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Grassroot Soccer Training: what up sustainability!

Every now and then, you’ll find a diamond in the rough out here in rural South Africa – somebody who wants to be a role model for the kids, who wants to make a difference and who sees that there are solutions to two huge problems in rural communities such as HIV and teen pregnancy.

As excited as some people are to work with you, things don’t always work out smoothly. Counterparts may become unmotivated while you work assiduously. And that has nothing to do with the project or how it’s going – it’s just cultural. Culturally, I’ve noticed most people are “ok” with the way things are and don’t see an opportunity to ameliorate something, whereas I always see how something can be better and work for it. This is a major cultural difference I have experienced while I’ve been here, but I understand that I view the way the world works a little differently than many I live amongst.

One of the projects Peace Corps South Africa highly recommends we do is Grassroot Soccer, which we were trained on during our in-service training back in December. Grassroot Soccer is an energetic life skills program that uses soccer, chants, cheers and team builders to teach kids about HIV/AIDS. It’s the perfect combination for a Peace Corps education Volunteer – lessons are already planned and you are given the resources! But there’s always a catch for anything that good – for the kids to really understand the content, it must be done at least partially in their home language.

South Africans love Grassroot Soccer and want to do it, but getting someone to facilitate all 11 one-hour lessons is a challenge. People tend to not follow through, especially if there’s no money involved.

Paige, a health volunteer and one of the closest PCVs to me, recently finished an awesomely sustainable Grassroot Soccer project in our home, the Nquthu Municipality. She applied for a Peace Corps grant to host a Grassroot Soccer training to train 40 community members from rural villages all over our area. All of these community members will be given the necessary skill set to implement a Grassroot Soccer “intervention”at a secondary or primary school in their villages. With the grant money, she flew out two Grassroot Soccer trainers from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Ok – but that doesn’t sound sustainable. So what’s the catch?


Paige and myself welcoming GRS coach Tony from Cape Town at the Durban airport

Paige also applied for a grant from the South African the Department of Labour. Her grant was approved, and the health organization she works for was allotted enough money to pay each community member R1,000 a month (a little less than half of my living stipend). They are required to do two Grassroot Soccer practices at a school a week to receive their stipend. The contract is for a year, and will be renewed each year.

Paige’s home-based care organization already had a bunch of volunteers who weren’t getting paid, but still putting in the hours. She invited these volunteers to be a part of the Grassroot Soccer training to represent different villages.

First day of training; the group meeting

First day of training; the group meeting



Nquthu Municipality, our hood, has an unemployment rate of 44 percent. This new “job creation” will not only teach kids how to lead a healthy lifestyle in a fun and interactive way, but also give people jobs! And who knows, maybe they’ll love youth development projects like this so much that they’ll keep on keepin’ on.


GRS practice “Break Away”, which teaches kids about the risk of having multiple sexual partners

GRS practice “Risk Field” where kids dribble a ball through obstacles that stand for things such as: multiple partners, sex without a condom, drugs, alcohol, etc.

Two community members from my village are participating in the training, and will be the coaches at mine and Paige’s Grassroot Soccer Camp at my school! The learners will do all the Grassroot Soccer activities in Zulu (thank God they don’t have to try to listen to me) and then I will do all the fun arts and crafts, games, and chants. The camp will be next Monday-Friday during school break. My camp plan is a mix between Grassroot Soccer, Zulu, American (of course we are making piñatas!), City Year and National Student Leadership Conference culture – the best of all my worlds! I’m excited to get to jump around, cheer and look like an idiot again. The kids will get a kick out of it.

More to report from camp next week!

Yours in service,

Small heartLiz

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Grassroots soccer sounds like an interesting concept – teaching the community about health issues while also teaching soccer. Thanks for posting your experiences with it.

    July 5, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Just another day in the Peace Corps: my school’s fridge is being held hostage | Liz in Service
  2. Month 11: oh, so THAT’S what the Peace Corps is all about | Liz in Service

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