Progress Report/Carsten Beneker

photo by Christian Petzold

Dear supporters, colleagues, friends, family, readers,

I came to volunteer in the „Pura Vida Skateboarding“ project which was founded by Christian Petzold and financially backed by the German skateaid association.

After to years of preparations, Petzi arrived in January to get everything settled before the construction crew would arrive. With the support of Nike and Carharrt eventually Jan Kliewer, Chet Childress, Al Partanen, Alex Irvine, Hjalte Halberg, Gabriel Engelke, Arne Fiehl, Florian Bösel Alexander Endrulat and more friends of Petzi arrived in San Isidro de El General to build up the concrete skate park with the help of the local skaters within around 6 weeks.
There were problems in finding a location, but with the help of a local politician there was a location found in the Barrio of Rosa Iris in the first couple of days of the stay of the crew.

photo by Christian Petzold photo by Christian Petzold photo by Christian Petzold
Since then the skate park is existent and people take advantage of it all day long. For the Chic@s of the Barrio it is one of very few places where they can explore their capabilities and where their talent is being pushed. For many there are no regular school hours because the government fails to create sufficient capacities for the actual amount of children. Especially children of less privileged families suffer from this – some of our little skaterats can neither write nor read. Two weeks ago the teachers were striking because they have to teach various shifts of students all day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by this simply burn out.
That’s why the session in the Pura Vida skate park usually starts at 8 o’clock in the morning. It is a place to meet, greet and empower. By this the park is a alternative to the very common drug abuse and is the only drug-free place in their social environment.
Until now it was difficult for Petzi and Luise to survey the rules of the park. They could not come to the park every day and the english classes which they started were running only for a couple of weeks because there were plenty of other things to do.

photo by Christian Petzold photo by Christian Petzold
Now Timo Kliche and myself are the first volunteers who anticipate to structure and to steady the daily issues. For that purpose we are just building up an accommodation and a work place for us and following volunteers. The exist five very simple rooms of which we are using one which includes a shower and a toilet for housing. At this moment there are only some chairs and mattresses, but the room has potential and we recently cut bamboo to construct some furniture with it.
Today we are going to do the first reunion with everybody who is using the skate park to present our visions about the project and to communicate the rules officially. Just after the meeting we will enforce the practical work with the Chic@s.
We will improve the park by fixing broken parts and by constructing new obstacles, we want to implement gardening, we will offer english-, skate- and environmental-workshops, clean up the place and keep it clean et cetera. There is plenty to do. In every activity we want to involve the Chic@s and give them the possibility to earn points which they can trade in for skateboard equipment. Therefore we are expecting a package from skateaid and other sponsors from Germany.

photo by barney photo by barney
The equipment of the local skaters is partly catastrophic. Some ride barefooted, others with totally worn out and torn shoes. The Boards are often slightly cracked and the nose and the tail are skated down to nothing. We get pleads for a bearing, a screw or a bushing daily. Often the gum where the pivot is seated in is missing – I do not even know the right name for it since I never had problems with it – which you can hear in the entire park. When there is missing a bushing they can still help themselves with gum from tires, but when they have a broken bearing or deck they somehow have to get some money to buy new stuff. Some, like Steven (12 years old) and Junior (13 years old) in this case go working in the coffee fields, where they earn 3000 Colones (6 $) a day. A cheap board costs 28000 Colones – which means they have to work for ten day under toughest conditions to be able to buy one. Others try to get hand on some money by robbing – even from other visitors of the skate park and the sport facilities respectively. This is we have to do something about urgently!

photo by steven photo by barney

Of the only rental skateboard we have the bearings secretly get changed for broken ones – this just illustrates how desperately they need a source of money or equipment. With these kinds of situations it is hard to deal with – pedagogic challenges like this are part of the daily business. To sanction or ban them is not the idea, because the skate park is one of the few things in life that give them hold and continuity. I am glad that with Timo I have a professional at my side – by his studies of Social Works he knows tools and theories for these kind of situations. I learn a lot of these and together we are creating strategies to make them act in a more responsible way and to realize that they have to take care of “their” skate park and the related equipment themselves also.
Costa Rica was just ranked as the happiest country of the world and it is often said it was the “Switzerland of Central America” – who ever opens his eyes will quickly notice that the new wealth made by ecotourism and new industries is only for a few though.

photo by barney photo by barney photo by barney
Besides the pedagogic tasks and the works on and around the skate park another important task is to acquire donations and to take care of public relations. Hereby I courteously ask you to support the project by spreading the word or even by a material or financial donation.

We are filming a clip in the skate park which is supposed to tease new volunteers for the project. Our stay is going to quite short (3 and 5 month respectively) in relation to the many tasks and goals we are having. We need financial aid to improve the skatepark, to buy teaching materials and to build up the volunteer accommodation. Also, from January on, there is a big need for new volunteers who are keen to help building up this wonderful place and to continue with our work.

photo by barney photo by barney

Now it is the moment in which the project can boost up and establish. There is a growing interest by the people of San Isidro, but we are still lacking financial support, structures and manpower.
Skateaid from Münster, Germany, is organizing the shipping of used skateboard stuff over here. May be somewhere else in the world there are more people who would like to collect used and new skateboard equipment and send it over to us – we would me very, very greatful!
Another way of supporting us, which might be interesting especially to (skateboard) companies, is placeing your logo on the website and in the documentary that Petzi is producing for the cinemas by paying 1000€ or more.

In the long term we want to involve politicians and potential donors from San Isidro and Costa Rica respectively. Although our first impression is that there exist little culture of donating and backing cultural projects. Even the national skateboard media and companies are quite focussed on San Jose and will take Pura Vida serious only after noticing convincing media output about us and the local skaters. So far there was no real support yet but only talk.

photo by barney

I am happy to be a part of Pura Vida and to have the chance to contribute my energy into this worthwhile project. For me personally it is a welcomed change to the German daily life. I evolve my skateboarding skills in the challenging park and in the rough streets and I learn about the local culture, the live of less privileged people, education, construction with concrete and bamboo, the Spanish language and about myself.

This text is supposed to give you an overview about Pura Vida and about our work. Every kind of support and question is more than welcome.

With warm greets from the magnificient country of Costa Rica,