I'm a skater from Melbourne, Australia. I grew up in Papua New Guinea and have been skateboarding since 1980. I've travelled to over 45 countries and lived in Afghanistan since 2007. I never thought that I would be the Director of a non-profit and it definitely was not my plan going to Afghanistan. Some local girls and boys started skating and it all grew from there.

We currently have a fundraising drive called 'Keep Skateistan Rolling', and we appreciate all your support!


My Proof: http://imgur.com/fqxUWjb

update I'm signing off now but I'll check back in the next few days for any questions that have come up

Comments: 75 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

greyskymornings7 karma

Hello Oliver! I've been following Skateistan's activities since 2010, and I'm so excited to see the growth of the organization into what it is today! My community mounted a big effort to create a free skate park in our hometown and it was such a cool experience!

I've always been interested in volunteering for Skateistan, but I'm embarrassed my skills wouldn't be up to snuff! Are all of your volunteers experienced on the board, or were there some newbies?

Thanks! Continue your great work!

SkateistanOllie4 karma

Please see response to junbones. Thanks for your support and interest!

Woofington5 karma

My best friend Chris recently flew out to begin work with Skatistan. I am terrified for his safety. Can you give him a bro-hug for me. I absolutely love what you guys are doing, I think its admirable and righteous as heck. However in the back of my mind I still worry.

What is your biggest safety issues/concerns out there?

SkateistanOllie10 karma

Hi there, Chris has been a trooper through what is a relatively unstable period in Afghanistan due to the elections. I don't think there is anything to be terrified about and we are doing all we can to keep safe at all times. The biggest safety concerns are terrorist attacks that usually target the Afghan government or the international military forces. YOu really have to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Statistically it is quite safe for NGO workers with the biggest killer in Afghanistan being faulty heaters putting out CO2 in wintertime. brohug delivered

maryamhadalamb4 karma

What's your favorite Afghan food?

SkateistanOllie1 karma

chopan kebab! Preferably in the mountains around a fire after a hike.

Frajer3 karma

How do you make the kids aware of your program?

SkateistanOllie4 karma

Most kids find out from other students that are already involved. I have been recognized by street working kids numerous times in various locations in Kabul so there are loads of kids that know about what we do. There are about 70,000 street working kids in Kabul so there is no shortage of potential new students

inspectorhotdog3 karma

I just want to say I love your program and all the work you've done. I've been following Skateistan for years.

I'm currently doing a project in Tacloban in the Philippines related to the same thing.

"Yolanda stole our boards" is what the kids say there. Basically, I've been doing a drive, and I find that skateboarders are the hardest to get donations from. Did you contact stores, distributors, etc?

I've been originally collecting from skaters first, then stores, and eventually I will get to distributors. What would you suggest?

SkateistanOllie3 karma

I would look at it in another way. Instead of trying to get as many boards as possible, try to do as much with the boards that you have. We always tried to work with the minimum amount of boards possible as shipping is always a pain. Also we never distributed boards out to kids. We lent them the boards for the sessions then take them back again. When distributors heard about what programs we were running they supported us. The more you can prove yourself, the easier it is to get the support you need.

inspectorhotdog1 karma

Oh, that is genius. I appreciate this. Can I contact you later on as the project evolves?

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Sure, I'd love to hear how it all turns out

ScooterPops3 karma

What is the best thing you can get for like 10 bucks?

SkateistanOllie3 karma

I once bought brand new rear view mirrors and clutch and brake levers and cables for my motorbike in Kabul for under 10 bucks. I was pretty stoked

kbhat951 karma

Just to clarify, in Afghanistan?

Maxvh0 karma

Not to be massively politically insensitive, but I kind of have to be to tell you this. Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan and you can remember that because it sounds like kaboom. Hope that hep you remember :)

SkateistanOllie1 karma

When did I forget Kabul?

TR3XHUNT3R3 karma

How much (if any) criticism is received towards your group? Who does this criticism usually come from?

SkateistanOllie3 karma

Not everyone is going to be happy with an organisation that provides girls with education and sport opportunities in a conservative country like Afghanistan. There are numerous things that we can do to counter that like having minimum foreigner involvement and maximum Afghan representation for the organisation, do heaps of home visits and get religious leaders involved. Overall we have pretty broad support, but we don't take it for granted.

