Through the love of skateboarding, an unexpected collaboration between two organizations has brought together a melting pot of activities, cultures and a life-changing experience. It’s been said that the love of a sport can erase all boundaries; a fact that could not be truer for the organization ‘Skateistan’.
Started in 2007 by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, Skateistan has a plain and simple goal: to use skateboarding as a tool to empower girls and working children around the world. They now operate in Pakistan, Cambodia, Kabul and plan to open workspace in a second city in Afghanistan. Making skateboards serves a higher purpose than just a fun activity; it also gives children a creative environment where they can learn about craftsmanship, geometry, teamwork and leadership.
Skateistan provides both skateparks and classrooms. They ensure the safety of all the children and young adults who use and run their facilities, an invaluable gift to those living in tumultuous communities. Through workshops, students learn the basics of building a skateboard. They work together to transform their ideas into a tangible product, showing off their imagination and work ethic.
Recently, Skateistan started a cross-cultural relationship with Native American skateboarders from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Through the program “Connecting Dots”, both groups of skaters will design 10 skateboards based on the other group’s culture, symbols, and heritage. The skateboards will be on display throughout America, with Skateistan hoping to secure an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
This is an opportunity not just for the children in Afghanistan to learn about a completely new culture, but to develop important skills such as task delegation, accepting ethnic differences and successfully finishing a project.
So much can be said about organizations such as Skateistan. All it takes is for one passionate person to be able to convince those around him of the impact that they can make in a community in dire need of a powerful force to engage its youth.
There are no formal handshakes or political debates. The matter and means are simple: give children an outlet for creativity and leadership development. Changing their lives at a basic level can have such a strong impact on their individual abilities that in their own right, these children will change their circumstances and “break the cycles of poverty and exclusion” in their communities.
– Deena Dulgerian