The Concrete Jungle Foundation is an international non-profit organisation that uses skateboarding as a tool to help underprivileged kids around the globe. While for us, skateboarding is just a "sport" embedded in our daily lives for others skateboarding means hope, distraction, fun and a chance for education and a better life.
The Concrete Jungle Foundation is an international non-profit organisation that uses skateboarding as a tool to stimulate positive personal and community development for underprivileged youth around the world. More specifically, we build skateparks, provide skateboarding materials, and implement our skateboarding-based youth programme for underprivileged communities around the Global South.
CJF started back in 2017 with our first project in Alto Trujillo, Peru, although we didn’t register in Europe as an NGO before early 2018. It all started when Clément (Taquet) and Harry (Gerrard) met in Huanchaco, a coastal town in Northern Peru, while fixing a rundown concrete DIY park. Seeing the impact it had on the community, they decided to fundraise to build a park in Trujillo, the major nearby city. The park was built on the grounds of a school in Alto Trujillo, an underprivileged hillside district on the outskirts of the city.
At the time, Tim (van Asdonck) had just finished his Master’s degree. He had focussed his studies on how skateboarding could be used as a tool for personal development, and was looking to implement his research. Hearing of the Alto Trujillo Project, he got in touch and soon found himself setting up what would eventually become CJF’s Edu-Skate Programme. This is also when I got on board; first as a volunteer teaching the programme and later on the organisational development and fundraising part of things.
After a year of operating the programme in Peru, we felt confident with taking on a new project. Jesse from Angola had been emailing us a bunch, and after much consideration we eventually decided to make the Luanda Skatepark Project in Angola our next full-scale project. We fundraised for eight months, set up a pre-programem with the locals, and finally flew out with a crew of volunteers for the build in November 2018.
To be clear, we don’t decide ‘hey, we’re going to build a skatepark in country X, that place looks sweet.’ Instead, our projects are always initiated in response to local demands for building skateparks and implementing youth programs.
The projects we’ve been involved with so far are two, Peru and Angola. When choosing whether to take on a project we consider the following points:
As mentioned above we started with crowdfunding. However, since then we have tried to diversify our funding base considerably. Today we engage in commercial partnerships, corporate sponsorship, fundraising events, and individual donations to realise and manage our projects. We’ve also started to sell CJF merchandise and skateboards, where all the profits go to the cause.
Finding the funds has been far from easy, and honestly speaking, without a few key players it could not have been possible. Special shout out to The Skateroom, who’s been incredibly helpful and generous. Thanks for putting your trust in us!
It’s easier for people to donate when there’s a new project being launched. The hardest part is finding funds for the long-term management and maintenance of the Edu-Skate Programme. This is a shame, because sustainability is crucial in order to have a long-lasting social impact in the areas we work.
While solely the construction of skateparks undoubtedly has the potential to create some positive change amongst marginalised communities, examples from around the world have consistently showed that an effective skateboarding programme significantly increases the extent to which these projects do so.
CJF’s Edu-Skate Programme is a skateboarding-based health intervention aimed at stimulating life-skills and empowerment (personal development) for underprivileged youth. It does so by focusing on skills that are inherent to both skateboarding and life more generally, such as confidence, perseverance, creativity, goal setting, autonomy and social skills – and developing these through both skateboarding and group discussions.
To take an example, the theme of one lesson of the Edu-Skate Programme is perseverance, which is stimulated through learning to ‘ollie’ – the skateboarding trick of jumping with your board up in the air. The life-skill of perseverance is first talked about in a group session: what is perseverance? To which aspects of life does it relate? And why is it important?
After the group session, the students then go on to develop their perseverance by learning how to ollie. While a relatively basic trick, the ollie typically requires hundreds of attempts to figure out and execute for the first time, which makes it an excellent tool to work on that particular life skill.
After the guided skate session, the group gets together again to reflect on what they’ve experienced and learned. How can they apply perseverance in their everyday lives? And what can be achieved with it? And after the final group discussion, the children are free to spend the rest of the class skateboarding independently. With newly stimulated skills (both perseverance and the ollie) they are free to make their own decisions on what they want to learn, how they want to approach skateboarding, and simply have fun!
We also have a youth leadership aspect embedded in the Edu-Skate Programem, where older kids have the opportunity to get involved through teaching, organising and helping manage the programem.
Why Skateboarding? Because skateboarding….
Why a Skatepark? Because the skateparks...
I am super happy to say that we currently have a new project in the works: we are hoping to build Kingston’s first skatepark - in Jamaica - starting February 2020! For the Freedom Skatepark Project we are partnering with a number of organisations including Flipping Youth, The Skateroom, Sandals Foundation,Seprod Foundation , and Tmrw Tday Festival. If all goes to plan, the Edu-Skate Programme will begin operations at the Freedom Skatepark in Kingston starting April 2020.
We have the plot leased, the park design rendered and approved, volunteers ready, and support from the municipal government. However, a sizeable chunk of the budget is still missing. If you’d like to help make Kingston’s first skatepark happen, or just keep up to date with the project, please consider following us on social media , signing up to our newsletter, or even scrolling through our online shop. All contributions matter!