There are only a few places left in the world where one wouldn’t consider skateboarding a central part of youth culture. One of those places is Kampala, Uganda. Landlocked and one of the poorest countries in the world, Uganda is bordered by countries with their own share of troubles; Sudan, Tanzania, and Rwanda, among others. Kampala, Uganda’s capital, has a working class suburb called Kitintale which is home to Uganda’s first and only skatepark. Not only do they have a skatepark but, like nearly every other skatepark, it has become so popular that project is planning for their second expansion in two years.
(Editor’s Note: Today the expansion is complete and the skatepark in Kitintale has attracted skateboarders—amateurs and professionals—from all over the world. Furthermore, the skateboarding industry has been generous in supplying the Kitintale youth with skateboards and safety equipment since there are no skateshops in the city…yet.)
The skatepark is the work of two young men; a international high-school student named Shael from South Africa and a local Ugandan named Jack. In 2006 they scrounged the materials and land to build a modest mini ramp. With two skateboards donated from a local big-box store, they taught other local kids how to use the ramp.
Now, almost two years later, things have changed quite a bit. The small skate spot has been a huge success. Local skaters use it every day…the same kids that were taught skateboarding fundamentals by Jack and Shael earlier. The Kitintale skate spot is a gathering place for kids to recreate and channel their energy into a positive physical activity. While all of these new skaters are touched in some way by poverty all around them, skateboarding brings them closer together and provides a social network that all skaters around the world are familiar with.
The Kitintale skatepark project has faced its challenges. The main hurdle the local skaters face is the absence of skateboards. The two initial donated boards were of poor quality to begin with and acceptable boards are not available locally. Boards must be brought in from other countries. Thanks to Birdhouse skateboards for donating complete boards to the project on an ongoing basis this is no longer a problem while the Tony Hawk Foundation secured a donation of Adio skate shoes. Another challenge was to expand the initial mini halfpipe to provide terrain for more simultaneous users and easier structures to learn on. This was completed last year due to the overwhelming success of the initial miniramp.
Today the challenges are far more ambitious. The group has grown and become the Ugandan Skateboard Union. The original park is popular and an important part of the local youth’s community that plans are being formed to take the Kitintale concept to another Uganda community.
What Can You Do To Help?
Donations large and small are always appreciated. Twenty dollars can go a long way to helping a kid become a skateboarder.
Another thing you can do is go to Uganda and check it out for yourself. Skate with the locals…teach them a trick or two (or maybe learn a few yourself).