Children With Skateboards Soar!

An innovative NGO provides kids with community and boosts their confidence.

A smiling young girl does an ollie move at a skateboard park.

(lzf /

For skateboarders, racing down a ramp, pivoting, and high jumping represent freedom and creativity. No wonder there are more than 11 million active skateboarders around the world. One very special organization, Skateistan, has opened this exciting world to children and teens in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa, building confidence, bravery, and a sense of community.

Skateistan is redefining the future of youth, and it all started with one man, Oliver Percovich, and three skateboards, according to Skateistan. In 2007, while Australian skateboarder Percovich was working in Kabul, he loaned out his skateboards to kids. They loved it so much, they told him, “We want more skateboards!”

Percovich wanted to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan and when he realized that 70 percent of the population was under the age of 25, he knew that he must start with the youth. Those three skateboarding kids soon multiplied into hundreds. Skateistan is now an international NGO and won the NGO of the Year in 2009.

The beauty about skateboarding is its combination of creativity, freedom, and companionship. In Afghanistan, where social norms prevent girls from doing sports, skateboarding is allowed as it is considered a toy. Flying on their boards, many young Afghani girls feel liberated and brave for the first time in their lives.

Skateistan’s volunteers first started by going into the streets with the equipment, offering lessons to street kids. The organization then received funds to open an indoor facility, Afghanistan’s first skatepark ever. Seeing that more than half the kids were not in school, they opened a learning center.

In fact, after the Taliban, only 13 percent of women in Afghanistan knew how to read and write, and many children lived in temporary camps and orphanages. Skateistan’s Back-to-School accelerated learning program enabled kids to return to public school. Using their Skate and Create arts-based approach, kids have fun as they learn about the environment, human rights, nutrition, and culture. 

Skateistan is also transforming children’s lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Johannesburg, South Africa. The approach is similar; collecting street kids, offering learning, and creating a community. This family offers kids an opportunity to learn the importance of being helped and how to help others.

In April 2020, Afghanistan’s newest skateboard school opened in Bamyan, according to The Guardian. It is a safe place for girls to express and challenge themselves, and also offers a facility for kids with special needs. The brand-new Bamyan skatepark opened in May, 2021, emboldening some 800 enthusiastic kids to literally fly through the air.

This feeling will be celebrated across the world on June 21 when skateboarders gather for international Go Skate Day. Many more kids are now connected to this exhilarating sport. With skateboarding, they have been given a passion, a special family, and confidence. And as they fly by, they all have smiles on their faces!

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