SKATEISTAN – To Live and Skate Kabul

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The story of Skateistan is one filled with hope, however the story was rocked on Saturday when a teenage youth acted as a suicide bomber and killed 4 members of the Kabul based skateboarding organization.

Skateistan was founded in 2007 by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich as a non-governmental organization in Kabul, and has grown quickly into an international organization with headquarters in Berlin and development aid programs for youth in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Pakistan. The organization 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.

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After the Saturday bombing, on Monday confirming  the deaths a Skateistan statement was released stating, “We are very sad to learn that of the six young children confirmed to have passed away, four of them were students, volunteers and youth leaders at Skateistan, who were well-loved and well-known faces for the entire team in Kabul.”

A book about the organization and its programs titled “Skateistan: The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan” was published in June, and director Orlando Von Einsiedel’s documentary film “Skateistan: To Live and Skate in Kabul” was released in 2011.  The video below is gripping, and it’s hard to imagine an organization filled with so much promise has to go through something so heart breaking.

In an effort to rase money in memory of the victims Skateistan has established an emergency fund at Crowdrise.com with the following statement

“In the morning on Saturday September 8th, 2012, a suicide attack in Kabul claimed the lives of a number of young Afghans. The bomb was detonated outside of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) HQ, where many of the street working children of Kabul sell trinkets, scarves and chewing gum to help support their families. Kabul police have confirmed that the bomber was a fourteen year old boy, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior has released a statement that six people, including children, were killed, and five more were wounded.

We are very sad to learn that of the six young children confirmed to have passed away, four of them were students, volunteers and youth leaders at Skateistan, who were well-loved and well-known faces for the entire team in Kabul. Khorshid (14), Nawab (17), Mohammed Eeza (13), and Parwana (8), as well as Assad, a cousin of Korshid and Parwana, will be sorely missed each day that passes. In addition to the tragic deaths, Navid, a 14-year-old Skateistan volunteer, was seriously injured during the attack. He is currently in the hospital with serious shrapnel wounds and everyone at Skateistan is hoping he will recover safely.

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It is at these most difficult and heartbreaking of times that the harsh reality of many of our students’ lives becomes vivid. This is the second time in a year that a suicide attack in Kabul has directly impacted our students. We have decided to set up an Emergency Fund to provide assistance to Skateistan students and their families in times of need.

In Kabul, estimates of street working children are around 60, 000, and it is often these children that are the most exposed and vunerable. Kabul’s street working children frequently spend their days in traffic and come home to crowded dwellings, often in temporary camps without functioning heating, clean water systems, or enough food and clothing. At Skateistan approximately 50% of our students work in the streets.

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Money donated to Skateistan’s Emergency Fund will go directly into goods and services to support Skateistan students and their families in the case of an emergency, whether it be a war-related violence or a freezing winter. This includes immediate medical attention and medication, wood for heating and other household supplies, staple foods, proper burial in the event of death, and any other way assistance can be provided.

It is clear that Skateistan is not only a place of education and fun, but also a place of safety and a thriving community for youth from all social backgrounds. Skateistan is a place where kids can just be kids, but it is also a place where we offer opportunities for these children to grow, to access education, to gain confidence, build life skills, and empower youth to be agents of change.”

Tony Owen is a web developer, skateboarder, designer, musician, traveler and blogger. Founder of Arkitecht and Skateboarding Magazine.

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