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Rolling towards hope

(ANN/DAILY STAR) – In the bustling city of Dhaka, where the clatter of daily life rarely includes the roll of skateboards, a unique initiative is introducing this uncommon sport to the most familiar of city sights: street children.

Susie Halsell, a passionate skateboarder and the founder and CEO of Bangladesh Street Kids Aid (BSKA), believes skateboarding can transform lives. Her pioneering programme is not just about adrenaline; it’s about empowerment.

Street children in Dhaka, often seen huddled together, enduring their days with little to hope for, are finding new joy and purpose.

PHOTO: ENVATO

Halsell’s initiative offers them more than just skateboards. It provides a platform for building confidence, fostering a sense of community, and inspiring dreams of a brighter future.

This programme challenges the notion of what’s possible for these underprivileged youths, suggesting that even in chaos, there’s room for joy and aspiration.

The spark of a skateboard

Bangladesh Street Kids Aid (BSKA) uses innovative and self-empowerment initiatives to address the unmet needs of street-based children and adolescents and the idea to introduce skateboarding into BSKA came from a deeply personal place for the founder.

“When I first visited Bangladesh in 2007, I was skateboarding around Cox’s Bazar, and these children would run up to me and ask to try out my skateboard. After seeing how quickly they progressed, I realised what an empowering tool it could be in their lives,” Halsell recalls.

PHOTO: ANN/DAILY STAR

For Halsell, skateboarding was a tool for empowerment, much like it had been for her growing up in California, USA, as the only female skateboarder in her city. This sentiment resonates with the girls in the programme, who are not only learning to skateboard, but are growing into confident young women and even coaches within the BSKA community.

“The top three female skateboarders in Bangladesh grew up learning to skateboard in BSKA’s skate programs.  They are also now working as paid coaches for BSKA,” Halsell highlights. Currently, BSKA is also running a program under the name, Bangladeshi Girls Shred, to increase the number of female skateboarders in Bangladesh.

Royal Bengal Skatepark

Though initially self-funded by Halsell and her network, the skateboarding programme has grown considerably — leading to the establishment of Royal Bengal Skatepark in Gazipur, a major achievement for BSKA, which was funded by a grant from the Belgium-based B-Corporation, the Skateroom.

With the hope of expanding the program, Halsell shares, “Looking ahead, BSKA plans to open sports hostels next to each skatepark. These hostels will provide a stable environment for street-based children who have excelled in skateboarding.”

Community response

While community support within Bangladesh has been limited, Halsell remains optimistic and driven. “Most people here tend to think any programmes or services offered to street-involved youth are a lost cause. We only have a few key Bangladeshi supporters who are mostly based in California, USA, and only one solid supporter that resides in Bangladesh,” she mentions.

PHOTO: ANN/DAILY STAR

Despite this, the program has seen international support and is planning expansions. “I have recently been hired by Unicef Bangladesh’s Child Protection section as a foreign technical expert to establish skateboarding for children and adolescents in street situations across Bangladesh,” Halsell proudly shares.

A rewarding journey

For Susie Halsell, the joy comes from seeing the transformation in the children. “Seeing these kids realise their potential and experience lasting freedom and joy has been the most rewarding,” she reflects. From witnessing their growth from vulnerable street children to confident individuals and national skateboarding champions, she finds immense fulfilment.

The goal of BSKA is to empower street children and the skateboarding program is one of their initiatives. The organisation takes care of street children with drug problems and offers them medical and psychological support in their shelter homes.

Sports can serve as a powerful means of empowerment, and BSKA’s skateboarding program exemplifies this beautifully. This inspiring initiative showcases the strength of empathy, community, and the firm conviction that every child, no matter their circumstances, has the right to thrive and reach for the skies.

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