Grassroot Soccer Presents at International AIDS Conference 2014

At the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia from July 21-25, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) presented findings on our innovative programs and research. Jeff DeCelles, GRS Director of Curriculum & Innovation, gave an oral poster presentation on MCUTS, our research trial evaluating our innovative voluntary medical male circumcision intervention in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The findings, “A sport-based intervention to increase uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision among adult male football players: results from a cluster-randomised trial in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe”, can be found here.

Jeff DeCelles, GRS Director of Curriculum & Innovation, presented at the 2014 International AIDS Conference.

Additionally, DeCelles presented a poster on the SKILLZ Street programmatic assessment, which found female South African participants in the GRS SKILLZ Street program increased knowledge of local rape support services and held more gender-equitable beliefs. SKILLZ Street is a girl-focused GRS program that uses the power of soccer to reduce the spread of HIV, challenge gender norms, and promote better access to reproductive and other health services for female adolescents. Authors on the programmatic assessement include Katie Gannett, Jamison Merrill, Boitumelo Rakosa, Rebecca Hershow, Chris Barkley, and Jeff DeCelles from Grassroot Soccer, as well as Abigail Harrison from Brown University. The findings, “Linking at-risk South African girls to sexual violence and reproductive health services: A mixed-methods assessment of a soccer-based HIV prevention programme and pilot SMS campaign”, can be found here.



Grassroot Soccer Honors Mandela Day

Mandela DayOn July 18th Grassroot Soccer honored Mandela Day, an international day held on Nelson Mandela’s birthday to honor the legacy of South Africa’s former President, and his values, through volunteering and community service. With many activities going on throughout the GRS world, here’s a sample of the action from one of our sites: Khayelitsha, South Africa.

Grassroot Soccer teams up with international delegates from the World Congress of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology to paint a local nursery school (Sakhisizwe Educare Centre) for 67 minutes of service in honor or Nelson Mandela:
nursery school
Grassroot Soccer and The Community Organization Resource Centre (CORC) put their heads together and discuss creative ways to help South Africa’s youth take meaningful steps to a healthy and independent future. CORC supports a number of community organizations and takes a pragmatic approach to creating sustainable and self-reliant communities:CORC
RV United pilots the latest version of Ragball International, an income generation project in which young people produce handmade soccer balls from recycled material in exchange for a fair wage and entrepreneurial training:rv united ragball
Post submitted by Chris Barba.

GRS Harnesses the Power of Soccer to Speak to Youth

As the World Cup shows, soccer has the power to unite the world.

Soccer has other powers as well. Grassroot Soccer uses the universal language of soccer to empower youth to adopt healthy behaviours and prevent the spread of HIV.

RV UnitedMeet Ntombi,* who is a learner from Khayelitsha, South Africa’s second-largest township. “I never played before SKILLZ Street. I never thought about playing because it is not common for girls to play soccer in my community.”

Ntombi participated in Grassroot Soccer’s all-girls programme, SKILLZ Street, which combines fair play soccer with safe spaces for conversations that empower girls to ask questions and adopt healthy behaviours. Female role models from Khayelitsha, or “Coaches,” build meaningful relationships with the girls as they discuss issues that face them, as women, in their community. Guided by their caring and energetic Coaches, the girls on each “team” learn about their changing bodies, gender norms, and how avoid risky behaviours and protect themselves and others from HIV. Ntombi explains, “What stayed with me the most was learning how to play soccer and having conversations about what it’s like to be a girl with my team.”

The experience changed Ntombi’s outlook on women’s roles in the community, specifically within the realm of sports. “After SKILLZ Street, I thought it’s a good idea for girls to play soccer and I enjoyed it even though I wasn’t good.” She wanted to continue playing.

A number of Ntombi’s female peers had so enjoyed the opportunity to play soccer that they wanted to continue as well, despite the widely held local belief that girls cannot, and should not, play soccer. Khayelitsha—which is home to an estimated half a million people—did not have a single official girls’ soccer team, so the girls took the initiative to approach the Grassroot Soccer staff with a proposal to form their own squad. When Ntombi found out about the new team, she was eager to join. “I talked to some of my friends about playing and we were the first girls to join RV United, so we started coming to the centre after school to play.”

That was in 2012. Due to RV United’s powerful impact on the community, adolescent girls from the neighbouring areas have flooded in to join the team and a group of younger girls lobbied to form a junior squad. RV United has since grown to include 60 girls on three full squads spanning two age divisions.

Today Ntombi, who plays on this year’s undefeated team, reflects on what the experience has meant to her. “I’ve changed a lot. SKILLZ Street taught me how to protect myself from HIV, but now since I am always around Grassroot Soccer and RV, I am always reminded to stay healthy and have healthy behavior. RV helps me keep learning how to be healthy and a good person.”

Harnessing the power of soccer, Grassroot Soccer engages boys and girls in an HIV education programme that speaks to them. You can help provide more young people like Ntombi with the opportunity to learn about HIV prevention and healthy life skills by donating today.

*Name has been changed

Post submitted by Ali Gilbert and Claire Watt