YamkelaMeet a Grassroot Soccer champion – Yamkela, 14 years old, from Khayelitsha, a sprawling township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa where over 40% of the population is under the age of 19. For a girl in South Africa, the challenges are great: girls are up to four times more likely to be HIV positive than boys, teenage pregnancy rates are high, and drugs and gangs create an unsafe environment.

Yamkela says, “When I first got involved in Grassroot Soccer, I was initially attracted to the game, to playing soccer. I learned that in my own life, if I do this or that, there will be consequences. The coaches were also so friendly, and [got us] to see the impact of this program and what change it could bring to our lives.”

After graduating from her Grassroot Soccer program, Yamkela has stayed a part of the team by volunteering nearly every day after school. She’s recruited several friends to volunteer, and they host roundtable discussions among their peers about HIV prevention, risky behaviors, and the importance of getting tested.

She says: “I’ve changed a lot from my time with Grassroot Soccer, because before…I didn’t know where I was headed. But now I know where I’m from, where I’m headed, and where I want to be in the future. It’s built so much confidence in me, because I know what’s ahead for me. I am part of the team that is trying to build a generation that is free from HIV.”

“It means a lot to me to be a part of the Grassroot Soccer team. I am dedicated to building a new South Africa, a team that will fight HIV by all means. People are dying out there, so why should I watch people die? Let me be part of this team that is making progress, something I see that is working. To attract the youth, bring them all together, and share knowledge, share what we have. This is how we can build a new generation that will be free from HIV. I feel proud of myself. I am a Footballer.” – Yamkela. 

Yamkela is taking the GRS motto to heart by educating, inspiring, and mobilizing her community to stop the spread of HIV.  We are proud to have her on the GRS team!