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A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd

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Travel

Mar 04, 2019

A Passport To Freedom; Following Domestic Violence, a Publicized Divorce & Cancer.

Embracing a complete change of lifestyle and travel in the face of adversity, Janice Lintz shares her story, along with a challenge, to visit every country in the world.

WRITTEN BY

Janice Lintz

At the end of January 2019, The Outdoor Journal’s Sean Verity attended The New York Times Travel Show and reported on an industry event that left him shocked at “expert” panels bereft of expertise. During the panel, an audience member stood up to ask a question about social media followers – but was told that her story was perhaps “not good enough”. We subsequently spoke to Janice Lintz and invited her to contribute to The Outdoor Journal. This is her story.

I knew that leaving a physically and verbally abusive marriage was going to be difficult, but I had no idea that it would take eleven and a half years. I’ve still not completed my escape. The process of “uncoupling” was physical, mentally, and financially exhausting. Travel became my respite to detox from a judicial process that enabled a wealthy spouse to do what he could no longer do with his hands.

The Divorce

Despite being an attorney, the court was terrifying. The judge routinely, blatantly ignored New York State’s laws and even the court’s own orders. Having worked to change the world for people with hearing loss, I thought that I could quickly correct the legal issues. But testifying, meeting with politicians and writing letters accomplished nothing, as I explained in the Huffington Post. I came to the conclusion that the discussion about domestic violence was conjecture for ordinary women. Did I need to be well-known to matter?

United State of Women Accreditation

The more I spoke out, the more the judge used coercive tactics meant to silence and terrorize me. This included placing me in handcuffs and threatening to send me to prison on Riker’s Island. On one occasion the judge threatened to send me to the jail for 21 days when I demanded that she enforce my support order. Rather than address my ex-husband’s non-payment of my court-ordered maintenance, she chose to punish me for speaking out of turn. On the final occasion that she tried to punish me, I used my one phone call to call Vice President Joe Biden’s office. Thankfully, at The United State of Women Conference, where I was a nominated Changemaker, I sat next to Jaimie Woo who headed Biden’s Domestic Violence Taskforce. Miraculously, ten minutes after my phone call, the judge decided to release me.

The trauma of that day didn’t end when the handcuffs came off. I don’t even remember how I made my way home, whether it was a taxi or the subway, but the moment I had finished my journey, I wanted to flee. I felt like an escaped convict seeking freedom. I didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to get away from the toxic environment that treated me as if I was an entitled woman with no rights.

My Former Townhouse

Advocacy for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The judge in my divorce treated me as if I was an entitled lady who “lunched”. I was lucky in many ways, but in reality, during our marriage, I worked for free to change the world for people with hearing loss on behalf of our daughter and others like her.  Our daughter was 2 1/2 years old when we learned she was hard of hearing. After advising me of her diagnosis, the doctor told me there were “special schools” for her. My idea of “special” was the Ivy League University that she would later attend. At the time, I didn’t like someone limiting her opportunities before she had even started.

Rather than accept the crumbs offered to her, I set out to change the world, since it was easier to change the world than my own standards. As explained in Forbes magazine, I used New York City as a model to design, create and implement best practice standards before going international, to include Greece, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, Korea, and soon Ecuador. You can find out more about hearing access here.

Further to this, in the United States, I helped to develop captioning standards that were the basis for the Federal Communication Commission’s captioning rules. When I approached Senator Warren about the hearing aid monopoly, she then introduced and passed an Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid bill with Senator Grassley. Hearing access in museums and theaters in New York City became the model for access around the country including locations such as Graceland in Tennessee, The Getty in California and Mill City Museum in Minnesota.  Airlines subsequently added captions to in-flight entertainment after I worked with Virgin and Delta Airlines. Delta also added induction loops in airports starting with Atlanta, GA, and Detroit, MI.

The National Park Service created Guidelines for Accessibility after I testified before the National Park Service Subcommittee.

Finally, I also ensured that cell phones maintained the telecoil, which provides hearing compatibility rather than proprietary technology.