TR3XHUNT3R1 karma

Thanks for the reply! It makes me happy knowing a group like yours exists.

SkateistanOllie1 karma


kbhat953 karma

When you first set up Skateistan in Kabul back in 2007, did you face any issues with the Government? Or did they occur when you actually registered as an NGO in 2009?

I'd actually be surprised to here you say there were no issues at all. :P

SkateistanOllie3 karma

I didn't have much money for the first 2 years so my biggest problems were financial. We registered as a NGO in 2009. I also thought that non-profits should work closely with government, even if government has limited capacity, so I became an advisor in International Relations to the President of the Olympic Committee in Afghanistan. He kept a lot of potential trouble makers at bay. He was a former army general and his previous position was as the deputy minister of the interior so he had a lot of clout. It was a very successful afghan/international collaboration.

kbhat952 karma

'so I became an advisor in ...'

Just like that? How did that happen?

SkateistanOllie3 karma

endless networking with Afghans. Lots of dead ends and lots of people that wanted to get something out of me. However I had been skating with Afghan kids in the street for a year and a half by that point. I invited the President of the Olympic Committee to come out and check out what I was doing in the streets. He was pretty surprised to see the trust that had been built between the street kids and some guy from Australia. That really impressed him. Also there was a young guy that had just started working for the president and we both connected really well and he put in strong words for me.

junbones3 karma

What are you looking for in an application to become a volunteer to go to Afghanistan or Cambodia ?

SkateistanOllie5 karma

Overall we don't take that many volunteers into our programs because we want to create as many opportunities for our local staff as possible. We used to take a lot more, however now it would be less than 3 per year and we receive hundreds of applications. We are looking for an exact fit for the position with a lot of previous experience and we would like that it has the chance to become a long term employee for Skateistan.

junbones1 karma

Thank you for the answer. That's what I feared... What are the ways I could help you from home (I'm French) ? I know about fund raising, are there other ways ?

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Please get in touch through our website. [email protected] handles all fundraising efforts! Thanks for your interest in supporting what we do!

AlexBerghe2 karma

What's your worst experience as a skater ? :D

SkateistanOllie2 karma

Twisting my ankle and not being able to skate properly for 2 years.

abdullahmakhdum2 karma

Dear Skateistan Ollie,

As you know better that in Afghanistan there are some privileges to those who are aged from 5-18 so Does Skateistan have any plan making skateboarding publicly in Afghanistan? and Is Skateistan going to build an outdoor Skatepark for public skateboarders?

Waiting for your kind response?

SkateistanOllie2 karma

Thanks for your question. We currently focus on opportunities for youth under the age of 18, however if there was a collection of young people over the age of 18 that wanted to build a public skatepark we would try to support in any way that we could. The biggest problem with a public outdoor park would be that it would be hard for poorer Afghans to take part because of the cost of a skateboard. Also it is very dusty in Afghanistan so an outdoor facility would need to be continuously cleaned

thewindcriesjackson2 karma

How long did it take to get Skateistsn working and doing well? I love what you're doing please keep up the great work

SkateistanOllie2 karma

It took about 3 years to get to the point where I wasn't scared on a daily basis that everything would fall apart! Thanks for the support.

okkhambyuter2 karma

Hey man :) i'm building a skatepark and skateshop in india, in my tiny town of gwalior (it's in madhya pradesh) , and am really inspired by the work you guys do at skateistan!

There's no previous presence of skateboarding or skateboarders here, what would your advice be for a person in my position? things that you learned as you began skateistan?

SkateistanOllie3 karma

Find really great people to support you and that are excited about skateboarding. So much is about the culture that you can build around a skate spot. An awesome skatepark with no dedicated skaters is nothing compared to a terrible spot with an enthusiastic group of people that love skateboarding. I grew up in the country in Australia and me and my brother skated for hours and hours on a little strip on concrete.

okkhambyuter1 karma

Thanks :) yeah i'm always looking for equally passionate people to skate with, there's a great community going in bangalore and delhi, also a girl who volunteered at skateistan helped out at a build i took part in at kovalam. We're far and apart, but the skate community in india is growing. Thanks for being such a great inspiration to all of us!

