come to the skate park.
“There are not many places to have fun in Amman, and even if there were, we wouldn’t have the money to go anyway,” said the teenager.
“This place makes me forget that I’m a refugee,” he said, showing off his latest trick on the skateboard.


Farmer turns ferryman as river engulfs Syrian hometown

Updated 15 min 49 sec ago
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Farmer turns ferryman as river engulfs Syrian hometown

  • The father of four is working long hours each day paddling his boat around the streets helping stricken residents to get their children to school, do the shopping or check on relatives

DARKUSH, Syria: The alleyways of the Syrian town of Darkush are normally thronged with pedestrians but since the swollen Orontes River burst its banks, Abu Ihab’s boat has provided the main way of getting around.

The 49-year-old farmer normally takes a well-earned rest in January when winter frosts turn his fields as hard as rock.

But this year, days of torrential rain in the mountains of Lebanon has sent a deluge downstream, submerging the streets of his hometown under as much as 5 feet of water.

So instead the father of four is working long hours each day paddling his boat around the streets helping stricken residents to get their children to school, do the shopping or check on relatives.

“In winter, I don’t usually leave the house much as it is cold and it rains. But this year I felt that people needed me,” he says as he provides yet another ferry ride to grateful fellow townspeople.

Abu Ihab normally uses his boat for summer fishing on the Orontes to supplement his farm produce.

He is one of the few in the town to own one so he offers his services for free, delivering fresh bread from the bakery or ferrying excited children on an unaccustomed school run by boat.

“Today, people are staying at home. They can’t even get to the shops to buy food,” he says, wearing a woolly hat and jacket against the cold.

It is not the first year that he has provided his free boat service. “Most years there are spates but this year is a really big one because of the torrential rains,” he says.

The ground floors of houses close to the river have been inundated.

The Arab town close the Turkish border lies in Idlib province which is largely under the control of militants led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch.

Across the province, the torrential rains have triggered flash floods that have caused widespread hardship, particularly in the vast tent cities set up for the displaced.

Civilians who have fled other parts of Syria recaptured by government forces make up around half of the resident population of Idlib and neighboring opposition-held areas.