When we checked in last fall with Skateistan, an NGO that opened the first youth skate park in Afghanistan in 2009, the organization was reeling from the death of three of its young members in a suicide attack in September. Since then, however, there's been more hopeful news to report.
In December, the first full-length documentary about Skateistan was released on DVD. Skateistan: The Movie tells the story of how Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich and his then-girlfriend showed up in Afghanistan in 2007 with a couple of skateboards and a dream to teach the street kids of Kabul how to use them. Though several short Skateistan videos have been released since its launch, this is the first to explore in depth the organization's mission to give Afghan children, ages five-18, a safe place to play, build self-esteem, and help create the next generation of leaders to help rebuild the war-ravaged country.
Later that month, Skateistan was named among the top 100 NGOs in the world by Global Journal for its sustainability, innovation, and impact. The non-profit branched out to Cambodia in 2011, has been offering street sessions in Pakistan since 2010, and plans to launch Skateistan Mazar-e-Sharif later this year.
And in January, 12 Skateistan students in Kabul teamed up, long distance, with young members of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota to make Afghanistan's first skateboards. The cultural exchange, which was organized by The Connecting Dots Project, enabled young skaters from both countries to learn about each other's heritage.
The Skateistan kids then used pre-molded plywood from Create-a-Skate to design the geometry of their boards, cut and shaped the decks with a jigsaw, and hand painted them with Afghan and Lakota colors, symbols, and imagery. The 10 skateboards will be displayed at the Pine Ridge Reservation later this year before traveling elsewhere, including, possibly, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.