Posts Tagged 'Marcus Vetter'

Meeting Skateistan, Changing Stereotypes

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Yesterday evening Yvonne from our project team (in the photo on the right) and I met Oliver Percovich (left) and his Kabul house mate and now communication manager Max Henninger  (with cap) in a cafe in Berlin to discuss Skateistans presence on betterplace.org. Skateistan has been big news recently, even making it to the front page of the New York Times Sports section. For those of you still unfamiliar with the project, this is what its about in a nutshell:

Skateistan is Afghanistan’s first dedicated co-educational skateboarding school. The school will engage with the growing numbers of urbanised youth in Afghanistan through skateboarding and provide new opportunities in cross-cultural interaction and education. Students will be selected from a range of different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Student capacity will be developed in skateboarding, skateboarding instruction, project management, life skills and English. Our aim is to develop a program that empowers youth to take leadership on issues important to them and build networks that will counter current ethnic barriers. 

Skateboarding in Afghanistan? As soon as Australian skateboarders Oliver Percovich, Sharna Nolan and Travis Beard lay down their boards in Kabul, they were surrounded by the eager faces of children of all ages, begging them to teach them how to skate. Stretching the three boards they had, they developed an infant skate school.

Six young Afghan males who were naturals at skateboarding (aged 18-22) shared the three boards and quickly progressed in their newfound sport. Skateboarding was born in Afghanistan. The success with their first students prompted them to think bigger. By bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue they would be able to teach many more youth as well as run separate classes for females. Skateistan is Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school dedicated to teaching both male and female students. We aim to build indoor skateboarding facilities thoughout Afghanistan. We will start in Kabul with a indoor skatepark with indoor and outdoor sections.

In our discussion with Max and Ollie we quickly realized a number of similarities, both between our motivation running betterplace, as well as the kind of projects we get really excited about. Starting with local needs and substantially involving relevant stakeholders as early as possible, following a hands-on approach and aiming at turning existing stereotypes around. Concerning the latter aim, I was struck by the similarities to Cinema Jenin.

Beating Stereotypes

Marcus Vetter started the project of renovating the old closed down cinema in Jenin after hearing over and over again, how dangereous Jenin, a city located in the Westbank, Palestine, was. Not only in Israel did people warn him to travel there, as Jenin is known as the breeding ground for suicide bombers and fundamentalists. Yet, when he actually went to shoot his film, The Heart of Jenin, he encountered wonderful reflective and generally peaceful people.

Similarly, Oliver and Max recounted how life in Kabul is nothing like what the media make it out to be. Their project is out to prove that there exists another Afghanistan than the one know to Western news readers.

And there is another parallel: just as Marcus is shooting a film about Cinema Jenin, so Skateistan is the subject of a documentary by Rene Kock (the one looking into the camera next to Yvonne), with the proceeds going to the project.

We are very happy to offer betterplace.org to make Skateistan realize their goals! 

And yes, for those who know me well, I am already thinking of a trip to Kabul…

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Cinema Jenin

For the past few days we had Marcus Vetter, an award-winning documentary film director, staying with us and visiting betterplace. It’s been a great time, with little sleep and much talk, many meetings resulting in a number of creative ideas.

What is a film director doing on betterplace?
Well, Marcus latest film, Heart of Jenin, took him to the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Here he documented the true story of Ismael Khatib, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp. In 2005 Ismaels 12 years old son Achmed was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Still grieving, his father agreed to donate Ahmed’s heart, liver, lungs and kidneys to save the lives of Israeli children.

The film documents not only the dramatic days after Achmed’s death, but follows Ismaels journey two years later to three of the Jewish families whose children owe their lives to the organ donations.

The New York Times writes:
Offering a startling vision of hope while laying bare the deep divisions between Israelis and Palestinians, “The Heart of Jenin,” a new German-Israeli documentary film, recounts the story of Ahmed, his father, and three of the five people who received the donated organs.

“It’s not about politics, about Jews or Arabs, it’s about human beings,” said Ismail Khatib, Ahmed’s father, in an interview after the film’s premiere in Jerusalem.

“I see my son in these children.”

The encounter with the protagonists of the story, as well as the political and humanitarian catastrophy defining the Palestinian Territories, moved Marcus to go beyond his usual task of documentation. Together with Ismael, who had started a child center in the Jenin refugee camp in order to keep children off the dangerous streets, he decided upon a new social project: the renovation of the old cinema in the city center.

You can read more about the project here

Marcus came in touch with betterplace when presenting his project (alongside our CEO Till) at the Hasso Plattner Institute, devoted to Social Entrepreneurship, last month (thanks Dagmar Quentin for making the match and for Jörg Rheinboldt to pass it on to me!).

Since, Marcus and I have met at the film festival in Locarno, where Heart of Jenin was enthusiastically greeted, and where I had the chance to meet Ismael himself. Now in Berlin we sat together with Moritz (responsible for marketing at betterplace), Hannelore (projects), Aishah (press) and Hans-Jürgen (project incubator) to devise effective fundraising strategies for Cinema Jenin. Today we also spent a constructive hour in the offices of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leaving with the prospect of systematically gathering support from important German cultural institutions abroad.

Supporting a project like Cinema Jenin is no only intellectually and emotionally exciting, it also teaches a lot about project work. We are in direct contact with a project manager or social entrepreneur, who gives us valuable feedback about the functioning of betterplace as a fundraising and networking platform. Thus by engaging deeply with one project, we are hopefully able to develop solutions which will benefit all users of the plattform.