"Rolling hope in on four wheels.” This phrase best sums up the inspiring humanitarian efforts of Skate-Aid.
An initiative of the Titus Dittmann Foundation, Skate-Aid has undertaken development projects for the youth of Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Costa Rica, and Germany since its 2009 debut. Targeting countries that reside under a dark cloud of violence, fear, and devastation, Skate-Aid aims to establish a love for skateboarding in addition to a strong community held together by a mutual passion for the sport.
The foundation's namesake and creator, Titus Dittmann, is a German skate entrepreneur who has been dubbed “the father of the German skateboard scene.” Following the opening of his first skate shop, Titus Skates, in 1978, Dittmann opened the first outdoor skatepark in Germany and was co-founder of the country’s first skate team. The Titus Sport + Mode GmbH made its debut in 1984, as the entrepreneur traveled back and forth to California in order to buy skateboards and gear.
A retired teacher, Dittmann was, and continues to be, an integral cog in the explosive growth of skateboarding.
In 2008 Dittmann found inspiration in the work of Australian Oliver Percovich and his Kabul-based organization, Skateistan, which is focused on empowering the people of Kabul through skateboarding. He initiated a funding drive in his 40 skateboard shops, and quickly found himself—along with two-tons of skateboards and 15,000 Euros he raised- in Kabul alongside Percovich. Both Skate-Aid and Skateistan utilize skateboarding as a tool of empowerment: a way of uplifting and shaping the social identities of youth in harsh situations.
“Skateboarding knows no borders or war, no skin color or hate, rich or poor. Skateboarding unites. Skateboarding doesn’t just offer children diversity and enjoyment in their daily lives in Afghanistan overshadowed by terror," explains Dittmann.
Within two months of his arrival, Skate-Aid, in collaboration with Rupert Neudeck’s initiative "Gruenhelme e.V," completed its first project: the first concrete park in Afghanistan in addition to a school built in Karokh. The park was created with the enthusiastic participation of local villagers, including the young Afghani women who are allowed to skateboard, a significant advancement in light of their exclusion from all other sports.
Dittmann expresses the impact his organization has had, stating, "…Beyond linguistic and ethnic barriers skateboarding can create what could be considered an impossible bridge to children and young people."
On top of its current efforts in Afghanistan, Skate-Aid has spotlighted Africa, already having built a concrete skate park in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, in collaboration with its partner organization “Don Bosco." Titus Dittmann Foundation's Vice Chairman, Torben Oberhellmann, is presently directing development programs in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. Costa Rica has also been a recent target, and is now able to enjoy its newly built skate park, complete with auxiliary support programs.
Skate-Aid earned the "Laureus Medien Preis" award in November 2010, with the jury asserting that the project embodied the "Laureus concept,"- social change through sport. The initiative has taken love for the sport of skateboarding and turned it into a force for improving community. Youth without a positive outlet can now find joy and kinship in skating, thanks to the bighearted efforts of Skate-Aid and its programs world-over.