Tonga skate ramp steers youth away from crime

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

image copyrightOne Love Inc
image captionTonga's first skate ramp draws in dozens of local danger-seekers

An American family living in Tonga has set up the first skateboard ramp on the Pacific island of Tonga in an effort to steer young people away from drugs and crime.

Chris and Ashley Paquette and their One Love organisation built the ramp in the village of Puke near the capital Nuku'alofa, and it attracts up to 60 skateboarding enthusiasts, Radio New Zealand reports. Speaking to the radio, Mr Paquette said the scheme was a response to the age-old problem of bored young people with nothing to do drifting into a life of crime. "So when they get out of school, they end up getting in trouble," he notes, going on to say that the new ramp means youngsters don't have time to misbehave: "When they get home from school they have to do their chores before they can come and skate, and they just skate all day."

According to the Kaniva News website, the Puke skate ramp was paid for by an online fundraiser, as well as donations from island-based businesses. Mr Paquette has previous experience of building skate parks in his native America, but with no businesses stocking skateboards for hundreds of miles, One Love has relied on the generosity of others to keep the scheme rolling. "We started out with two skateboards and 15 kids, and now we have 12 skateboards thanks to a few people who donated boards," he told Kaniva News.

The scheme also has the support of the Tongan government. Acknowledging the kingdom's problematic crime rate, Onetoto 'Anisi of the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Radio New Zealand that the skate ramp allows local youths to "spend their time as young people, rather than causing crime". One Love volunteer Samuel Hafoka puts the ramp's popularity down to one factor - danger. "I would say it's the intensity. The fact that you are running a very thin line between good skill and possibly getting hurt on the side," he told Radio New Zealand.

image copyrightOne Love Inc
image captionLocal children are becoming expert skaters, and safety equipment is the next priority

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