German students on connecting with Rwandan youth through skating

Skating in Germany is one of sports that gives a completely new feeling of togetherness that in some cities, young people use skateboards as small means of transport.

However, instead of disposing off old skateboards, the students of HLA Gernsbach, a commercial vocational school located in the south of Germany, collected them and brainstormed on how to redesign them into useful products. In addition to their curriculum studies, the students aged 16 to 21, work on different sustainable projects, among which is upcycling.


The students, therefore, decided to use the Covid-19 lockdown to upcycle old skateboards and build more shelves from their homes.


The process of cleaning-repainting and re-designing one skateboard took about three to four hours in the beginning.


“We started this project as 21 students and at the end we were 18 left. First, we had an idea of the product but since none of us is a carpenter or designer, we didn’t really know exactly how to create the shelf we wanted. Through experiment with paint, hammer, nails and other tools we created our first final product in about three hours,” shares Anna-Lena, one of the students.

One shelf costs 25 Euros (over Rwf25, 000) and students sold the shelves to their friends, relatives and at the markets. In total, HLA Gernsbach collected 500 Euros (over Rwf500, 000) which they donated to Skate-aid, Rwanda to buy new skateboards for Rwandan skaters.

German students upcycling skateboards.

“Donations are always a big deal for our organisation since our charity work completely relies on donations. With this donation we will buy some new skateboards and ship them together with donated skate material to Rwanda. This way we are able to keep up the sustainability and long term effects of the projects which is good for the kids”, Tobias Egelkamp, Head of Projects at Skate-Aid International, says.

Skate-Aid Rwanda, has a multifunctional skate park on the property of the SOS Children’s Village Kigali, for kids and teenagers in Kigali, to spend their leisure time in a safe environment.

Before Covid-19, the skate park, which was opened in April 2016, received between 40 to 60 kids who were introduced to skateboarding by skate-aid volunteers.

Besides basic needs, children need sense- and identity formation, skateboarding can do that. For this they need self-determined free spaces in their socialisation so that they can learn, grow and develop into strong personalities based on intrinsic motivation.

All this together makes the educational power of skateboarding possible. Through the work of skate-aid, kids and teenagers will become self-determined personalities, enriching their societies as strong individuals.

Kids and teenagers will become self-determined personalities, enriching their societies as strong individuals.

The movement-oriented youth culture skateboarding knows neither borders nor war, explained.

Divine Umulisa, a Rwandan living in Germany, works as an education consultant at HLA Gernsbach, where she represents Rwanda and Burundi in the programme “Chat der Welten”.

She explains that the students had already done different virtual exchanges through that programme with their age mates from Burundi before and during the Covid-19 lockdown, and are therefore looking forward to connecting with Rwandan youth from September 2020.

Umulisa adds that the students from HLA Gernsbach are actually not only donating but also connecting with the youth in Rwanda.

“In order to close the gap between global north and global south, we need sustainable partnership. When we teach about global problems, the youth gain more awareness and are invited to contribute to global solutions, leaving no one behind.

“So if German students have an opportunity to raise money from school projects and send it where it’s needed, it’s like an invitation to connect and exchange. Who knows, they may also receive something from the global south. Young Rwandans have a lot to offer,” she says.

The students during the upcycling project.

Together with their teacher Martin Strauss, the students agreed that it is better to donate that money to a country that they are already connected to.

“Besides that, I did a bit of research on the internet and Rwanda seems like a beautiful safe country. Hopefully we shall do a school trip there soon,” says Saskia, one of the students.

In order to accelerate the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030, HLA Gernsbach is building partnerships with Rwanda and Burundi where the youth from both sides will learn with and from each other and work on sustainable projects together. The students are looking forward to learning from Rwandan youth.

Rwandan children during their skating lessons at Skate-Aid.

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