The Royal Bengal Skatepark is now open!

Way out in the middle of nature, in the Bhawal National Forest of Gazipur, now lies the first public skatepark of Bangladesh!

Doesn't it look amazing?

This project is the fruit of incredible efforts from the selected program Bangladesh Street Kids Aid and is a dream that finally came true for their team but most importantly for the local youth.

The 650 m2 skatepark is located in Gazipur, a village 20 km from the capital Dhaka. The kids that BSKA works with faced various forms of trauma and often have serious problems with drug addiction, related mental health, and behavioral issues. These kids now have a safe space to continue to grow.

THE SKATEROOM's support includes financial support with a $15,000 grant but also covers a full-year capacity-building program to support the NGO in their development, sustainability, and long-term vision.

Ultimately, BSKA's goal is to build a skate-themed boarding school.

One Woman, one Vision. Meet Susie, the founder of Bangladesh Street Kids Aid.

- How did Bangladesh Street Kids Aid start?

BSKA started way back in 2007 with a girl, some skateboards in her luggage, and a dream to build a skatepark for underprivileged youth in Bangladesh. I was only 21 years old at the time and completely naive about the way things work outside of my quiet coastal town in California, USA.

It took me years of traveling back and forth between the US and Bangladesh to learn the language (Bangla) and figure out how to go about securing land for the skatepark. It wasn't until 2017 that I officially registered BSKA as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in order to begin raising funds for the skatepark construction and run programs for street-based youth in Dhaka.

- Why was a skatepark so much needed in Bangladesh?

It is difficult to describe the need for a skatepark here without actually coming here and experiencing the country first hand but there are a few major reasons: a general lack of space for play, public spaces and green spaces, plus an overall lack of opportunities for underprivileged youth, females, and several marginalized groups.

- How will the presence of a skatepark impact the local community?

The presence of the skatepark is already acting as a beacon of hope and a place for gathering where all members of society are welcome and united under one purpose: skateboarding! It will also have several economical and environmental impacts on the local community. This skatepark will create jobs for the locals: a security guard, skatepark monitors, public bathroom and shower facility maintenance; in addition, a nearby restaurant will be opened so that people coming from long distances can purchase food and drinks while enjoying their time at the park.

We are hoping that many of these jobs will be provided directly by locals in Gazipur and by our grown-up BSKA participants. BSKA is also planning on conducting community workshops and events on site regarding environmental awareness since our park is located in the midst of the Bhawal National Forest that has been slowly being depleted by illegal logging over the recent years.

- In 10 years from now, what do you envision for BSKA?

In 10 years, I envision BSKA reaching thousands of street-based youth with our programs and services. Over the next couple of years, we have plans for building an Earthship Biotecture, self-sustaining, zero-carbon emitting boarding school for our youth participants who want to live near the skatepark.

We also are currently operating and will be expanding on services provided at a transitional home/detox center for street-based youth in Dhaka over the coming years. I am confident that BSKA will only continue becoming more effective in how we are reaching some of the most hard-to-reach children who usually fall through the gaps of the existing services offered by NGOs in Dhaka. Our unique approach and programs are only going to get better with time, dedication, and hard work combined.

It has been extremely helpful having partnerships and sharing knowledge and resources with other awesome social skateboarding organizations such as The Good Push Alliance, Wonders Around the World, and THE SKATEROOM. In 10 years, the global network of social skateboarding projects will be ferocious like a Bengal tiger! In the meantime, we are going to keep taking it day by day, changing one life at a time as they step on skateboards here in Bangladesh!

Made possible by Wonders Around The World, The Good Push, and everyone involved. Thank you for making it happen!

Lovely pictures by Heidi Fachtan and Léo Poulet. You can follow BSKA on Instagram for more pictures on the ground @bangladeshstreetkidsaid,