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Skateistan – Skateboarding for Girls in Afghanistan

Written by 10 January 2014 2 Comments

While the amount of impressive and more creative charity projects keeps increasing, so does the amount of helping hands. New types of developmental help are introduced daily, and participated by thousands. This post includes a couple of the most heart-warming examples of modern aid. On wheels.

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The charity project Skateistan is an inspiring and innovative scheme straight from Afghanistan. 68 percent of the country’s population are under 25 years old, and more than half of them can’t read or write.

Open for both girls and boys from all kinds of socio-economical backgrounds, the only skateboarding school in Afghanistan (based in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif), offers requisite opportunities to self-expression, creativity and education. And the most importantly, a chance to interact and build a community with various others.

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Skateistan began as a grassroots “Sport for Development” project on the streets of Kabul, and is now an award-winning, international NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with projects in Afghanistan and Cambodia. Skateistan is the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes. Skateistan is non-political, independent, and inclusive of all ethnicities, religions and social backgrounds.

The association was founded in 2007 by Aussie Oliver Percovich. The construction of Kabul’s skating facility got mainly funded by embassies of Norway, Denmark, Germany and Canada.

14-year-old Hanifa is one of Afghanistan’s most talented skaters. Starting out in Skateistan’s creative arts and skateboarding program, Hanifa began as a student but has quickly become an excellent female role model and an inspiring teacher. Since first joining the Skateistan program in 2010, she has gone from selling tea in a local park to joining Skateistan’s staff in Kabul as a skateboard instructor where she regularly teaches skateboard classes and takes part in weekly staff development training sessions. Hanifa has also enrolled in Skateistan’s Back-to-School program which will help catch up on studies and return to public school with her peers. She believes that by becoming a good skater she’ll make a better future for herself.

“Watching young Afghan skaters in the film Skateistan made me realize why I’ve spent my entire life as a skateboarder.” -Stacy Peralta, film director

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The snowball effect

One of the Skateistan’s many accomplishments is it’s snowball effect to do good. The scheme functions as a successful example and inspiration. Volunteers in many directions are now educating and building communities into removed destinations.

Ongoing projects are held in Costa RicaKenyaIndia, Uganda and South Africa, just to name a few. The main focus of these schemes is to bring the joy of skating closer to the kids by building ramps and simply spending time with them. Many of these projects are organized by handful of individuals, and they are still small compared to the volume of Skateistan. No matter the size, there’s one thing common in each of the project. Love for skateboarding.

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My personal experience

I took part in one of the small charity projects in South Africa, and the photos unless marked are from that trip. The Birdsnaketour is a skate-documentary made in 2011, showing pieces of the unusual journey that a group of skateboarders did on their travels. Almost the exactly same crew packed their backpacks again in 2013, and this time I was lucky enough to join them.

Skaters contacted the local distributors, and requested for old boards to be donated to the deprived areas. The party of volunteers consisted of several talented inviduals who knew how to teach kids to push and roll around. Local riders helped the skaters to choose exactly where to go and when. After that, it was all about functioning Google Maps and having the best time of their lives. The project is a good example of how easy it is to spread one’s passion, travel and participate in something bigger at the same time.

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My experience in South Africa was one of the best lessons to gratefulness that I have ever gotten. The help that we provided didn’t require chivalry, dreadlocks, capacity to land a kickflip or ponderous bag of pennies. It required a very little time, a tiny bit of planning and rather minor efforts. The scheme had a capacity to reaffirm my faith to one of the vital slices of life. The classic cliché of the meaning of kindness and love.

Skateboarding is indeed about building ramps and friendships, not bombs or conflicts.

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To prove a point about the persistence of skateboarding, I’m sharing the climax of one of my latest injury-prone experiences with a board. Forget all about red lipstick and get yourself ready for waterproof mascara. Landing a piece of cake trick isn’t always as painless as Tony Hawk makes it seem; you might end up in the emergency room with 6 stitches and a broken tooth.

Shortly said, it takes either a great amount of passion or a great pair of balls to skate and fall. And skate again. Especially without shoes.

If starting a volunteer activity from scratch feels like too much of a hassle, there are numerous other ways to get on board. Skateistan, a fruitful kick ass-project is very easy to support. Simply donate, buy the movie DVD or fill out the volunteer application form.

Talking about the development of power womanhood or one hardcore volunteer trip.


Text, Photos Rita Maria and skateistan

Sources to the text here and here.

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  • JP said:

    This is a great initiative and I will definitely check out both documentaries. While living in South Africa a few years ago and working with an NGO just outside of Johannesburg, I came across a small skateboarding project based in Soweto as well and am now wondering if it was linked to these projects. Anyway, great to see skating used to promote play, collaboration, and development. Definitely a lot of potential here. Thanks for the post.

  • Rita (author) said:

    Thanks JP, I don’t think these projects were linked, but hopefully in the future there could be collaborations between the small projects with the same aim. Johannesburg sure is hectic, hopefully you had a great time down there!

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