Fareed Wahidi is tearing it up. The 16-year old Afghan looks like he was born on a deck, plunging down a steep ramp and blasting off the other side. Until two years ago he’d never seen a real skateboard. Now he makes it look like part of his body.
“After I skated the first time,” he says, “I dreamt about it at night.”
A middle child out of six brothers and three sisters, skating is the thing that is his, a space he doesn’t have to share, but owns outright, by launching himself into it, over and over.
This simple thing, a chance to defy the laws of gravity even briefly, allows him to do the same with the conflict and poverty that are part of daily life for him and so many other children in Afghanistan.
This is how it happened: in 2007, Oliver Percovich came to visit Afghanistan with a former aide-worker girlfriend. He brought three of his skateboards and the minute he put them down to ride, he was surrounded by throngs of curious kids.
This motivated him to start a small skating school in Kabul, which became Skateistan. The idea was to empower children here, especially working street kids and girls, giving them a chance to have fun, while learning the values of quality, ownership, creativity, trust, respect, and equality, according to their mission statement.
In 2009, Skateistan completed an indoor skatepark and educational facility more than 5,000 square meters in size. It’s filled with ramps, kickers, and flat-bars. Here more than 1,200 members, almost half of them girls, can come to ride without fear.
The park was built on space donated by the Afghan Olympic Committee and is near the grounds of the Olympic Stadium, where the Taliban used to stage public executions.
But that’s history Fareed Wahidi can’t really remember, nor does he want to.
All text and photos by Kevin Sites.
Kevin Sites is a rare breed of journalist who thrives in the throes of war. As Yahoo! News’s first war correspondent between 2005 and 2006, he gained notoriety for covering every major conflict across the globe in one year’s time and fostering a technology-driven, one-man-band approach to reporting that helped usher in the “backpack movement.” Kevin is currently traveling through Afghanistan covering the tumultuous country during "fighting season" as international forces like the US pullout. Keep coming back to VICE.com for more dispatches from Kevin.
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