SkateistanOllie1 karma


mrfolnovic2 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA! Been following the project for a couple months now and I think it is awesome.

Question: What has been your guy's greatest obstacle so far and how did it affect the project?

SkateistanOllie2 karma

I think the biggest obstacle is doing something that most people see as really unconventional. This is also an advantage. I was so nervous asking people to support a skateboarding project that I was ready to answer just about any question that they would have about it and was continuously thinking how to make it a really great project.

nabeelong2 karma

Hey Man i really appreciate what you do man, im afghan but have been born in america, ive been skating out here but its awesome that kids in afghanistan get the opportunity to skate out there, my question is do you recieve any kind of trouble out there bro. like with the talibs and what not?

SkateistanOllie2 karma

We have heaps of support from many different parts of society in Afghanistan. We slowly built networks of support. We really need to get everyone behind what we are doing to be able to do it in the long run.

Rawanwbu2 karma

Do you welcome volunteers from all over the world? Do you support them and is there any volunteering opportunities for this summer or next summer? Thanks :)

SkateistanOllie1 karma

We welcome volunteers from all over the world. Please check our website for opportunities that pop up from time to time. Also see my answer to junbones.

Ksheriff261 karma

Do you guys provide any type of life lesson workshops as well or is it just skateboarding? Cool idea... I do something very similar with golf in the states. Progression is the never ending high!

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Great question! Of all our activities, skateboarding makes up about 35%. The children all between 5-17 do arts based curriculum in our Skate-educate-integrate Program. We also have a Back-to-School Program in Afghanistan which teaches regular school subjects such Maths, Dari and Koran studies. In Cambodia, South Africa and Afghanistan we also do street outreach. In addition there is our Youth Leadership Program. More information on all our programs can be found on our website skateistan.org

hoodyuplod1 karma

why are you not interested in Africa most populous country Nigeria ? do you have any plan of extending you non profit there ?

SkateistanOllie1 karma

We are interested in many countries. It is a very big commitment to start in a new country. Unlike many other Sport for Development programs we don't want to just go in and run some programs and leave again. Anything that we start needs to have a very long term plan and there needs to be money and people to be able to carry out the plan. If we do go to Nigeria one day, which I hope we do, then we will be there for the next few decades!

cookie-cutter1 karma

I was in Kabul in 2011 and saw some local kids absolutely tearing it up. I had skated some when I was 14 but these kids were doing tricks I could have never accomplished. Thanks for helping to support those kids. I made it a point to look out for them as best I could and it was nice to see them smile like they did. So this stays up: What is your favorite Tony Hawk game and who is your favorite skater?

SkateistanOllie2 karma

Thanks for the support. My favourite Tony Hawk game is the 2nd one and my favourite skater is Steve Caballero.

ginger-lightning1 karma

Hey Oliver, keep up the great work! Its great to see someone taking skating and turning it into something so beneficial to society on a large scale.

During your time in Afghanistan have you ever gotten into some sketchy situations where you felt threatened whilst skating or otherwise?

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Thanks for the kind words. In Afghanistan I haven't felt that I have been in many situations that have been more sketchy than other places in the world, but it is different. For being there for 7 years and trying lots of things and nothing really bad happening shows that you can be at the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere.

theburdenofculture1 karma


SkateistanOllie2 karma

Overall the industry has been really supportive. I think you need to look at it from the skate industries side as well. Core brands have been in steady decline for the past few years and they still have been ready to open up their wallets and support Skateistan even when they are battling for survival themselves. Current sponsors are Fallen, Zero, Spitfire, TSG and Theeve who all do co-brandings with us and provide us with equipment for our skateparks. That being said in the early days there were many that were not responsive to support requests, but in their defense I hadn't really proved yet that Skateistan was worthy of their support.

liveit_breatheit1 karma

Hi Oliver! My name is Lisa, I'm a longboarder living in New Zealand and came across your website recently and was very overwhelmed. It's so inspiring to see someone who is making a difference for someone else's life (especially children) through skating! The question I have for you is, did your team receive my email regarding a fundraiser I wish to hold in a couple of months? Keep up the great work and I look forward to hearing from you. Cheers, Lisa Love ya work, work ya love.

