In Kabul, ten-year-old girls like Fazila Shrindul are taught to wear headscarves at all times, and are not permitted to play with, or even speak to, males who are not in their immediate family. Typically, males and females are strictly segregated from mixing together in Afghani culture. But thanks to Australian Oliver Percovich, Kabul children from all backgrounds are creating a common bond—on wheels.
Since 2007, Percovich has been leading a nonprofit club known as “Skateistan” at an old dried-out fountain in downtown Kabul. There, Percovich teaches curious kids how to skateboard, giving boys and girls, street beggars and middle-class children alike, the opportunity to socialize and learn from one another in a fun and wholesome environment. Many of the street kids have grown accomplished enough at skateboarding that they are now paid to instruct other children, and can make several dollars a day doing something they enjoy.
About 90 children currently participate in the skate program, but Percovich hopes to soon more than triple the organization’s size: he has received enough donations from private individuals and government bodies that he is now building a $1 million indoor skate park, which will also host educational classes for the children there.
“The boards are just our carrots,” Percovich told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re a way to connect with kids and build trust.”
Skateistan gives Percovich the opportunity to befriend the children and encourage them to pursue education. The group skating programs also help the children to learn that they may not be as different from others as they might have thought, and gives them the chance to nurture understanding among their own social groups.
“We’re just here to plant seeds—and then it’s up to the youth here to grow up and make changes in their own communities their own way,” said Percovich.
By Kathryn Hawkins for Gimundo, the site for good news, served daily. Sign up for our newsletter for more great stories and weekly giveaways!
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