During my marriage, I always worked without pay. Equally, I never accepted anything in substitute of pay, to ensure that no one questioned my motives. Suddenly, this judge treated me like a freeloader who mooched off her husband, rather than a team who worked together for the benefit of their family.

Restarting Life.

Fortunately, having returned home from court, I could lean on a stash of frequent flier points from my divorce settlement, and from sign-up bonuses that I earned from opening 70+ credit cards in order to pay off my attorneys. My passport, coupled with my priceless “slush fund” of about three million miles, provided me with the freedom that I needed from the insanity of life.

First up? I had decided to use a sign-up bonus of three complimentary nights at a Ritz-Carlton property to visit Aruba to celebrate my upcoming birthday. A quick scan of flights revealed some availability, so I booked a trip to leave the next morning.

The trip was glorious. While the judge had used the divorce proceedings to treat me as if I didn’t matter, the manner of those working at the hotel thought otherwise. My birthday was celebrated, and being taken care of, and made to feel like I mattered was just what I needed to restore my spirits.

However, these positive feelings that my vacation had offered were brief. I returned to find a broken pipe in my house’s basement. I had no water, which meant I had no basic amenities. My ex-husband and the judge ignored the order and requests to have my ex-husband make household repairs. Thankfully, the insurance company wielded their power.

For four months, I was “stranded” at The Surrey Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side which became a luxurious prison. My ex-husband knew that I couldn’t travel if the insurance company was paying for a hotel, so in my opinion, he delayed the process to stop me from flying.

The insurance company advised me to eat my meals at the hotel restaurant, which happened to have a Michelin star. Either that or equivalent restaurants around the city. I was terrified to spend, given how I was treated in court. I only ate one meal out and ate yogurt for breakfast and lunch to not gain weight. As I told the insurance agent, free is not free if it’s on my hips.

Still, given the opportunity, I decided to cross-reference the Michelin list, Eater 38, Eater Heatmap, Zagat, World’s Best List, and any friends’ recommendations to develop a dining list. Four months in a single room can be tough unless you are dining at New York City’s finest. I turned my time at the hotel into a “steakation” and developed my own hashtag, #IAteManhattan. Never one to waste a crisis, I ended up visiting every New York City’s Michelin star restaurant, except for sushi (I’m not a fan).

Steakcation with Jean George, at Jean George

It was around this time that my friends and I noticed that I hadn’t put on the weight that I should have, given the amount of food that I had been eating. I hadn’t suddenly developed a miracle metabolism. Doctors couldn’t find anything that was wrong with me, but there was a concern, so I was monitored.

When I finally returned to the townhouse, the temperature was 94 degrees, and of course, the home’s air-conditioning didn’t work. My ex-husband had refused to fix it, and this time the insurance company couldn’t help me. Rather than melt, I tapped into those air miles again and fled to the Caucuses, Lebanon, and Italy. I suspected that I was sick, but I also knew that I needed a trip before the medical ordeal started.

The C Words

I returned home to find out I had incorrectly diaried my COBRA (COBRA is a federal law that requires employers with 20 or more employees to offer continuing coverage to individuals who would otherwise lose their health benefits) expiration date. All of a sudden, I had a month to visit all my doctors, and importantly, find a new insurance plan. I raced around New York, visiting many medical providers, until I learnt that I had thyroid cancer, and potentially breast and blood cancer as well.

Over the next two weeks, I had six medical procedures and surgeries. The final surgery took place on the final day of my COBRA coverage. It’s a strange thing to say, but thankfully, I only had thyroid cancer and it was caught early. Over the coming months, the doctors monitored many other issues including a potential lung cancer diagnosis. The cherry on top, caused by was thyroid surgery, was an immobile vocal cord. I could barely speak for four months. I was deflated.

My voice was my power, and once again I had been silenced. The upside was that this gave me a lot of time to reflect on my life, a life that had changed for many reasons, including children that had now grown up. Over the years, on behalf of my daughter, I had accomplished so much for hearing advocacy, it was now time to take care of me.

