Skateistan: Empowering Afghani Children



Mr. Percovich holding the skateboard to be raffled

Yasmim, Editor

On October 14, Oliver Percovich Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization Skateistan gave a short presentation at ISSH. Mr. Tootell, head of the Creative Department at ISSH, arranged for Mr. Percovich to speak to the entire middle school during periods one and two on Tuesday. In addition, Mr. Tootell is holding a raffle for an autographed skateboard. All the income from the raffle will be donated to Skateistan. Each raffle costs 100yen and the winner will be announced by the beginning of November.

Mr. Percovich first moved to Afghanistan in 2007 and has been living there for the past seven years. While skateboarding in Afghani streets, Mr. Percovich realized the need for vulnerable children to have the chance to do something new. “Not many people understood how to make a connection with school-age children and under 16-year-olds make up half of the Afghani population,” said Mr. Percovich. “So I put together the things I saw as needed and what I could offer.”

Although the project was not limited to girls, in Afghanistan girls are not supposed to play sports, since they are regarded as male activities. Therefore Mr. Percovich made sure to give extra incentives for girls to join Skateistan. “Opportunities for girls were so limited,” said Mr. Percovich, “but because nobody had seen skateboarding before, nobody had made up a rule that girls couldn’t do it.”

Even though younger girls were as interested as younger boys, since Afghani boys and girls must be separated from age 12, older girls hadn’t been incorporated in the program. “That was when the idea to build an indoor facility first came,” said Mr. Percovich. “We then had female teachers and separate days for girls and boys, which allowed girls between the ages of 12 and 18 to skateboard.”

Skateistan has over 1,000 students in two locations in Afghanistan and one location in Cambodia. They are opening a new location at Johannesburg soon. Currently 40% of the student body is female and 60% are low-income youth. Their main programs are “Back to School” and “Creative Arts.” The “Back to School” program works to reintegrate children who dropped out of school into classes again. This program takes place every day two hours a day followed by a few hours of skateboard practice. While the Creative Arts program is more open-ended and less strict. It also takes place everyday, but the children are only required attend once a week. The Creative Arts curriculum explores topics such as environmental health, culture and traditions, natural resources, and peace.

Skateistan’s main income sources are the selling of the merchandise and direct donations.

If you would like to know more about the program or donate check out their website.