A Skateboarding School in Afghanistan

(Image: Tyler Hicks for the New York Times.)

Photographer Glen E. Friedman, who is the subject of our Boing Boing Video episode tomorrow -- he shot some of the greatest skateboarding photos of our time -- pointed me to this interesting story in the NYT from a few days ago. Glen asks, "Isn't there someone [reading this blog post] who can figure out how to get this guy some more boards for these kids?" Snip:

Afghan youth have learned to recover almost instantly from such routine violence. One person determined to inject some normalcy into their lives is Oliver Percovich. A 34-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, he plans to open this country’s first skateboarding school, Skateistan, this spring. He sees sport as a way to woo students into after-school activities like English and computer classes, which are otherwise reserved for the elite.

“Teenagers are trying to dissociate from old mentalities, and I’m their servant,” Percovich said. “If they weren’t interested, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

Now, when he pulls his motorcycle into a residential courtyard here, a dozen youngsters pounce before it comes to a stop, yanking six chipped skateboards with fading paint off the back. The children, most participating in a sport for the first time in their war-hardened lives, do not want to waste any time. Their skateboard park is a decrepit Soviet-style concrete fountain with deep fissures. The tangle of novice skaters resembles bumper cars more than X Games.

But Percovich has raised the money needed to build an 8,600-square-foot bubble to house the nonprofit Skateistan complex, and the Kabul Parks Authority has tentatively donated land. He is still waiting for official permission to begin the project. And since a spate of kidnappings and the car bombing in late November, he has reduced his daily sessions at the fountain to once or twice a week.

Among those who look forward to his visits is Maro, an elfin 9-year-old girl who was terrified of skateboarding at first. “It gives me courage, and once I start skating, I completely forget about my fears,” she said.

Full story, pics of super cute Afghan kid skaters, and a neat video all here: Skateboarding in Afghanistan Provides a Diversion From Desolation (NYT). Here is the Skateistan website. And here's how you can help.