7Hills creates public spaces for social change

7 Hills
7Hills’ mission is to build and enhance public spaces in Jordan that would help different members of the community interact. (Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)
AMMAN — In the absence of public spaces to enjoy outdoor activities, groups of young skaters saw the need to establish a skatepark. In 2014, Philadelphia Skateboards and Make Life Skate Life started building and raising funds for a skatepark with the approval of the Greater Amman Municipality, which, they say, was supportive, understanding, and open to implementing new ideas.اضافة اعلان

(Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)

7Hills, registered in 2019 as a community-based, skateboarders driven, non-for-profit, launched a program to teach young people how to skate, giving them the opportunity to borrow a skateboard for free twice a week. They work with individuals from different backgrounds, including refugees, and conduct different types of activities, Mohammed Zakaria, director of 7Hills, told Jordan News.

(Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)

The mission of 7Hills is to build and enhance public spaces in Jordan that would help different members of the community interact. Public spaces are significant but scarce, while “many private spaces in Amman are discriminating against individuals from certain social classes. For instance, if someone’s appearance is not suitable, they will be denied entry in many spaces,” said Zakaria.

With this in mind, 7Hills “creates an open, democratic environment for everyone in the city of Amman struggling with social barriers,” its mission on the site states; it, therefore, chose to enhance public spaces where everyone is welcome to enjoy the available activities, added Zakaria.

(Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)

Each week, around 250 youth visit 7Hills spaces, of which 65 percent are refugees and migrants from Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and other countries. Moreover, 45 percent of the participants are females.

7Hills expanded its activities by launching a new space. In 2021, it launched an art and crafts hub called “Al Raseef 153,” which offers a variety of activities and workshops in stencil and mural painting, furniture making, filming, silkscreen, and editing.

Zakaria said that another goal of 7Hills is to encourage people to replicate its initiative and enhance public spaces to help the country and the youth.

Young people benefit from the activities on offer, which teach them determination and raises a supportive community that will have a positive impact on the participating youth, said Zakaria, adding that “at first, they used to distribute skateboards for youth for free, which gave them a sense of entitlement.”

(Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)

The established “Youth Leadership” program entails experienced individuals teaching new participants how to skateboard and other activities that teach them about ethics and responsibility, and encourage peer-to-peer education, said Zakaria.

The organization aims to increase female participation in skateboarding, which is a male-dominated sport; to that end, it offers skateboarding classes for girls only.

(Photos: Handouts from Mohammed Zakaria)

“When you see the girls at 7Hills park you sense their strength and their awareness regarding their rights to play in public spaces,” Zakaria said.

7Hills hopes to have financial support from local businesses to reduce foreign donations. It also started coming up with its own products, such as hoodies and T-shirts that it sells to gather the necessary funds to support its activities, according to Zakaria, who also said that donations from foreign entities could pose some issues as the organization would have to stick to what donors want.

One of the challenges in doing that, said Zakaria, is the fact that some government institutions fail to fully understand the organization’s goals and mission, “which is understandable, as it took a new path of advocacy.”

7Hills aims to create more spaces, including intellectual spaces where youth can get knowledge. The idea is to study how public spaces can be enhanced and used to benefit society, said Zakaria, adding that it is also looking for methods to expand activities in other governorates in Jordan.

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