The Dream

My biggest dream had always been exactly that, a dream, and had I always expected that it would stay that way: To travel to every single country in the world. Like many of us, I had already made significant inroads into my quest through vacations. However, should I wish to actually achieve my dream, then I needed to focus on the endeavour. I also wanted to experience each country, rather than just race around the world.

Without a conscious motive, I “Marie Kondo’ed” my life. I sold my five-story Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse (I know that I was lucky to be able to do so) and downsized to a 650 square foot (60 square meters) one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Leaving Manhattan, where I lived for the last thirty years, and reducing my space was going to be difficult but living on my own for the first time in my life was exhilarating.

Anything I didn’t love or wasn’t the color blue was sold, given away or donated, including my car and televisions. I cut the cable, landline and fax cords and every expense was examined. I viewed every object as a potential hotel night or tour guide.

The shackles had been removed, I was finally free to move and realize my dream. However, as I had a weak voice, I decided to leave on a test run, to see if I could physically handle travelling. Determined to cross another destination off my list, I flew to El Salvador. This trip kickstarted my passion for travelling again, it renewed my energy which had been zapped after losing half my thyroid. My medication still wasn’t being regulated, but I knew that after hiking up Santa Ana Volcano and seeing the fantastic milky green crater that I could handle an extended trip.

El Salvador. El Tuncojpeg

Slowly but surely, my dream had started to become a reality. I organized my new life and started to plan trip after trip. My initial goal was to travel for four weeks, come home for the next four to undergo medical tests, and then depart again with this sabbatical from life continuing for two years. Life rarely works out as planned, so it’s been a hodgepodge of planning, often whilst on the road.

The never-ending legal drama taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable, so I can easily pivot when I need to change plans while on the road. My visiting museums around the world dedicated to genocide, slavery, racism, and the Holocaust helps remind me to persevere even in the most trying of times. My issues are annoyances rather than a crisis.

Where to go? I decided to make a list of the things that would hurt most to miss out on, should I die tomorrow. Gorillas and polar bears were at the top of that list, but I also added unicorns so that I always had an excuse to never finish travelling.

My first trip had a simple objective, to see the gorillas in Rwanda. However, when the planning started, it soon took on epic proportions, as every country seemed to be “in the neighborhood”. Before I knew it, I had planned a seven-week adventure, with strategic rest stops along the way to ensure I periodically rested. My doctors thought going away was a terrific idea to rejuvenate me, but I am not sure they realized what I meant by “going away.”

The journey was unforgettable. A witch doctor in Côte d’Ivoire, dining among hippos in Burundi, eating at a restaurant on a rock in Zanzibar, chimpanzees in Uganda, the Dinkas in South Sudan, swimming in the waters around Comoros, climbing the Tsingy in Madagascar, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Mozambique and riding on a quad bike in Malawi. Of course, the main objective was also achieved – I met the gorillas in Rwanda.

Hanging out with the Gorillas in Rwanda

For seven weeks, I was in heaven. I didn’t think I could top this trip, but each adventure has been just as amazing. Over the coming years, I will continue to pursue my dream, and I hope that you will join me on every adventure.

The Outdoor Journal will be with Janice throughout her adventures. In the meantime, you can find out more about Janice here, and follow her on Instagram here.

Cover Photo: Above Victoria Falls.

All Photos belong to and are courtesy of Janice S. Lintz.

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Travel

Jul 18, 2019

Part 2: The Skateistan Difference – Skate Schools to Build a Better Future

Jessica Faulkner explains how Skateistan designs gender-inclusive programs in their skate schools and classrooms to empower underprivileged children around the globe.

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WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Last week, The Outdoor Journal introduced Skateistan, an award-winning international non-profit organization that provides a creative blend of skateboarding instruction and educational programs to empower children to change the trajectory of their lives and their communities. Skateistan’s programs are focused on underprivileged children, especially young girls and children living with disabilities in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa – with over 50% female participation. Your donation can help to change these children’s stories, too.

