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.


Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

Updated 31 min 59 sec ago
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Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

  • The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week
  • Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals

GAZA CITY: Forty animals including five lions are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, an animal welfare group said Wednesday.
The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organization said.
Among the other animals to be taken out are a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organization said in a statement.
Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals and couldn’t provide proper care for them in the strip.
The zoo hit the headlines last month when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could pay to play with her.
The organization condemned the declawing, with almost 150,000 people signing a petition against the treatment.
The animals would be treated and sedated, before being taken through Israel into Jordan, Four Paws said.
“For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” said Four Paws veterinarian Amir Khalil.
“We are happy to finally put an end to this horror,” he said in the statement.
The animal welfare group has previously evacuated two other zoos in Gaza, where desperate poverty often leaves owners unable to assure adequate conditions.
Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, measures it says are necessary to isolate the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
In 2016, Four Paws helped facilitate the transfer of the sole tiger in the Gaza Strip, eventually relocating it to South Africa.
The organization in 2017 rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul in northern Iraq, a former stronghold of the Daesh group.