In a country where girls are rigidly segregated from boys and rarely participate in sports, Skateistan has managed to bring boys and girls together. Dozens of children swarm across the fountain every day, sharing boards and showing off improvised skating moves.
Several former street beggars are paid a few dollars a day to instruct playmates on basic techniques. Others are middle-class children who otherwise would have little contact with poor street kids, or with children on the other side of Afghanistan's volatile ethnic mix.
"The boards are just our carrots," Percovich said, shouting over the clack-clack-clack of skateboard wheels. "They're a way to connect with kids and build trust."
For now, Percovich uses the skateboards to entice children into informal lessons and counseling sessions. But starting this fall, he hopes to bring the kids into classrooms.
A few miles away, ground was broken this summer on a $1-million indoor skateboard park that Skateistan is building with local and international donations on land given by Afghanistan's Olympic committee. Percovich says the children will be able to attend English and computer classes and learn "life skills" at the 19,000-square-foot park.
The park, outfitted with skateboarding surfaces and ramps, will be Afghanistan's largest indoor sports facility when it is completed, Percovich said.
In another initiative, Percovich has persuaded private donors to pay $60 a month to send children to Afghan schools. That program targets girls and young children.
"Maybe we can play some small part in keeping these kids from becoming insurgents later on," Percovich said. Skateistan's logo features a skateboard crushing an assault rifle.
... Despite the widespread violence in Afghanistan by the Taliban and other Islamic militants, Percovich said he doesn't feel threatened. In fact, he said, his reception as a skateboarder has been worse in many other countries.
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