In this installment, Jessica Faulkner, the Communications Manager at Skateistan’s Berlin headquarters, discusses her role within the organization, how Skateistan builds strong relationships within communities despite cultural differences, designing gender-inclusive programs to encourage young girls to skate, developing classroom programs to focus on life skills like resilience and determination, and the best way that readers can get involved and become a Citizen of Skateistan themselves.

A girl drops into a vert ramp at Skateistan’s Johannesburg facility. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

JOINING SKATEISTAN

TOJ: How did you get involved with Skateistan?

Faulkner: For me personally, I’ve been working with Skateistan for just over a year now. My background is in international development communications. I had moved to Berlin after traveling for a year. I was looking for a job and I saw this one come up and I just thought, “That sounds like the most amazing organization with such a cool message.” And so my journey started there.

Jessica Faulkner, Communications Manager at Skateistan.

TOJ: What is your individual role within the organization?

Faulkner: I’m the Communications Manager, so I head up our communications team, which is small but perfectly formed. We have a comms officer and a designer as well. We basically look after the things that people hear and see about Skateistan in the outside world.

SKATEISTAN PERSPECTIVE

TOJ: Have you had a chance to visit any of the facilities in Kabul or Cambodia or South Africa?

Faulkner: I’ve been fortunate enough to visit three of our skate schools since I started working here. I went to Johannesburg in October last year and spent around 10 days at the skate school there. And earlier this year in February I was in Afghanistan, visiting the team in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

TOJ: How did those trips impact your perspective on living in Berlin compared to the living conditions in Cambodia, South Africa and Afghanistan?

Faulkner: A trip to a Skateistan skate school is a very special experience and it definitely changes the way that you see your day to day job. it gives you a huge sense of joy to see kids having so much fun and being in such a safe space and learning so much on a day to day basis. Seeing girls skating around in Kabul is one of the most special things I’ve ever seen. I was also lucky enough to join a soccer game with them, which is pretty cool. There’s a huge surge of optimism that people get when they visit the schools because they see firsthand that this crazy idea is actually working super well.

It’s amazing to me the way the staff is so responsive to local needs. Whilst we follow the same curriculum in each school, they’re adapting to what the kids need and then reacting to what their communities are telling them. That’s exciting to see on a day to day basis. Particularly in Afghanistan, but also in the other locations, there are plenty of challenges as well. There is an immense sense of responsibility that you feel when you visit the schools to maintain what we do, because, for a lot of those children, it is the only place where they feel safe; it’s the only place where they can really express themselves freely, where they can have that amount of fun.

“They’re learning about breaking down social barriers around their own role in society and how to build bridges between different groups of people.”

The quality of the children’s opportunity is so high. They’re learning to skateboard with all of the important life lessons that come with that, like what to do when you fail at something, what to do when you fall off, what to do when something is immensely challenging. They’re also learning about breaking down social barriers around their own role in society and how to build bridges between different groups of people, different genders, different ethnicities. There is a real sense of responsibility that we have to make it work because it’s the only opportunity that they have a lot of the time.

WORLD FAMOUS AMBASSADORS

TOJ: What does it mean to be a “Citizen of Skateistan”?

Faulkner: The citizens of Skateistan make up a global community of people who share our vision of empowering children through skateboarding and education. To join the citizens, it’s really straightforward. It costs $10 a month and then you’re part of that community. The benefits of that are first of all that you get loads of exclusive information from us, like exclusive videos from our skate schools about what’s happening on a day to day basis. But also there’s the knowledge that you’re really helping to put Skateistan on a stable footing. Any NGO will tell you that attracting funding is always a big job and we have a lot of amazing friends who help us out with that. But the citizens are really the bedrock of support because we know that we can rely on them. We know how much money comes in each month so that we can make really cool plans for the future. The citizens community also includes a few famous faces like Tony Hawk, Jamie Thomas, and Sky Brown as a few examples and they are just incredible skateboarding legends who help us to spread the word in a way that we as a small NGO just couldn’t do on our own.

