in german there is this phrase "do one good deed a day". sure, not all of us comply with it. maybe because not all of us had been pathfinders before. pathfinder or not, we all should take it to heart. the ones take it to heart - the others create something huge out of it, like skateistan does. skateistan made it to its life-task to make afghanistan a better place.
amidst poverty and desperation you find world´s first co-educational skateboarding school. skateistan gives afghan children a place in society. it stands for equal rights and for breaking the circle of violence by opening up new vistas. they use skateboards as a tool of communication and among skills in skateboarding, healthy habits, civic responsibility, information technology, art and languages they bring joy and confidence into children´s life.
we got the great chance to talk with sophie friedel. sophie is a volunteer in skateistan. she has a lot to tell and she took the interview as an occasion for speaking about how skateboarding can connect people all over the world in class. they also talked about sisters and about smiling at other girls. please see below how they all got quite excited at these topics.

hey sophie, tell us a bit more about you. what´s your background? are you a pro skater, a teacher, both at the same time or just a hell of a good soul?
I am from a small farmers village in bavaria, germany but studied product design in the UK. growing up close to an alpine resort, I was teaching snowboarding, skateboarding and mountainboarding to other people but I am not a trained teacher. however, as a designer, I was trained to solve problems and look at systems and how they operate and this becomes very handy in my job right now. Product design for me has become too consumer driven and most of the time, things are made to make money and I decided to apply my skills in a different way. teaching as well as design comes down to human factors and you have to understand the people you are working with in order to make an impact and that’s what I am hoping to do right now.

please describe your feelings you had by getting into the airplane heading kabul.
I was pretty torn inside as I had all those people who love me worrying about me and telling me not to go but on the other hand I really wanted to go and be involved in the skateistan project. also when I left there was an attack against a foreigner guest house because of the presidential elections and I wasn’t sure what I am getting my self into. now, however, I am very pleased I made the step and got into the airplane.

googleing afghanistan brings masses of pictures showing military activities, opium plantations and women wearing burqas. are these pictures in accordance to reality? what´s the life in kabul like?
yes and no. the international and national army has a strong presence in the city, all women either wear burqas or headscarves and it is obvious that the long war history has ruined and destroyed the country as well as numbed the minds of the people. on the other hand, kabul is a very interesting city and lots of exciting projects are happening and the regular kabuli wants to get away from war and corruption. the majority of the afghan people just want to live in peace and pursue their ordinary lives.

what are you responsible for in skateistan?
my core responsibilities are the co-ordination of the educational classes, designing the curriculum, working on a skate park operational manual and HR management as well as the finance side of the day to day operations, and last but not least teaching kids how to skateboard of course.

it´s great to see lots of girls skateboarding in skateistan. do you recognize a difference in the approach to the board between girls and boys?
yeah, I am very happy to see so many girls on boards as well. its great to give them the opportunity to participate in a sport and also to provide them with a platform where they can interact with each other, which are both uncommon things for females in afghanistan. the approach to the board is pretty much the same between boys and girls, they are both fearless and learn super fast.

are skating girls even compatible with islam?
it´s super fantastic, skateboarding is a “girls sport” in afghanistan. all the traditional sports involved fighting (dogs, horses, birds, boxing etc.) and are purely man dominated, but skateboarding was introduced to afghanistan by a male and a female, so its naturally a sport for both sexes. interestingly enough, muhammad (founder of Islam and prophet of god) actually encouraged his second wife to take up sports, so yes according to the holy quran sport is for women too, but over the taliban it got forgotten.

how´s about the motivation of the kids? do they see skating like a gym-lesson or are they aware of the chance to grow with it and maybe get a pro skater and travel around the world one day?
we are working with more than 240 children per week and all of them are different. for most kids, skateistan is a save space where they can forget about their worries and be kids for a few hours. it´s one of the rare places in kabul where children from different social and ethnical backgrounds can interact with each other. many of them want to become doctors and engineers and skateboard pros at the same time. but we have a handful of kids who really want to be professionals and travel the world and they are trying really hard to fulfill their dream.

what do you take with you from the time in skateistan?
over the time here with the afghan kids I learned to be very patient, open minded, forgiving and un-judgmental.

what can people do who would like to help and support skateistan?
there are lots of different ways how people can help and support us. if you want to help you could for example buy a t-shirt, donate money, become a member of our club or organize a fundraising event. you could also get a volunteer in kabul or abroad, we always need a helping hand. for more info on all different possibilities on how to help skateistan please also visit our website.

sophie, thank you so much for taking time and kids, thank you for your sweetest smile and the supergreat drawings! we wish you all the best and we hope that many people found the little pathfinder in them. 

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