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SKILLZ+ Provides Support to HIV+ Youth

In Grassroot Soccer’s SKILLZ+ program in Zambia, HIV+ Coaches deliver support to HIV+ youth around issues such as stigma, disclosure and treatment adherence. Working out of clinics around Lusaka, SKILLZ+ offers a safe and inclusive environment for HIV+ youth to openly discuss social concerns and support each other in adhering to HIV treatment. Central to the program’s success are the SKILLZ+ Coaches, role models who identify with the issues participants face, while providing encouragement and advice. Coach John is one of twenty SKILLZ+ coaches in Lusaka, and he shared with us his experiences as an HIV+ youth and the impact of GRS programming.

HI V Testing

When a young person tests positive for HIV, they need additional support. SKILLZ+ helps them deal with their status.

“Being a kid with HIV can be very difficult,” John said. “Because of the stigma, you feel you can’t talk to anyone about your fears or problems, even adults. I used to try to deal with everything by myself.” One of the major goals of SKILLZ+ is to create safe spaces and support networks for youth to talk about issues related to their HIV status. “It’s much easier to talk with other youth that are going through the same thing,” John explains, “You’re not worried about what other people will think.” Social stigma has been cited as one of the main difficulties in treatment adherence of HIV+ patients, as being seen visiting a treatment clinic can affect one’s reputation in the community and lead to negative assumptions1.  According to John, this is where SKILLZ+ makes a real impact: “It starts with the ‘Coach’s Story’ in the first practice. Having someone you look up to admit to their status and tell their story without any shame gives you confidence and encouragement”.

SKILLZ+ sesstion

SKILLZ+ deals with issues such as disclosing one's HIV status, treatment adherence, and stigma.

John also testified to the profound impact SKILLZ+ has on coaches. “It has really empowered me. For the first time, I am comfortable being myself and I have become a role model to my participants and my family, even those older than me. I am proud to be there for my younger brother. He hopes to be a GRS Coach some day!”

Support

SKILLZ+ helps HIV+ youth support each other.

GRS is excited about future SKILLZ+ plans as a part of the ‘Bridging the Gap’ model; one that combines prevention education, testing and HIV+ support to ensure that all youth have a place on the GRS team. The message is simple, explains John: “Whatever your status, you have an important life to lead. Keep your head up, stay motivated and make healthy choices.”

1. Sanjobo, et al. 2008. Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance.

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GRS Zimbabwe Girls Compete in Street Child World Cup

Zimdonesia

Zimdonesia! The Zimbabwe and Indonesia teams celebrate a goal. (photo via Street Child World Cup)

This week is the Street Child World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, a global movement for street children to receive the protection and opportunities that all children deserve. The event has brought over 230 children from 19 countries to Brazil for football, an arts festival and conference for children’s rights – and Grassroot Soccer Zimbabwe was selected to bring a girls team to represent Zimbabwe in the event’s first girls-only tournament! The team of 8 girls, all GRS participants, is being led by GRS program officer Tanya Sibanda and coached by GRS curriculum and training officer and former Zimbabwe national team midfielder Amelia Chifodya.

Zimbabwe team, Street Child World Cup

The Zimbabwe Girls Team, Street Child World Cup 2014 (photo via Street Child World Cup)

After a big win against Indonesia in their first game, the girls became favorites for outstanding sportsmanship in fair play soccer… and the two teams even acquired the name “Zimndonesia” for celebrating each other’s goals. The girls had two more great games, against Brazil and El Salvador, losing by just one goal to the latter in the quarterfinals.

We’re proud to be a part of this fantastic event, and thankful to the Street Child World Cup and all the event sponsors for shining a light on the issue of children’s rights. In particular, we are grateful to the Vitol Foundation for helping our Zimbabwe girls show the world their passion and skill!

Zimbabwe girls team

Pre-match. (photo via Street Child World Cup)

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Grassroot Soccer plays with Barclays Legends at BPL Live Event

On March 29th-30th Barclays British Premier League Live made its debut in Johannesburg, with many fans in full kit, lots of sunshine and tons of soccer. Thirty thousand excited soccer fans came through Zoo Lake Park over two days for the ultimate fan experience, and Grassroot Soccer was excited to be a big part of the action!

Risk Field BPL Live

GRS Soweto demonstrates "Risk Field" while former Chelsea Captain Marcel Desailly looks on.

At the “Pitch Zone,” GRS Coaches conducted SKILLZ activities “Risk Field” and “Break Away” with young fans, along with Chelsea captain Marcel Desailly participating.

GRS team with Lucas Radebe

GRS Soweto snaps a pic with Leeds United and South African national team captain Lucas Radebe. Nelson Mandela once said of Radebe, "This is my hero."

Attendees and GRS Coaches had the chance to interact with BPL Legends including Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, Chelsea Captain Marcel Desailly, Charlton and South African footballer Mark Fish, and Leeds United and South African national team captain Lucas Radebe. They were also able to see the BPL Trophy in person and watch BPL matches on a big screen.

Check out a great set of photos from the event here.

Mark Fish and Mookie

GRS Program Coordinator Mookie Dube takes a break with Charlton and South African footballer Mark Fish.