TOJ: So if I were to donate a $10 per month, is that sponsoring one specific child through the year or is it funding the facilities and programs in general?

Faulkner: It’s not a sponsorship of one child on their own, but it goes towards everything that Skateistan does. We’re always happy to share what we’ve been doing with the money that people kindly donate to us and also just what the donations can do. For example, $20 can pay for two sessions of Skate and Create in Cambodia and that means two 120-minute sessions of creative education and skateboarding per child. We’re really happy to be transparent about how donations benefit our students.


Skateistan student from Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

The Citizens of Skateistan is a global community of students, staff, skaters, and supporters who share the dream of empowering and educating youth through skateboarding. By donating $10 or more a month you become a Citizen and help make it possible for thousands of youth to attend Skateistan programs worldwide.


TOJ: You just mentioned Sky Brown who rides for Almost skateboards and helped design one of their boards where a portion of the proceeds go to Skateistan. What does it mean to Skateistan to have Sky Brown as an ambassador?

Faulkner: She’s an amazing friend for us and she’s actually been to our skate school in Cambodia. When we moved to a new location in Phnom Penh in 2018, we were lucky enough to have Sky attend the opening and skate with some of our students, which was just super inspiring to them to see what’s possible if you put your mind to it. Sky’s board with Almost has been an incredible collaboration. It’s already brought in twenty thousand dollars which can go a really long way in our skate schools.

TOJ: What does it mean to have Tony Hawk on the Global Advisory Board?

“Tony Hawk has been a fantastic friend to the organization for a great many years now.”

Faulkner: It means a huge amount! Tony has been a fantastic friend to the organization for a great many years now. There’s a lot of things that we couldn’t do without supporters like Tony. He has such an incredible global reach that he can spread a message in a way that we simply can’t do on our own. Also, he has so much experience with the Tony Hawk Foundation which means we have an opportunity to share ideas. He’s been an amazing advocate for what we’re trying to do with the power of skateboarding in areas where you might not think it’s a very obvious tool. Tony has this vision for how we can empower children all over the world and how skateboarding can do incredible things for girls empowerment.

TOJ: Do most of the people who work for the organization come from a pro skating background?

Faulkner: It’s a little bit of a mix. At the office here in Berlin, more than half are experienced skateboarders and I will be completely honest here and say that I wasn’t, but I’ve now had three whole lessons! (laughs). Obviously, all the educators have to be skateboarders and a lot of staff who aren’t skating at the beginning end up skating because you’re working right next to a skate park and it’s really inspiring to see people rolling around all the time. One of the things that happens in our skate schools is that some of our staff actually come through the ranks of our skate schools by starting out as students. It’s a relatively common path to be a student and then a youth leader, which is like an older student who helps out with younger students in health science classes and then to goes on to being an educator in the skate park. We really value that progression. We think that that’s a really good way of investing in our local community.

Skateistan students stay involved as youth leaders. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

CULTURAL INTEGRATION

TOJ: Have you experienced any pushback from people who feel that Skateistan clashes with their cultural or religious values, especially in regards to traditional female roles?

“We have a community educator in every skate school.”

Faulkner: We actually have super strong relationships with the communities where we work. That’s a deliberate strategy for Skateistan, and we have a community educator in every skate school whose job it is to go out into the community to encourage children to join our programs, to encourage families to facilitate that, but also to work with community leaders. Obviously, in Afghanistan, that has a very religious overtone, so we work closely with the local mosques to explain our programs. We invite them to come and see what happens at Skateistan, and in turn that leads to them approving of all programs and telling people in the community that what we do is there is a good thing.

