In the last few years, a brand-new concept for youth projects has evolved: using hip hop culture to empower young people in disadvantaged parts of the world. The idea is already proving successful.
Graffiti artist and music producer Akim Walta first got into hip hop in the early 1980s. He now runs the Hip Hop Stützpunkt in Berlin - an independent program that supports youth empowerment projects in China and India. The projects use street cultures such as skateboarding and B-boying - a style of street dancing - as a tool to give young people a sense of achievement and a feeling of community.
"The youth culture is the medium," Walta told Deutsche Welle. "Hip hop culture and skateboarding are understood in all parts of the world. Even when you don't speak the language, through the codes of this culture you can go to another country and find friends who do the same."
Optimism in Afghanistan
A girl named Faranaz who is part of the Skateistan projectSkateboards are not just for boysA project of this kind was also started in Afghanistan four years ago when two aid workers took their skateboards there, having no idea that it would lead to the first skate park being built in Kabul. The project, called Skateistan, is now providing 400 boys and girls with skateboarding lessons, combined with education and art programs.
According to Joel Sames, who helps with the project, a positive side-effect of Skateistan is bridging ethnic and socio-economic divisions.
"There are these big tribal and ethnic tensions, so they try to create a neutral zone there for them and it works pretty well," said Sames.
The project has also broken down gender barriers. As skateboards were virtually unknown in Afghanistan before, they were not associated with any gender, so skateboarding is now one of the few sports that girls can do in public. Around 40 percent of Skateistan's participants are girls.
The fun activity also gives the children a chance to escape the harsh reality of everyday life.
"It's very difficult to be a child in Afghanistan, and after 30 years of war the whole society is traumatized," said Sames. "It's about giving them more hope and dreams for their future."
Inspiration in India
Dreams and hope are also the intention behind the Tiny Drops project, which teaches B-boying to young people living in the slums of Mumbai and Delhi in India. It was started by Netrapal Singh, aka Hera, India's most well-known B-boy, who grew up in New York but was deported to India around 10 years ago. His inspiration was the community centers in New York's Queens neighborhood.
According to DJ Uri, who has been working with Hera, the project has started to break down the social barriers of caste and class.