Skateistan Afghanistan – for Confidence and PEACE
Talk about positive change efforts in the face of daunting challenges, Skateistan Afghanistan broke through all the barriers of a war torn society, non availability of funds, doubts about the success on building skating centers around, engaging the Afghan youngsters into the positive project, and finally establishing the sport as a favorite pass time for the YOUTH in Afghan land.
One would assume that these challenges would deter the foreign skateboarders who arrived in Kabul in 2007, but to our greatest astonishment, they were able to achieve much more than that. They started with just three skateboards and today they’ve got a skate school and an indoor skate’s facility and a team of extraordinary international volunteers in over 14 countries, who act as instructors and function in numerous other areas!
These amazing organizations have used skating as an empowerment tool to reaching out to young Afghan youths, breaking social barriers and educating them on making decisions on issues that affect them.
It sounds unbelievable, right? You bet! But Skateistan Afghanistan made it believable, who ever thought skating could be used as an empowerment tool? Skateistan Aghanistan did, and today they have been able to bring about tremendous changes in the lives of Afghan youths, creating a sport where it has never existed before, creating bonds that cut across social barriers, giving meaning in a war torn society and raising youths who have a voice.
Their skating school is a co-educational institution that combines skating and other educational facilities, children from different ethnicity and socio-economic background come together to learn, 40% of the students are girls in a society that is gender biased yet Skateistan Afghanistan using Skateboarding as a tool, have brought these young Afghans together to learn and to build trust and promote unity among them regardless of their differences.
Look what they’ve achieved lately!
“Skateistan is honoured to announce that one of our photos has been voted Peace and Sport “Image of the Year”. The photo was taken by Jake Simkin on June 21 2011, during Go Skateboarding Day in Kabul. It shows just a few of the 200+ Afghan girls and boys who marked that day by taking to the city streets to celebrate their sport, their culture, and their future.
According to Peace and Sport, over 5,000 people voted to elect the winning image. Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, announced: “This picture is particularly outstanding. It tells us better than a thousand words that sport is a universal language understood by children around the world, capable of building bridges for understanding and friendship between peoples…” He stated that this photo shows how skateboarding, “acts as a genuine vehicle for peace education, as well as encouraging gender equality and inter-cultural understanding in Afghanistan.”
Jesse Chilton, International Instructor shares with us how Skateistan Afghanistan has been able to achieve this within a short period of time!
Youth Leader: Hi Jesse, we are honored for your participation in the Youth Leader Magazine. First, what is your role in skateistan?
Jesse: I arrived in Kabul in June 2011 and my role is as Media Coordinator and International Instructor.
Youth Leader: How did skateistan start?
Jesse: Two Australian skateboarders bought their boards to Kabul in 2007 when they traveled here for work. As soon as they started skating in public, they were surrounded by the eager faces of children of all ages who wanted to be shown how to skate. Using the three boards they had with them, they developed a small skate school at the Mecroyan Fountain and at other spots around the city.
A group of older Afghan youth (aged 18-22) also shared the three boards to progress quickly in their new favorite sport—and so skateboarding hit Afghanistan. The founders’ success with their first students prompted them to think bigger: by bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, they would be able to teach many more youth, and also be able to provide older girls with a private facility to continue skateboarding.
On October 29, 2009, Skateistan completed construction of an indoor skatepark and educational facility on 5,428 square meters of land donated by the Afghan National Olympic Committee.
Youth Leader: What challenges did you (Skateistan) face?
Jesse: Skateistan has faced challenges in growing from a small street project to a major Afghan NGO with extensive indoor facilities. There were challenges one might expect from working in a war-torn country, such as raising the necessary funds and sourcing specialist equipment. All of these were overcome with time and a lot of hard work.
However, it was also a struggle to convince people of the seriousness and potential of the project. While it was obvious to Skateistan’s founders and original students that skating was a powerful tool for empowering youth, others literally had to see it to believe it.
Youth Leader: What are the success rates of your projects?
Jesse: One of our greatest successes is our balanced mix of students. The young people who use Skateistan’s facilities represent every ethnicity and socio-economic strata of Afghan society. Furthermore, approximately 40% of our registered students are female, which is a very rare achievement.
Every child who comes to Skateistan can learn at their own pace and participate in creative and sporting activities that most interest them as an individual. Everything we do is student-led. In this sense, we can say that we have a 100% success rate, as our method of working ensures that each child is having fun and realizing his or her own potential.
Youth Leader: How did you overcome all odds?
Jesse: From the outset, Skateistan has been a grassroots of ‘bottom-up’ organization. This means it operates solely according to what its young students want and need. This has been the key to our success.
Jesse: Next year, Skateistan will open a facility in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. It will be twice the size of the Kabul skatepark and will take the sport to hundreds more Afghan youth. Skateistan also has a project developing with great success in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
We will continue working according to our simply yet powerful mission statement, which is to use skateboarding as a tool for empowerment, in a place that it hasn’t existed before, to give young people a voice, and to give local people agency to shape projects according to need. The organization is very excited about what the future holds.
If you are passionate about positive change, if you’re a sports lover who is interested in exporting this sport to places where it doesn’t exist or if you wanna donate, please visit: www.skateistan.org
“Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul”
Damilola Balogun is a graduate of English and Education; loves putting smiles on the faces of people and she is an ardent lover for positive change. Hence, she is a volunteer with youth leader magazine. She loves playing volleyball, reading, arts and designing. She is currently pursuing a career in graphics designing. She believes in the power of self discovery as a tool towards utilizing our potentials.
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