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Skateboarding in Afghanistan
Thanks to Oliver Percovich, 39, an avid skateboarder adult who has been doing since age 5, kids in the streets of Kabul now have something other than soccer to play. It all began in 2007, when he followed his girlfriend, an aid worker sent to Afghanistan, to Kabul. One of the first things he looked for was a spot to skateboard. He found and old Soviet-era concrete fountain and started wheeling over it, doing jumps and turns.
It was new to Afghanistan. Another foreign import for the locals to get use to and either accept or not. As alien as it was to them, kids who usually sold trinkets on the street to earn money for the family started to gravitate to Oliver. They watched in in amazement. They smiled, both boys and girls. Forget about the war, about the ethnic divides, about the sexism in that part of the world, all wanted to skateboard.
As the crowd of kids grew and grew, many students began to teach the skills to others and so on. It was not too long before the old fountain was too small, so Oliver went to the Afghan Olympic Committee for permission to use an indoor facility and a classroom. When granted, he began a non-profit organization, Skateistan.
As time moved on, the skateboarding sport grew. Soon, the Germans provided funding for more boards and equipment as did the embassies of Denmark, Finland and others. Today, his organization serves more than 1000 kids from 5 to 18 yrs. old weekly.
But Skateistan grew into more than just skateboarding. Now, it offers education in the arts, leadership training and basic studies in order for kids with no education be able to enter school as a 4th grader. In the past 4 years, 155 kids have graduated into Afghanistan's public school system. Oliver describes it as an "after school" club where students come and have instruction for one hour and then skateboard for another hour.
Oliver's first, humble, beginnings at the fountain, has grown to other countries like Cambodia and South Africa, helping kids who have nothing, have something and education. He has come a long way since leaving his safe home in Australia.