As soon as Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich dropped his board in Kabul in 2007, the eager faces of children who wanted to learn to skate surrounded him. Stretching out the three boards he and a former girlfriend/aidworker had brought with them, “Ollie” began dedicating himself to the creation of a small skate school in Afghanistan. A group of Afghani friends (who were naturals at skateboarding) shared the three boards and quickly progressed in their new favorite sport. The success with the first students prompted Percovich to think bigger. By bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, the program would be able to teach many more youths, and would also be able to provide older girls with a private facility to continue skateboarding. In Kabul, Skateistan’s participants come from all of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and include 40% female students, hundreds of street working children, and disabled youths.
From their website: “In our skate park and classrooms they develop skills in skateboarding, leadership, civic responsibility, multimedia, and creative arts, exploring topics such as environmental health, culture/traditions, natural resources, and peace. The students themselves decide what they want to learn – we connect them with a safe space and opportunities for them to develop the skills that they consider important.”
In 2009, Skateistan completed construction of an all-inclusive skate park and educational facility on 5,428 square meters of land. Skateistan has emerged as Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, and is dedicated to teaching both male and female students. The non-profit charity has constructed the two largest indoor sport facilities in Afghanistan, and hosts the largest female sporting organization. Skateistan’s development aid programs work with growing numbers of marginalized youths through skateboarding and provide them with new opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education, and personal empowerment programs. It has expanded its activities to include: skateboard aid projects and skate parks for Cambodian youth; a grassroots street-level program in Pakistan; and a state-of-the-art learning/skateboarding center in Mazar-e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.
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