‘When I think back to how we started teaching skateboarding and see the project I could only cry with joy.’
You are from Germany, and you picked San Luis in the Dominican Republic as part of your final university assignment. Why?
While I was looking for ideas for a topic for my diploma thesis in 2014, I saw a documentary on German television about the Dominiño children’s foundation in the Dominican Republic and was immediately enthusiastic. Since the founder of the project was living in my hometown of Cologne at the time, I wrote to her directly and we met for coffee a few days later. The decision was then made relatively quickly and only three weeks later I was on the plane to the Dominican Republic. The project needed new images to represent it and I had found a place for my photographic field research.
Can you summarize your experiences after your 5-week stay and ultimately your conclusion?
I think the first five weeks in San Luis and generally in the Dominican Republic were some of the most influential weeks of my life. The living conditions were just so different,and I had to change completely within a few days and arrange myself so that I could concentrate on my diploma thesis. It was a problem that I often had no electricity and had to plan it properly, for example to charge my equipment. Luckily, I made friends quickly and it wasn’t very difficult for me to get used to the different living circumstances. It was all a huge adventure,and I would do it exactly the same way over and over again. Also,my field studies during that time taught me a lot about resilience in children growing up in poverty because children see the world with different eyes. Childlike curiosity and environment are full of happiness and pride. The lust for life,confidence and joy are always ranking first. It doesn’t matter where you were born or how you were raised, it all depends how you cope with it. The capability of resistance in San Luis is strong and visible anytime.
‘It doesn’t matter where you were born or how you were raised, it all depends how you cope with it.’
When was the point you decided to start a non-profit organization (San Skate) to promote skateboarding in San Luis?
I graduated in 2015 and wanted to go to the Dominican Republic again for a longer period of time and support the children’s foundation as a volunteer. In the end, I didn’t stay for one year as planned, but for a full seven years! In 2016,my then-boyfriend-now-husband and local skateboarder Miguel and I dreamed of starting our own skateboarding project and building a skate park in San Luis. So,with just a few skateboards, we started teaching on the street and on a public-school basketball court. In San Luis it was something completely new, nobody knew skateboarding as a sport, if only as a toy for little boys. It was definitely a challenge to establish skateboarding as a sport.
Why did you pick skateboarding?
Since Miguel has been giving skateboarding lessons in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, for many years,I saw the great influence on the local youth and children. Skateboarding is a great sport to push your limits,learn to get up and keep going. Skateboarding also strengthens children’s resilience.
‘Over 100 artists from all over the world painted skateboards and we sold them at the exhibition and online. From the proceeds we were then able to build the first part of our skatepark in 2018.’
If you look back, are you happy how San Skate has evolved since inception?
When I think back to how we started teaching skateboarding and see the project I could only cry with joy. The project has turned out so well, we now have our own skate park and over 100 kids from San Luis have already started skating with us. Some of our kids have even skated at the national qualifiers and are registered with world skate. I’m excited to see what the future will bring. Some of our kids will definitely stir up the worldwide skate scene one day! (laughing)
What are your main challenges?
We also have a few girls in our project who skate regularly,but it’s still a huge challenge to convince parents in particular that skateboarding isn’t just for boys. Many parents don’t let their daughters skate or girls sometimes have to listen to negative comments of friends or family members. Every Monday we have girls day to provide girls a safe space for skateboarding. We also involve local female skateboarders and hold events regularly. We definitely want to get more girls to skate and show that skateboarding is a sport for everyone.
You received EUR9,000 in donations which is impressive. Your goal is EUR11,000. What are you going to use the money for?
We used the collected money for the first construction phase of our own skate park in San Luis. Together with friends,artists and the media agency Knorke from Berlin,we have set up a crowdfunding exhibition called „Wheel2Wall“. Over 100 artists from all over the world painted skateboards and we sold them at the exhibition and online. From the proceeds we were then able to build the first part of our skatepark in 2018. A team of volunteers traveled to the Dominican Republic and the park was built together with locals. In 2021 we received another major donation and were then able to expand and complete our skatepark.
What are some the locals you are working with the deserve a shout out?
In addition to Miguel, who is not only my best friend and husband but also a talented skateboarder who has already achieved a lot for the local Dominican skate scene, I would like to mention our SAN SKATE junior coach and current main responsible person Osvaldo. Osvaldo learned to skate from Miguel and was involved in the founding of the project from the beginning. He has developed tremendously and after we moved to Germany last year, he took over the project management in San Luis. We are very proud of him that he is following in our footsteps and that SAN SKATE is just as important to him as it is to us.
‘I want to set up a large photo exhibition with a photo book for the benefit of SAN SKATE.‘
What are your plans with San Skate?
Our dream is to invite some of our skater kids to Germany for a few weeks so that they can take part in the many skate contests here in the summer. For the kids it would be amazing and a great experience that would change their lives forever. We are currently planning how we might achieve this for 2024.
What else is on your personal wish list?
My personal wish list is long, but something that is definitely on it is that I want to set up a large photo exhibition with a photo book for the benefit of SAN SKATE.
Last question. If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Good question,of course there are a few people I would like to interview. One person would definitely be film director and photographer Larry Clark as he is a great photographic role model for me and his films have fascinated me since the 90’s.
‘The capability of resistance in San Luis is strong and visible anytime.’