Ulrike Reinhard started we-school/Janwaar Castle in February 2014 as a private initiative. In an international campaign SKATEBOARDS/ARTBOARDS she asked artists around the world to transform a skateboard into an artboard. The boards were auctioned on the ebay platform of skate-aid, a German NGO which is well-known in the international skateboarding arena. Ulrike’s idea of the skatepark was to give kids in rural India who DON’T know what a skateboard is and who are lacking in self-confidence the chance to bring some fun into their lives and learn new skills by playing. She was confident that this will give them trust and raise their self-confidence as they learn to develop new social skills and learn what it takes to commit themselves to a set goal.
Inspired by the work of Skateistan she took a slightly different approach and framed Janwaar Castle as an open sandbox meaning:
- a clear set of values and principles in which all activities take place
- no defined outcome (which DOES NOT mean having no vision) and
- no pre-defined programs
Her basic assumption was that this skatepark would interrupt the village in a way that it could drive positive change. And it did. 101India has made a beautiful shortfilm about what happened in Janwaar.
The story of Janwaar Castle is only two and a half years old and it has inspired many people in India and abroad to think about skateboarding as a tool for change. It is NOT skateboarding for skateboarding sake – we use skateboarding to drive fundamental change!
Ulrike herself is currently involved in four new skatepark projects in India. Except of one they are all in rural villages, far away from the big cities. The skateboarding virus is spreading while the stories coming out of Janwaar keep emerging. You can follow them on our blog.
A brief note on the organisational history
In January/February 2016, almost two years after the entire project had started, Ulrike has set up a not for profit company where she volunteered as “CEO” so to speak. It became necessary to have a fully functional legal entity in order to drive the project further. The not for profit company – Janwaarcastle Community Organisation – with its directors Shyamendra Singh, a local rajput who has helped Ulrike to find the land, on which is skatepark is build on, Mrytjunjay Mishra, a Delhi-based entrepreneur and at a later step Mehmood Khan, ex Unilever manager, was in full swing for 10 month when trouble started.
In an unfriendly take-over – as one would say in business language – the three directors asked Ulrike to leave the not for profit in January 2017. Major differences in the way how to drive the idea of Janwaar Castle forward made it easy for Ulrike to quit. She knew she would have the network of collaborators which she had built since the start of the skatepark with her. This network continues to support her in all her activities in Janwaar and beyond. Her activities are now summarized under the label of “The Rural Changemakers”.
Ulrike is currently in the process of registering her own NGO in Germany and Mannan Gupta, who has worked with Ulrike over the last one and a half years, is running with the_we_consultants all activities in India.
Janwaarcastle Community Organisation is desperately trying to gain ground in Janwaar but it hasn’t done anything for the village since Ulrike and Mannan have left.