My interest in non-profit skateboarding stems from the role of skateboarding as the ultimate outlet of accessibility. With little to no resources but wood with wheels and one’s understanding of their surroundings or built environment, it is limitless in opportunity for self-growth. Non-profit skateboarding organizations, such as Skateistan utilize skateboarding as an outlet for self-exploration and community building. I recently spoke with Rhianon Bader program manager at Goodpush, and Jessica Faulkner communication manager at Skateistan, to get some insight into their roles and goals to empower youth and build community across the world.
On a side note: In August 2021, Skateisan suspended its programs in Afghanistan for the first time since 2009. The future in Afghanistan is uncertain, many of the staff fled the country, Skateisan will keep supporting the children of Afghanistan, hopefully, restarting the programs soon. Information can be found on the Skatesian website.
Skateistan is an international non-profit organization with over 1,500 children enrolled in Skateistan programs in Jordan, Cambodia, and South Africa, with 50% of their students being girls. As told by Jessica Faulkner, the communication manager of Skateistan, the mission statement of Skateistan is to empower children through skateboarding and creative education. They aim to create future leaders for a better world, holding initiatives and outreach global programs centered around combatting inequalities through the empowerment of children.
Oliver Percovich founded Skateistan, and the roots began in 2007 when he started skating with children in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since then, Skateistan has extended its programs beyond Afghanistan. Their programs are for children ranging from 5 to 17 years of age, with an overarching focus on girls, children with disabilities, and children from low-income backgrounds. They run programs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the focus is on providing opportunities for girls and children living with disabilities. In addition to having a Skate School and outreach programs in Cambodia, they also have sessions at a Skate School in Johannesburg, South Africa. They host girls-only sessions here and have open programs five days a week available for children to attend after school. Skateistan also runs a program in Jordan in partnership with 7Hills Skatepark, which has organized skate programs in Amman for many years. Skateistan’s Jordanian outreach programs are currently in Zarqa and Irbid. The goal is to foster inclusive environments for children educationally, creatively, and physically. Over 200 students regularly attend their programs in Jordan and Cambodia, while South Africa has over 900 regular students. Most recently formed, Skateistan has started programs in Kenya and Bolivia in conjunction with the other projects.
In addition to running Skate Schools, Skateistan offers educational and creative resources in their current three locations to support children alongside skating in efforts for holistic personal growth. These programs serve to build life skills with social sports and structured learning and supply resources for creative learning and activities. Skateistan provides learning spaces and resources for children and their families to develop partnerships and support them through public education. The goal is to provide spaces in which students can express themselves creatively and expand their knowledge of the natural sciences and wellness. Additionally, under Skateistan is the Goodpush Skateboarding Alliance, an initiative to become a network for skateboarding projects worldwide to share information and knowledge. (source: skateistan.org)
Nora: What are the different cultural aspects that Skateistan addresses in the three chosen countries?
Jessica: The countries we work in all have different challenges, but one thing is true across all locations - there is a lack of safe spaces where children can play. Inclusion is also a big issue in all locations, with girls often being prevented or discouraged from participating in sports like skateboarding. We try to address this by providing safe spaces where children feel safe and free to learn and play. We run girls-only sessions, and we also adapt our programs to make them accessible for children living with disabilities. In our Skate Schools, many different languages, ethnicities, and social backgrounds come together. Our students find ways to overcome barriers through their shared love of skateboarding.
Nora: How is Skateistan supported?
Jessica: Skateistan is an NGO, supported entirely by donations. We have an incredible community of supporters, from individual skateboarders and amazing, innovative companies, to governments and foundations who share our vision of empowering children through skateboarding and creative education.
Nora: How did the involvement with the film Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) begin?
Jessica: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl) resulted from a long partnership with Grain Media (London). Grain had made a previous film about Skateistan called To Live and Skate Kabul. They got in touch with us to ask if they could make another, this time focused on our girls’ program in Kabul. The documentary was an amazing boost to us, helping to raise awareness of our work worldwide and connect us with new funding opportunities.
The Goodpush Alliance began in 2018 and operates as a platform of which more than 200 skateboarding youth development projects in more than 60 countries can learn from one another, connect, and collaborate. Goodpush started from Skateistan and offers toolkits for skate lessons, creative educational opportunities, and youth leadership. In addition, the focus of Goodpush is the children's safety, the inclusion of girls and children with disabilities, and integrating skateboarding with educational outcomes. (source: goodpush.org)
Shared by Rhianon Bader, the program manager of Goodpush Alliance: The Goodpush Alliance is an initiative by Skateistan to support and share knowledge among social skateboarding projects worldwide so that we can make a bigger impact together. Goodpush offers training and advice to grassroots and established skateboarding projects via online resources, workshops, support calls, and awards. Once you’re a member, you can access all our online support materials, plus join webinars that connect you to other social skate projects around the world. Goodpush also hosts events, such as our Goodpush Summit (September 2021), where the community can come together, exchange ideas and increase our impact.
Nora: What benefit do organizations have to join the Alliance? What’s the mission statement?
Rhianon: We don’t have a formal membership model – Goodpush is a resource base and a connector for the social skate community. People can sign up for free events, webinars, and calls to get advice on some of their challenges or future plans.
We are continuously putting out open-source curriculum, training, and templates so that social skate projects can get to the next level even if their resources and staffing are limited. For example, we have just launched a new e-learning platform with Goodpush e-courses all about running a skate project that any registered member on Goodpush.org can access for free!"
One of the biggest benefits for projects that become part of the Goodpush community is having opportunities to connect with similar initiatives worldwide, allowing them to share their knowledge and collaborate on key topics like inclusion, anti-racism, or mental health.
Click here to register your program.
Nora grew up in Florida and currently lives in Southern California. She is a contributor and intern at Withitgirl. She recently started skating and is enjoying the process of falling and getting better.
Film Production Company's (Grain Media)
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