2018 saw the exposure of shocking living conditions in Lesbos’ Moria refugee camp. Its poor sanitary conditions, overcrowding, and violence led to it being branded as a humanitarian crisis. Children are particularly vulnerable to the physical and emotional consequences of living in such an environment. Charities working with the camps have witnessed them struggling with skin conditions, respiratory diseases and, above all, their mental health.

Although thousands have now been relocated to other camps in mainland Greece, the strain on resources and services across some camps is only mounting. It remains crucial to protect the physical and emotional wellbeing of young children and vulnerable teens.

This is where Free Movement Skateboarding steps in.

How Skateboarding is Helping Young Refugees

Since being founded in 2017 by two skateboarding enthusiasts, the Athens-based organisation has sought to establish connections with projects working inside refugee camps in an effort to widen accessibility to their 8 weekly workshops.

They empower vulnerable children and isolated members of the community through this unlikely recreational activity and the many benefits that it offers. For children who do not attend school and have few opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation, the workshops offer an opportunity to learn new skills, socialise, and have something to look forward to each week.

The organisation is centred around the three principles of equality, integration, and wellbeing.

The sense of community that Free Movement Skateboarding establishes is particularly important. In many of these camps, children lack a sense of cohesion and community. Skateboarding is a means of connecting people regardless of their background, race, gender, and language. It transcends cultural barriers and fosters both an inclusive community and sense of belonging. Above all, it gives those who have suffered emotional and psychological trauma to have fun like children should be able to.

Gender equality and social inclusion are also at the heart of their mission. They run a dedicated women’s education program alongside their regular workshops to encourage active female participation, a goal which has ensured that almost half of their participants are women. Many of these women come from traditional cultures which do not encourage girls to participate in physical activities and sports. Free Movement Skateboarding is able to introduce skateboarding as a gender-neutral activity and empower young girls through sport.

The organisation is an example of how small things can make a big impact. By introducing an inclusive community, physical exercise, and mental stimulation, Free Movement Skateboarding is helping young refugees to develop a sense of belonging, confidence, and identity. Their goal this year is to continue expanding their outreach in order to reach other camps and isolated communities in Greece. You can keep up to date with what they’re doing here.

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About Author

Rachael is in her final year studying Ancient History and French at UCL. A glass half full person, she enjoys writing about ways in which the everyday person can tackle big issues from widening participation in the arts to zero-waste toilet paper.

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