A Skateistan student in Cambodia enjoying the sensation of balancing on a skateboard. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

When we started out in Afghanistan, we didn’t take any skateboarding culture with us. Olivier Percovich, who founded our organization and is still our Executive Director, didn’t go with any cultural references in terms of skateboarding – no music or fashion, no magazines. He just wanted the children to experience skateboarding and the fun that he had experienced as a child doing that. In America and in Europe, skateboarding is sometimes seen as a male-dominated sport that is rebellious and even anti-social. We hope that that’s changing. But actually, in Afghanistan, it’s not seen like that. It’s an activity that boys and girls do that is coupled with education.

TOJ: That’s really interesting how skateboarding in a Skateistan program is separate from the stigma that skateboarders might have in the States where they’re some sort of “spray painting punk.”

Faulkner: It definitely does. The feedback from parents of our students in Afghanistan is that they tell us that their kids are behaving so much better since they started skateboarding, which is not exactly what you would expect in the Western world to be the association.

TOJ: As Skateistan has been going for over a decade now, have you been able to measure or witness the impact of its focus on gender inclusion in the communities by leading to more girls pursuing academic careers or jobs in places where they typically wouldn’t even have a job?

“Our Back to School program has seen over 500 kids go on to formal education since we started it.”

Faulkner: In Afghanistan, where the gender issue is the most intense, we run a program called Back to School, which is an accelerated learning program for children who are out of school. A huge majority of children who are out of school in Afghanistan are female, which is partly to do with safety concerns about getting to and from school, but it’s also to do with cultural norms around the importance of educating boys over girls. Our Back to School program has seen over 500 kids go on to formal education since we started it. These are kids who would have had no opportunity to go to school without that program. We cover three grades in the year and then they’re ready to re-enter at the right levels for that age group.

Our own staff is 53% female and that’s a deliberate decision. We believe in girls empowerment at all levels of our organization. We’ve seen a great increase in participation for girls as well. When we first started it was very challenging to get the same number of girls as boys to join as Skateistan students because of concerns around safety and because a sport wasn’t seen as something that girls participate in. But now around 50% of our actual students are female and our participation is going up all the time.

A young girl in Cambodia riding barefoot. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

EDUCATIONAL ELEMENTS

TOJ: Is the classroom curriculum a substitute for school or is it more of a supplement that gets kids prepared to go back to their full-time school?

Faulkner: That really depends on the program. There’s Back to School which is in Afghanistan and does follow the curriculum because it’s recognized as an educational program by the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan and that allows children to get back into school. Our other main program is called Skate and Create and that’s not a replacement to formal education. It’s supplementary. It’s focused on creativity and critical thinking and we aim to teach children things that they’re not necessarily learning elsewhere. We teach things like human rights, we do a lot of arts and crafts, we teach life skills like resilience and determination and goal setting. We talk about what a country would look like if you could design it from scratch. We talk about the solar system and our place in it. So the idea of Skate and Create is to be adding value to children’s existing education.

TOJ: How does Skateistan develop its educational curriculum, and how does the Good Push program work?

“We believe in girls empowerment at all levels of our organization.”

Faulkner: Good Push is a program that’s run by Skateistan which is set up to build up the social skateboarding sector and support other skateboarding projects. The way that our curriculum intersects with Good Push has to do with the training that Good Push offers. For organizations that we’re supporting through Good Push, we can share with them some of our lesson plans and ways that you can construct educational programming alongside skateboarding. We support other organizations who have taken inspiration from Skateistan by sharing the lessons that we’ve learned over the last 10 years so that they don’t have to learn all the same things. But what we’re aiming for with Good Push is that organizations will build something that is appropriate for them and the communities where they’re working.

TOJ: What kind of changes have you noticed in your more than a year of working with Skateistan?

Faulkner: I think one of the really exciting things about Skateistan is that people are always really hungry to make things better. We don’t always get everything right and we have to learn all the time. There is an unending appetite for improvement. Even just in the one year that I’ve been here, lesson plans, reporting and the community of people who support Skateistan are all increasing in quality. It’s a really inspiring place to work because you feel like you can innovate and know that your team will support you. If something doesn’t work exactly as we thought it would, we don’t necessarily see that as a failure. We share what we learned from it with other members of staff or even other organizations so that their learning curve is faster than ours.

