An “Odyssey” Student Success Profile: Susie Halsell on skateboarding for improving the lives of Bangladeshi street children

Antioch Santa Barbara alumna and founder of Bangladesh Street Kids Aid (BSKA) Susie Halsell went to Bangladesh for the first time in 2007, soon after graduating from high school. She had a desire to help people in need, but no clear idea about how she would do so. There, she was shocked at the poverty she saw and the poor conditions many children were living in, sleeping in the dirt or on beds made of piles of trash in the streets. She began reaching out to them, in small ways at first, with juice and bread.

As time went on she found ways to build trust. One effective way to do this was through skateboarding. “I was also using skateboarding as a way to instantly connect with the kids in a healthy way. Through skateboarding with them, I was able to build trust with not only them but with their impoverished family members as well,” Halsell said in an interview with Ebony Young for AUSB’s undergraduate literary journal Odyssey Online. With trust established, she was able to increase her support of the children, providing hygiene kits and other necessities, later paying school fees and buying uniforms. This was all done with her personal finances.

Over time, Halsell made some trusted contacts who wanted to aid her efforts to help impoverished children. In 2016 she was offered a piece of land on which to create a “safe haven” for the kids. “In 2017 I founded the nonprofit organization, Bangladesh Street Kids Aid (BSKA) so that we could raise money to build and operate a boarding school, skatepark, and permaculture farm on the land that we were donated,” she said in the article. “Becoming an official nonprofit has also allowed us to reach many more children with our services and we are also in the process of being registered with the Bangladesh NGO Affairs Bureau, as well as their Ministry of Social Welfare.”

Halsell attended AUSB’s BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Business and Entrepreneurship where she learned about how to successfully manage a nonprofit organization. “At Antioch, I was able to come up with essential organizational strategies, a business plan, and build a brand image for our nonprofit,” she said in the article. “I also learned a lot about child development in some of my elective courses as well as through volunteering and interning with Girls Inc. and the Wilderness Youth Project.”

The profile on Halsell was written by Ebony Young, a BA in Liberal Studies student who is completing her last quarter in the Early Child Education and Development concentration. After receiving her bachelor’ degree, she hopes to continue her journey in the Master’s program to get her degree in multiple subjects and certificate in special education.

Read the full Odyssey article here