She came to India in 2012 to attend a conference and visited Madhya Pradesh as tourist and fell in love with Khajuraho. Since then, Ulrike Reinhard became a regular visitor to the country.
After coming to know about the clueless but bright children in Janwaar village and after discussions with teachers in government schools, Reinhard started Janwaar Castle, community centre with skatepark that doubles up as a school.
“The Janwaar Castle Community Organisation was set up in January 2016 with the help of local residents,” Reinhard tells Hindustan Times.
“The purpose of the organisation is to uplift the lives of villagers, especially children,” she says.
Janwaar Castle is an open process. For example, a small interaction with the local policemen sparked the idea of defining a training programme for the policemen.”
Asked why she chose Janwaar and skateboarding, she says, “We’ve chosen Janwaar as one of our local collaborators owns land in the village. We choose skateboarding as it requires mental and physical strength and balance and an individual sport…”
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, 55-year-old Reinhard owns a small house in Mandla, a small village in rural MP, close to Panna national tiger park and Ken River.
“Our goal is to give girls and boys same chance and to engage them in activities, which solve parts of their daily problems and to foster their self-esteem. And they are allowed to anything they want,” she says.
The community attracts 50 to 60 children every day, they come and skateboard and then learn English right next to the skatepark while they wait for their turn. “We offer tablets with learning programmes, face-to-face sessions and in near future, we will have 2-3 houses around the park where the kids and villagers can meet, learn and co-create.”
Asked how children cope with the lessons, she says, “Nothing tires them. Their attitude is like ‘bring it on’ and nothing scares them. They understand the meaning of team and know how to work with each other.”
Ever since the first day, when the skatepark was getting built, the children have been with Reinhard. When the first slope was being built the children used it as a slide, she says.
“Just in the span of a year, a number of children from the school have become some of the finest skateboarders in India. The children, irrespective of race or gender take ownership of the skatepark equally and as equals,” she says. After settling in India, Reinhard learnt to ride a motorcycle and owns a Royal Enfield Bullet. “I am in love with my Bullet.”
Asked about her family back in Germany, she says: “ I do miss my son once in a while, but I am a frequent traveller by nature so being away from home has always been part of my life. And bonds are not defined by spending time together, they are defined by common values.”