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Jessica Fulford-Dobson

Meet the Skate Girls of Kabul

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Jessica Fulford-Dobson

When I first stumbled into Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s photos of these badass girls skating in Afghanistan I was completely enamored. Just the feel of it—young girls flying down ramps in traditional garb and proudly holding their decks! But the fact that the skateboards are actually giving girls confidence and getting them back into school is incredible. Here’s the story:

When Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich first visited Afghanistan in 2007, he knew he had to do something.  Wheeling through the streets of Kabul, he was struck by the number of kids working the roads, begging for money. As he saw it, the youth of Afghanistan had clearly been hit hard by the country’s 30 years of conflict. He was also stunned by how restricted the young girls were—they couldn’t play sports or ride bikes due to their prohibitive clothing.

But skateboarding, he realized, could provide a solution. So he and his friend took their three boards and started letting the kids play, teaching them to carve sidewalks and do kickflips. That’s how he started Skateistan, a non-profit that uses skateboarding as a hook for education and empowerment. 

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

It’s a wonderful program—Skateistan provides a safe space for low-income and displaced youth to play. 50% of the students are streetworkers, 40% are female. Kids who show interest are also shepherded into accelerated school programs to get them back into public schools. But the effort doesn’t stop there: Skateistan also monitors these kids for a few years to ensure that they don’t slip. 

The most heart-warming example I found was from Fulford-Dobson’s first photo. She spotted this beautiful 7-year old determined to master the board gripped in her “tiny hennaed hands.”

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

But that ferocity resonated in other ways as well. One year after attending Skateistan’s Back to School program, she had not only advanced three grades—enough to enter public school with her peers—but was still coming back to ride in her free time. The story makes me so happy. Since Skateistan launched, skateboarding has become the #1 sport in Afghanistan with female youth. And just reading the quotes from other girls at the facility, like this one, should warm your heart:   

 “When I’m up there, I feel free, like I’m flying. I like that feeling a lot.” – Hanifa, 14, Afghan Skater 

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

If you’re in London, be sure to check out Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s incredible exhibit Skate Girls of Kabul at the Saatchi Gallery, April 15-28. Or do what I'm doing and pre-order her book here.

And for more information on Skateistan, which now operates in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa, be sure to click here.

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

Courtesy Jessica Fulford-Dobson

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iStock
China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall
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iStock

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
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YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!

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