San Luis is located east of the capital Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It is a former working class neighbourhood with many poverty refugees from Haiti. Many people here live in wooden or tin huts –– often without electricity and water.
Since the average income here is usually not enough to feed a family, many parents send their children to earn money on the streets. Common children's work in the Dominican Republic include for example shoe shining, street vending, car window cleaning or garbage collecting. In doing so, children are often exposed to great dangers. In some extreme cases, children are even forced to theft or prostitution. Many children are left to themselves at the age of 2 or 3. Often elder children have to take care of their younger siblings instead of going to school. Hopelessness and lack of child care and leisure activities mislead children to a life on the street and increase the risk of ending up in felonious surroundings.
A majority of residents in San Luis are poverty refugees from Haiti. Many of them work as cheap labor in agriculture or construction, they often have no legal status and have to fear deportation all the time. The descendants of Haitian immigrants become no local citizenship, which means that their children are not allowed to attend public schools without having legal papers.
We are offering skateboard courses and creative workshops for children and young people from San Luis in the Dominican Republic. We see it as a form of alternative and fun leisure activities, which would support them in discovering a brighter and more structured side of life and consequently open doors to a better future. Growing up in frustration and boredom can only steal those children any hope for changes. With a meaningful recreational activity, we try to keep children away from the risk of ending up on the street or in a vicious circle of violence and crime.
Besides learning a new sport and having fun, children learn such values as team spirit and self-confidence. In the course of our trainings, young people may become Junior Coaches and learn to take responsibility teaching other children. For many kids who already participate in our courses, it is more than just about skating –– it becomes their lifestyle and changes their otherwise dreary everyday life.