This story is part of a series in our latest fundraising campaign called 'Skate Beyond Borders'.
Mona* is 12 years old and lives in Irbid, Jordan.
Located in northern Jordan, Irbid is the second largest city in the country after the capital, Amman. Eight kilometers west from Irbid, you can find rural Deir il Se’neh, a small village where Mona and her family live. Although neighbouring the second largest city and characterized as a historical area with many archaeological sites, its inhabitants remain relatively close to the poverty line, underserved, and marginalized.
7hills for Social Development has been implementing programs with Skateistan across two locations in Jordan - Zarqa, and Irbid for the past year. Our joint sessions focus on girls’ inclusion, empowerment and integration between different communities. In Irbid, one of these programs is run in the local community of Deir il Se’neh.
Mona lives in the community of Deir il Se’neh with her family, her parents and her two sisters. As the middle sibling, she used to annoy her older sister because she didn’t want to take responsibility for her actions. Thinking back, her older sister would get upset when Mona would forget about a plan they made together with their youngest sister, continued to show up late to meet them, which impacted their relationship as siblings.
To join in on community activities, she would have to travel a long distance with her family. This made it rare to have a chance to play and learn about herself and her interests.
Throughout the past nine months, Mona and her two sisters (aged 14 and 5) have been attending 7Hills X Skateistan sessions once a week on Tuesdays. They are residents of the village and also attend public school in the region. The most important thing for Mona is that the programs come to her, and that she doesn’t have to rely on external support from her family to leave her community to access spaces to play and enjoy her childhood.
Before Mona joined the program, her sister said, “she used to always just sit around the house and not move”, that she wasn’t an active child in general. So when she first joined the program, Mona didn’t feel comfortable with peers her own age, she felt shy and self conscious. In both the Creative education sessions and the Skate sessions, she would need direct one-on-one guidance to participate in any activity. Even then, she would not fully engage and would remain withdrawn in the classroom or in the skatepark.
The 7hills x Skateistan curriculum starts with a focus on mutual respect, proper code of conduct, students responsibilities within the sessions, appropriate methods of communication and conflict management, and fostering an understanding of children’s rights to be heard, respected, and supported. These methods are incorporated into every lesson plan, and they are commonly turned into an art project, a collage, a small play, or a drawing that focuses on using their creativity.
After months of creative learning, the team at 7hills noticed that Mona had become more confident and comfortable within the sessions. Not only does she now take initiative and is eager to participate in all the activities, she also began to assist in the sessions and support the trainers with the newcomers to the program.
When asked if she has noticed a change in herself since the launch of the program she said “I mean of course I can skate now and that was not something I could do before, but I also learned how to enjoy shared public spaces and keep them clean and tidy for everyone to enjoy.”
When asked how this change makes her feel about herself, she responded with “I feel like my personality is stronger. I am more confident and creative. You taught us a lot in this program and I hope it goes on forever!”
Her sisters further added that they observe Mona taking responsibility for her actions, and that she needed a safe space in order to grow into this. “She became punctual and more aware of her time, which was the reason why we always fought. For example she now knows that every Tuesday she has a skating session and she comes on time.”
*Mona’s name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan's child protection policy.
In the Skate Beyond Borders campaign, our aim is to provide safe environments for students to grow up free from fear, violence and to develop their full potential to contribute to a better future for themselves and others.
By making a donation to the Skate Beyond Borders campaign, you can help provide safe spaces for children like Ahmad to build a better future in which they can thrive.