SkateistanOllie1 karma

I'll let the team know that you got in touch and we all hope that your planned fundraiser is successful!!

girlskateuk1 karma

Hi Ollie,

We would love to know current percentage of girls taking part in Afghanistan, and why you think that the female participation at Skateistan is so high compared with more developed countries? Do you think that it acts as a temporary escape from the violent surroundings or do you think it's more to do with having no pre-conceived notions that skateboarding is a boys sport? Thanks! www.girlskateuk.com

SkateistanOllie3 karma

The current percentage of girls skateboarding in Afghanistan is 43%. It is so high because we prioritize girls and put most of our resources towards the girls programs. It is one of the only sports that girls can do as it is seen as an activity appropriate for girls, while other sports are seen as activities that only boys should do. Other people's perceptions are always powerful forces on girls participation. If girls see other girls doing it, thats the best way to get them excited to try it as well. If girls only see boys doing it then they probably won't try it themselves. In Afghanistan many young girls are so excited that for the first time in their lives they can do something that others find cool and they can do it - and almost no one else knows how. You have to see old men watching a girls skate demo here, they are shocked and they girls are proud as punch.

marapbecker1 karma

Hi Oliver, I am from Porto Alegre, the capital of the southernmost state in Brazil, Rio Grande do SUL. Have you ever consider bringing Skateistan to Brazil where there are some kids at risk? Mara

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Its really nice to hear from you and others in Brazil that are interested in bringing our programs to your country. It is a big commitment to start a project in a new country like Brazil, because we want to create change over the long term. There are many projects that we term "hit and run" where they go in, do something small then leave again. We don't want to do that so it takes a lot of time to plan and we need lots of resources in place to make a move to a new country like Brazil.

Platefaced1 karma

I know you get visiting pros like Kenny anderson who have been to skateistan. I imagine they do a demo of some sort for the kids. Surely that must absolutely blow their minds as to what is possible on a skateboard compared to what they have seen before or do get shown professional videos from abroad? I guess I'm just curious as to how the demos are received. Could you expand on them? Keep up the good work!

SkateistanOllie1 karma

We have had numerous professionals visit and give demos. The kids are stoked, but mostly they just want to skate together with them rather than watch. We have had Tony Hawk, Jamie Thomas, Kenny Reed, Cairo Foster and many others visit and do demos for the students. We don't show them videos because we dont want to influence culture with clothes, music etc. Also many skate videos have alcohol in them which is not suitable to show to kids in Muslim countries.

MYchocolatekit1 karma

hi oliver, love all you are doing! we have a skate park in marble falls, tx and when I return for the winter would love to do a fundraiser. do you have a directory of skaters from texas in the program of which one could come do the fundraiser? Is there a press kit for this? thx and keep skating!!! ;0)

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Thanks for the support. If you go to our website there is a form to fill out to do a fundraiser. We don't have a directory of others but a good way to find people is to post a comment on our Instagram or FB feeds. Maybe others can find you there and would like to support your idea for a fundraiser.

packy1041 karma

Hi Oliver! Glad to hear skateboarding is making a difference in the world. I understand Fallen has taken part and are donating a certain amount of money from shoe sales. Did Jamie Thomas contact you about it or did you contact them? Also, what could I do to help with Skatistans cause? Thank you for your time Oliver!

SkateistanOllie1 karma

I got in touch with Black Box in Australia and they wanted to support the initial project in Afghanistan. From there the relationship grew. Jamie Thomas has been supporting Skateistan since 2008! It is awesome to have this sort of support.

peacefulpeace1 karma

Hey man... very inspiring work, honestly. I've been a long time fan!

Also.. I'm Afghan, and I've been skating most of my life. Can I work with you guys or what? I wanted to apply in the past, but I know you require a long commitment, and I hadn't graduated from University yet. I just graduated from school and I believe I am ready to take the leap!

SkateistanOllie1 karma

Really happy that you have been following us and that you would like to support us. It all depends on your skills and experience. Usually we haven't taken on anyone under about 23 years of age from overseas. There are many ways of supporting us. Please refer to our website and social media channels for different ways to get involved.