|Focus||youth empowerment, girls' education, trust-building|
|Area served||Afghanistan, Cambodia, South Africa|
|Products||Skate Shoes, Clothing, Safety Gear, Book|
|Method||skateboarding, creative arts, sports, innovation|
|Key people||Oliver Percovich, founder & Executive Director|
Skateistan is an international non-governmental organization that works with youth from a range of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds to build trust and to provide empowerment through a combination of skateboarding and educational activities. It was established in May 2007 with the opening of the first Skateistan facility in Kabul, Afghanistan. It has since expanded, with project sites in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Skateistan was founded by Australian Oliver Percovich who first traveled to Afghanistan in February 2007. Skateistan is one of the first international development initiatives to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes.
The idea of Skateistan began in 2007 when Percovich arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, with three skateboards and quickly met a group of local boys and girls eager to learn how to skate. What began as informal skateboarding lessons at a local empty fountain turned into something much bigger. Percovich perceived the lack of opportunities for young Afghans, especially girls, and realized that skateboarding was a way to engage them and build community. Skateistan took shape in the following years, with the help of international donors and skateboard industry partners. It was officially registered as an Afghan NGO in July 2009.
On October 29, 2009, the 1750m2 Skateistan park officially opened, giving boys and girls in Kabul a secure environment and an indoor skatepark to come to every week.
Skateistan offers free skateboarding classes to youth in Kabul at its indoor facility through a dedicated international and Afghan team. Skateistan is open to girls and boys of all socio-economic backgrounds between the ages of 5 and 17. Students are provided with both skateboarding and classroom lessons.
The organization says that by "using skateboarding as a hook for engaging Afghan youth and breaking down social barriers, Skateistan aims to empower girls and boys from all ethnicities, abilities and social classes. Furthermore, once they come to Skateistan there is also the opportunity in classroom lessons to provide education, skills and platforms for self-expression".
Skateistan currently has over 350 regular students, ages 5–17. They come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds including Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek and Tajik children. Skateistan strives for gender equality in one of the most gender-biased societies in the world. Nearly 40% of Skateistan's students are girls. Additionally, approximately half of Skateistan’s students work on the street and many are illiterate due to economic pressures keeping them out of school. In contrast, others are the children of government ministers. By learning and having fun together the youth build trust and understanding despite their differences.
Operating six days a week, the Skateistan facility in Kabul runs skateboarding and classroom activities, in addition to classes for disabled youth, advanced photography and film classes, and a Back-to-School program for streetworking children. Girls and boys attend on separate days. All students come once a week for one hour of skateboarding and one hour of classroom programming, taught by both Afghan and international instructors.
Classroom lessons are designed to be accessible for both literate and illiterate students by incorporating games and hands-on creative arts projects such as photography, painting, theatre, and puppetry. Past curriculum themes have been environmental health, the future of Kabul, peace in Afghanistan, gender equality, and culture. The skate sessions have 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, 30 minutes of instruction and 10 minutes of “free skating.” Skateistan provides all skateboards and safety equipment, and classes are supervised by 2-6 instructors. Students that show potential have the chance to become instructors in the program.
On May 2, 2011 Skateistan received a land donation in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, on which to build a second facility. The 6000m2 area of land was given by the Governor of Balkh and the Afghan National Olympic Committee (ANOC). Construction began in summer/fall 2011 with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, and the facility officially opened in May 2013.
Volunteers and fundraising
Although Skateistan is an Afghan NGO based in Kabul, it also has an international network of groups in other countries supporting the project. Skateistan has over 250 volunteers in 14 countries assisting the program in Afghanistan. They are part of organizations ranging from associations to non-profit corporations, and oversee Skateistan’s fundraising efforts and promotion within a given country. In 2009 over US$100,000 was raised by volunteers. In 2010 approximately US$200,000 was raised around the world.
A number of the volunteers in Skateistan's international network also help Kabul directly in various capacities, including graphic design, website assistance, database development, brand development, media coverage, legal assistance, and shipping logistics.
Currently, Skateistan has volunteers operating in the following countries:
- Australia (non-profit entity), Austria, Canada, Cambodia, Czech Republic, Denmark (club), France, Germany (association), Norway, Poland (non-profit association), Sweden, Switzerland (association), Great Britain and the United States(non-profit corporation).
Since 2008, Skateistan has been featured in well over 650 media pieces in more than 30 countries.:
Projects outside Afghanistan
Skateistan Cambodia is located in the country's capital, Phnom Penh, and was established in 2011. In Spring 2014, Skateistan launched its fourth project in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Construction of the Kabul skate/educational facility was funded by the embassies of Germany, Norway, Denmark and Canada. Running costs for 2009-2013 were primarily funded by the embassies of Norway and Denmark. In 2011, the German Federal Foreign Office committed to funding a second Skateistan facility in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.
There are currently two documentaries about Skateistan that have been released. In late 2010 a 9-minute short documentary entitled "Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul"  was released by director Orlando Von Einsiedel on the internet. In January 2011 a full-length documentary entitled "Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul" premiered at the Santa Barbara film festival in the United States. The full-length was directed by Kai Sehr and will be showing in various festivals worldwide throughout 2011.
- 2012- The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan, Published by Skateistan, ISBN 978-3-00-037631-3