the coolest ONG | skating in Kabul

by agnes s.

Skateistan began as a Kabul-based Afghan NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and is now an International non-profit providing skateboarding and educational programming in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Pakistan. Skateistan is non-political, independent, and inclusive of all ethnicities, religions and social backgrounds.

Skateboarding in Afghanistan?

Absolutely. As soon as two Australian skateboarders dropped their boards in Kabul in 2007, they were surrounded by the eager faces of children of all ages who wanted to be shown how to skate. Stretching out the three boards they had brought with them, they developed a small skate school.

A group of Afghan friends (aged 18-22) who were naturals at skateboarding shared the three boards and quickly progressed in their new favourite sport—and so skateboarding hit Afghanistan. The founders’ success with their first students prompted them to think bigger: by bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, they would be able to teach many more youth, and also be able to provide older girls with a private facility to continue skateboarding.

Skateistan has emerged as Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, and is dedicated to teaching both male and female students. It aims to build indoor and outdoor skateboarding facilities in which youth can come together to skateboard: here, they forge bonds that transcend social barriers. Here, they’re enabled to affect change on issues that are important to them.

Beyond Skateboarding

Skateboarding is simply “the hook” for engaging with hard-to-reach young people. Skateistan’s programs work with growing numbers of marginalized youth through skateboarding, and provide them with new opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education, and personal empowerment programs. Skateistan has expanded its activities to include skateboard lessons and skateparks for Cambodian youth, a grassroots street-level program in Pakistan, and a state-of-the-art learning/skateboarding centre in Mazar-e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.

In Kabul, Skateistan’s participants come from all of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and include 40% female students, hundreds of streetworking children, and youth with disabilities. In our skatepark and classrooms they develop skills in skateboarding, leadership, civic responsibility, multimedia, and creative arts. 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.

Since Skateistan began in 2007 we’ve found that youth of all ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds love to skateboard. Skateistan brings them together, equipping young men and women to lead their communities toward social change and development.

 

“A skateboard park and school surrounded by war makes perfect sense in a senseless world, doesn’t it?” – C.R. Stecyk III

After years of interviews, documentation, and hard work by many people, we’re stoked to announce the release of Skateistan’s very first book! Skateistan: The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan shares the strange and beautiful intersection of traditional Afghan society and a new generation of Afghan skateboarders and artists. Through a balanced mix of words and photographs, the book tells the tale of Skateistan, which since 2007 has taught skateboarding and creative arts to girls and boys in Kabul, Afghanistan.

This 320-page color book features inspiring and previously unpublished photographs accompanied by essays, interviews and personal stories from Skateistan’s founder Oliver Percovich and the young Afghans that have gone from being streetworking kids to teachers in the skatepark and classrooms. Full of hope, beauty, brutal honesty – and skateboards – this is a story about Afghanistan that you won’t find anywhere else.

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