TOJ: What do you think are the biggest benefits of moving the Skatestan headquarters to Berlin, even though it’s a long flight from each Skateistan facility?

Faulkner: It’s very easy to work in Germany because it’s a very stable place and there are fewer day to day challenges. If your headquarters is in Kabul, you have daily electricity outages, major challenges around internet connectivity and it’s very difficult to interact with our donors in particular. We’re no longer an Afghan organization; we’re now an international organization, which means that through our schools in Cambodia and Johannesburg, everybody’s experiencing the same thing, and we’re able to react to the different contexts of our skate schools.

Children in Cambodia line up to be fitted with their boards. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

TOJ: Are you able to share any of the future plans that you have in store over the next 5 or 10 years?

Faulkner: Last year we published our strategy for the next five years and this year we recently had our strategic planning meeting when we made a plan for the next 10 years. At Skateistan, we’re trying to be very future-focused and very ambitious with what we can achieve over the next decade. We are currently working out a new state school, which will be our fifth skate school, in central Afghanistan, in Bamiyan. We’re very excited about being able to extend the good work that Skateistan does to a whole new community.

We also are looking at opening a state school in Jordan in 2021, which will be a completely new area of the world for us, opening up in the Middle East. There’s obviously been a huge number of young people affected by the conflict in Syria in the last few years and we’re really excited about being able to provide something in particular for a refugee population.

Even longer term, we would love to expand to South America, but that’s very much a twinkle in our eye right now rather than a concrete development.

TOJ: I notice some similarities between Skateistan and another NGO called Waves for Change. And I think you even did a crossover event. The main concept is creating a safe space for children from underprivileged areas where they can talk about violence that they face in their community. Do you have any programs aside from school curriculum that offer kids a place to talk about the issues that they’re facing in their life?

Skateistan students have just finished class at Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

Faulkner: Yeah, we do. It’s nice that you bring up Waves for Change because we’re huge fans of Waves for Change. They do amazing work, and we see a lot of synergies between what we do and what they do. We do offer a safe space for kids and we maintain quite a holistic approach to children and the challenges that they’re facing. The core programming might be an hour of skateboarding and an hour of education, but we also provide plenty of safe space for children to work through any issues that they might be having. When I mentioned earlier about our local teams trying to be responsive to the needs that they see in the community, that’s really where that comes into play. If our staff in Cambodia see that there’s a real risk of the children becoming exposed to violence or if they’re experiencing violence in their homes, then they’ll do a workshop to help children work through that. They’ve also done some really interesting programming around trafficking and around navigating danger in those kinds of areas. Our community educators play a really important role there as well because they are likely to get to know families and understand the dynamics of certain families in what might be happening in children’s home lives.

We’re also were working alongside a fantastic organization in Canada called Health Services. They’re based in Calgary and they do a lot of trauma-informed care for children who’ve been affected by serious trauma. One of the things that they do is investigating the power of skateboarding for children in their program. We’re doing some training with them about becoming trauma-informed ourselves as a staff so that we can respond to the problems and the challenges that our students bring to us.

Close up of a Skateistan student in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

TOJ: For someone who watches one of the Youtube videos or reads this article, what’s the best and quickest way they can get involved?

Faulkner: Go to Skateistan.org. You can make a donation right there and you can join our citizens. You can find out more about what we do, and also if you find stuff that you like about us, then it’s great to share that because we’re always looking for ways to spread the word.

Read Part 1: Skateistan: How Skateboarding is Changing the Story for Kids in Need

Visit www.skateistan.org for more information, or follow Skateistan on social media:

Instagram: @skateistan
Facebook: @skateistan
Twitter: @skateistan

Feature Image: Andy Buchanan

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Gear Review: Dark Peak NESSH Jacket

Buy one, give one. A Sheffield, UK-based startup outdoor brand brings the one-for-one business model to outdoor clothing.

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