One of the world’s most interesting youth-based non-government charities began because an Australian guy ventured into Afghanistan taking his skateboards with him.
This was back in 2007 when Kabul was still a dangerous place to visit.
Oliver Percovich, who had competed in international skateboarding events, noticed that there weren’t too many sporting facilities for Afghani kids, particularly girls, so started Skateistan, with the purpose of giving the kids something to do.
Skateboarding was an ideal sport for a war torn city. All you needed was a bit of a hill on which to ride the skateboard, and Kabul has plenty of those, and kids who were eager to learn new skills.
According to Oliver, skateboarding was also an ideal sport in which girls could participate. This was because there were no social taboos associated with the sport.
Skateistan did indeed have very humble beginnings, but over the years it has grown to offer much more than casual skateboarding to local kids.
They since opened a second facility in Mazar E Sharif, which is located in the north of Afghanistan and is that country’s fourth largest city.
Skateistan offers a “Back to School” program for street working children, refugees, and girls. This program is divided into three semesters, with each semester being four months long. During each semester students study the equivalent of one grade of school, going to Skateistan five days a week.
The goal of the program is to get children in Afghanistan enrolled or re-enrolled into the public school system. Upon completion of the program students can apply for enrolment into a government school, usually entering the 3rd or 4th grade.
They have also set up a facility in Cambodia, another country whose people were badly affected by war and terror.
Skateistan Cambodia, which is based in the capital Phnom Penh, works with 150 – 200 youth each week. The organisation’s main focus is on building the skills of local staff, training youth leaders, and expanding its reach to engage more of the most vulnerable youth in the city with community supports and recreation opportunities.
As well as basic education, students are introduced to computers, art and learn about nutrition, all of which is designed to improve the lives of children who otherwise would be forced to live in a constant state of poverty without the benefit of education and the prospect of working only menial jobs.
Skateistan began because a tourist saw a real need in a deprived city. It is the perfect example of how tourism, in a great many ways, can help improve the world.
The organisation gratefully accepts donations through their website.