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P S ROJECT

Written by: Erin Chatelain

KATEISTAN

A

ustralians Oliver Percovich, Travis Beard and Sharna Nolan walked through the streets of Kabul, skateboards in hand. Traveling

as photographers and adventurists, the trio set out to see how war had affected

Afghanistan. Children watched on as the three stopped to skateboard on the streets of Kabul. By the time Ollie grabbed knee pads and helmets out of his backpack, the children were already fearlessly begging to try. Skateistan was instantly born.

Rolling proud through the streets of Kabul picking up

passers-by

Not

only

school,

as

did

it

is

it

it

went,

Skateistan

become

the

gained

Afghanistan’s

world’s

first

speed.

first

skate

co-educational

skate

school and its only gaining momentum. By taking time to help the Afghani children, Skateistan has

forged

a

unique

trust

between

the

foreigners

and the Afghani people. “Kabul’s lack

youth

are

opportunities

states

Ollie

impoverished, for

Percovich,

marginalized

education

and

Skateistan’s

and

recreation,”

project

manager

in his Skate school proposal. Community

fatigue

leaves

youth

at

high

risk

for

induction in the narcotics or arms industry or joining insurgent and terrorists’ organizations. But

the

programs O’clock

children seem

session

who

attend

unscathed.

By

starts,

Ollie

Skateistan’s the

already

time has

skate the

so

4

many

children lined up to skateboard that he’s progressed to the next step;

finding sponsors to provide the

program with more boards.

8


Skateistan forged a unique trust.

Some days the children might see a suicide bomber or burned

“The

ideas

behind

car pill-ups, but Kabul is fairly stable. It’s possible for a girl in

our

Kabul to feel relatively undamaged by the war due to the tens

Afghanistan,” Ollie

of thousands oforeign troops warding off Taliban influence, in

international

Kabul.

conditions

During

the

days

the Taliban

reign,

girls

were

not

frustration

with

the

writes.

assistance and

the

people

project

international After

evolved aid

effort

in

10

years

of

almost

the

roads

still

have

with

are

in

unreliable

shocking 24-hour

electricity in the capital city.

allowed to play outside, climb a fence or fly a kite.

Health

Today,

and rent has inflated 200 times since 2001, due to

Kabul’s

young

girls

power

passed

the

boys

care

and

education

is

widely

inaccessible

on borrowed decks, gleaming with confidence.

presence of foreign organizations.

The kids of the streets show up every day at 6am

With media attention from 80 news outlets in over 10 different

and 4pm to skate.

Through sharing boards, every

countries Skateistan is getting its fair share of the fame, which

child that shows up is able to enjoy the pleasures

inevitably comes with some criticism. Saturday Night Live’s

of being young, safe and happy. And many show

news update segment commented sarcastically that Kabul will

up,

finally find peace now because a skateboard program was in

and

are

showing

behind the project’s success.

Betty

up

still,

being

the

reason

progress.

9


But, all-in-all, the wheels of this project roll smoothly because it

“These relationships and trust networks are needed to build the

has merit, and because smaller grassroots programs often show

country just as much as the injections of foreign aid,”explains Ollie.

substantial measurable benefits comparable to larger projects

Like a father, Ollie worries that the presence of weapons sends

relying on excessive administrations costs and inflexible

a message to the children that guns and warfare are essential in

budgets.

gaining influence in society.

Also,

Skateistan

chose

skateboarding

as

its

passage

Currently, Kabul hosts a population of over 4 million people,

because most Afghan sports are circled around violence

70 % of whom are children. Youth become vulnerable to

and competition. Riding needs minimal supervision and

homelessness and resort to playing in the dangers of mined areas, on heavy traffic roadsides or in abandoned buildings. Today, the plan to accommodate recreation to the many youth in Kabul, and those returning from Pakistan and Iran involves getting more skateboards. Skateistan plans to expand and build skate parks all over Afghanistan, and a handover and exit strategy with teacher training programs is the end goal for Skateistan’s Youth development Program. Its success relies on the assistance of volunteers and funding. “What we can achieve depends on levels of funding and the skills of volunteers that we can attract to the project,” says Ollie, who has been loyally volunteering his time since it all began. Currently raising money to build a skate school in a designated safe zone and ship more skating supplies to the crowded country, Ollie is working around the eastern clock. From embassies, to the media, Skateistan is always raising community and

corporate

interest

and

intriguing

donors. resources, and can be done anywhere with a smooth surface.

“A lot of people have offered to donate skateboards but

Many organizations are funded by a government dependant

in most cases a $5 donation would also be useful to us,”

on foreign aid and money spent usually doesn’t make a

stresses Ollie. Volunteering has also taken full swing with

difference to the average person. Skateistan is not about

international high profile faces showing up to skate their turn at

money interactions, it’s about personal interaction and building

Skateistan.

relationships.

10


Visiting the website www.Skateistan.org, becoming a volunteer

For more information, to buy stickers, t-shirts or

or buying a t-shirt helps provide a positive liaison between

to make a donation, please check out:

foreigners by pushing the children of Afghanistan to continue

www.skateistan.org

to roll successfully.

Betty

11


Skateistan article  

Betty Magazine speaks to thje organisers of Skateistan.

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