Amman, Jordan – On a warm afternoon in downtown Amman, a Syrian refugee is cheered on via loudspeaker as he weaves his skateboard through a makeshift course of rain boots and traffic cones during a competition at the newly opened 7Hills skate park.
“In Syria, I couldn’t go out and play because of the war, but in Amman I can enjoy my time, stay out late and make new friends at the skate park,” nine-year-old Ahmed Rayen, who has been in Jordan for two years, told Al Jazeera.
Last December, 7Hills co-founder Mohammed Zakaria, 28, and other international and local volunteers raised $25,000 through crowdfunding to finance the country’s first skate park. The site welcomed young skaters with donated skateboards and hosted competitions in January.
“Everyone is really hyped about the project,” Zakaria said. “I think the park is a positive outlet for young people.”
As neighbouring Syria enters its fourth year of conflict, Jordan has so far hosted at least 600,000 Syrian refugees, although unofficial figures put the number closer to 1.4 million. In a country where half the total population is under 25, young people face shrinking possibilities for employment and community spaces – and Zakaria hopes the park will be a small step towards changing that.