Last summer we had to suspend our programs in Afghanistan and temporarily close our Skate Schools as the government fell. Many of our staff fled the country at that time and became refugees, scattered around the world.
What they had experienced in those last few days and weeks in Afghanistan was immensely traumatic. But for a lot of our staff, they still had the same desire to serve their community, wherever they are. This formed into an idea: we could run our programs within the refugee camps. By doing this, we could continue to keep the vibes of Skateistan Afghanistan flowing. We could help Afghan children who had fled their country and everything they knew, and we could also help some of our staff members start to build new lives in their adopted homes.
It has taken some time, but we are so happy to say that we now have Skateistan programs running in refugee camps and resettlement locations. In Rochester, NY we have been working with the amazing Friends of ROC City Skatepark. They run a program called Rolling Rochester Resettlement Project which is aimed at supporting refugees through skateboarding. At the end of February we held a demo event to encourage children to sign up and now we’re able to get started with our Skate and Create program. Our Educators there (Zainab, Belqisa, Farzad and Sohaib) are all Afghan staff who want to continue using what they learned at Skateistan to empower others. We are awed by their amazing spirit.
Two of our Youth Leaders, Saeeda and Marzia, fled to Albania as Kabul fell. They expressed their desire to start some skate programs there and worked with our team to get things off the ground. Dr Nida Ahmad, a Researcher and Executive Board Member of the Muslim Women in Sport Network, has been incredibly helpful in supporting our Educators and helping to smooth the process so we can start programs. Skate gear arrived from our Berlin HQ a couple of weeks ago and now these inspiring girls are now running Skate and Create three times a week. At the moment they are waiting to establish a permanent location for their programs, but in the meantime, they are running sessions in a hotel carpark. Way to make the best of a tricky situation!
And lastly we’re so happy to tell you about our work in Belgium. Belgium took a significant number of Afghan refugees and has several camps around the country. Although we don’t have staff there to run programs, we have been so happy to link up with Fedasil and Kapow, two incredible partners who are helping us to implement programs in two refugee camps (Koksijde and Ghent). Both camps ran demonstration days in late February and are now running Skate and Create sessions weekly for both younger and older students.
We never would have thought that we could create something positive out of the dark days in Afghanistan last summer. We are amazed by the spirit and determination of our Afghan staff, many of whom started out as Skatiestan students, who now want to pass on what they have learned, even when they’re going through such difficult times themselves. For us, this is the true meaning of our vision: creating future leaders for a better world.
If you want to support Skateistan to run more programs like these, consider joining the Citizens of Skateistan today.