Grey clouds of apprehension and difficulties mired the daily lives of people in the village of Janwaar in Madhya Pradesh. But, a silver lining came in form Ulrike Reinhard, a German Traveller, biker and a community activist.
After extensively travelling in India for more than 2 years, Ulrike happened to visit the village of Janwaar. She loved the place, the glowing natural beauty and the people who resided there. The villagers requested her to initiate a school there. Ulrike agreed at once, as she had spearheaded such projects in other countries as well. It was a short conversation that drove her mind towards the sports of Skateboarding. Children here mostly played cricket or soccer, but something holistically productive rarely came out of it. Her mind was constantly inclining towards Skateboarding, a sport which was largely unheard of in the country, let alone in a small village.
After rigorous activities of raising funds for the project, the idea of constructing India’s first ever Skate Boarding Park became real. Twelve skateboarders from seven different nations took part in the constructing skate park and it was given the unique title of ‘Janwaar Castle’ by one of those skateboarders. As Skateboarding is an attractive and a new sport in the country and there are hardly any restrictions. This sport can be taken up by boys and girls both and there is no age limit to practice it. The most wonderful aspect of this skate park is that all the children here are self-learners, there are no special trainers hired to teach them the art of skateboarding. And therefore, the Janwaar Castle hails some of the best skateboarders of the nation.
The kids coming to the park are very well attached to it. Whenever it observed that the children wish to do something more, the Janwaar Castle team helps them to achieve it. In accordance to this, several events and workshops are designed for these emerging children who are on a front foot to build a better tomorrow. Thus, the programs conducted at the Janwaar Castle are not predefined. Instead, they emerge from what is happening within the park. Most of the programs are held by the children themselves and Ulrike and other volunteers, being facilitators and observers, impart appropriate guidance to these children.
The children at the Janwaar Castle learn English, dance, music, singing, painting and much more by their own will. Attracted by its activities, many children from the cities too come there and practice skate boarding. “The children have to learn the social skills to perform well. At Janwaar Castle, the exposure that these kids get builds a higher degree of self-confidence which aids them to uplift them and alleviate the social and economic barriers.” mentions Ulrike. On a normal day, Ulrike prefers to meet families in the village and discuss their issues and is highly determined on solving them. She often interacts with the teachers of the school in the village that helps her to understand the performance and growth of the children. Janwaar castle also solved water scarcity issues by successfully installing solar water solution, solar water pump that can pump up to 10,000 L of water a day and also put up water filters. “Stake Park is a trigger for change at a very basic and also at a broader level.” says Ulrike.
Nyjah Huston, a popular American skateboarder who was the overall champion at the Street League Skateboarding competition for five times also happened to visit the skate park at Janwaar. Huston and his family are also involved in solving water issues in many villages and they were amazed to see the concept of skateboarding being associated with water solving techniques for the first time.
And it was this notion of conscious community effort that Ulrike always tried to reaffirm. The notion of “WE” is very close to Ulrike’s heart and it is inherent in this institute as well. She had also initiated the “WE Magazine” around 10 years ago and used its core approach at Janwaar Castle for a cumulative approach targeted to benefit the masses.
An action plan has been devised by the Janwaar Castle team to set up a few more skate parks which would complement the present park at Janwaar, with increased level of skating difficulty, an attached hostel and with an area where other activities can be held. “We at Janwaar Castle believe that every individual should be given an equal opportunity to grow. A chance to rise above their circumstance is a basic right for everyone. Through the integrated perception of the Janwaar Castle we are constantly thriving to achieve that.” Ulrike proudly proclaims this as the parting words of an intriguing and eventful conversation.
NAZNEEN KACHWALA | TOC
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