Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘peace corps grassroot soccer’

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


Month five: in-service training and relationship building

A common question I get from people back in the states is – “When are you going to start teaching?” My response is always complicated, as I have to explain that although I’ve been in my village a bit now, but I haven’t done much yet.

For the past three months I have been participating in Peace Corps South Africa’s “community integration” phase. In less bureaucratic terms, it’s the time I spend observing my surroundings, figuring things out for myself and writing a report to present to my principal and Peace Corps program director. The next step in my newbie PCV process is In-Service Training (IST) before I start my primary Peace Corps project – English teaching – and any secondary projects of mine and my community’s choosing in January.

These past two weeks I have been at IST with all the other 37 Americans from my Peace Corps cohort (SA 26) in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. We’ve been socializing, eating like kings and queens during the day (dessert all day errday), watching the popular South African soapie Generations together and snuggling in our down comforters at night. Wait, what? A Peace Corps training event at a four-star hotel?

When we first arrived at the hotel we were confused about where we were. All we really ask for at these little gatherings is a hot shower and good friends, but we basically got First World Amurica. One of the beliefs South Africans commonly have about America is that we’re all rich white people, which is a view I strongly want to disprove. However, inviting our South African counterparts to a ritzy hotel isn’t going to help me tackle that stereotype anytime soon. Ohhhh… snap.

IST was divided into four workshops – supervisor’s, English teaching, life skills, and Peace Corps administrative sessions. We were required to bring our principal to the supervisor’s workshop, an English teacher from our schools to the English teaching workshop and a community counterpart who would be interested on running youth programs with us for the life skills workshop.

I was stressing about finding a community counterpart, so I e-mailed the Health PCV who left my village earlier this year. She responded back with great advice and actually recommended the two people in my community I’ve wanted to get to know better — the secondary school’s administrative clerk and my school’s security guard. She explained the secondary school’s administrative clerk, Yama, as a girl who “fights for what she believes in and for herself and wants to further herself.”

My life skills counterpart Yama and myself accepting a certificate of completion

My life skills counterpart Yama and myself accepting a certificate of completion

After reading that, I got so excited because if anything, it’s been hard for me to connect with females in their 20s I’ve met in South Africa because many lead very, very different lives than me. Most have children or want children at my age.

To kick things off at the life skills workshop, Yama and I had a day to design a project we can start in our village. Yama said there’s a huge need for a girls club to empower and educate young women because teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest issues in our community. Last year alone there were 38 teen pregnancies at the secondary school, which is quite a lot considering the school only has around 200 or so students. We’re aiming to start a girls club hopefully during the second term next school year.

After, we covered topics such as HIV/AIDS, natural nutrition, healthy lifestyles training and after-school programs training we can bring back to our communities. The education programs hosted by other non-profits we can use in our communities included: Operation Hope, a financial literacy and money management program for young teens, Project Citizen, which involves learners in democracy by addressing a social issue in their area and suggesting policies about it, Scouts, a co-ed version of boys and girls scouts and Souns, a phonetic and literacy program for young children. It’ll still be a couple of months before I start any of these options in my village.

Yama and I also spent two days going through Grassroot Soccer training, which is a program that uses soccer games to teach kids about HIV/AIDS and has a partnership with Peace Corps programs throughout Africa. It’s an extremely interactive and fun program and engages the kids into a serious dialogue about HIV/AIDS. The only problem is the program will have to be taught in Zunglish and predominately in Zulu so the students can really be comfortable expressing their feelings. Yama and I want to start the program during “sports” at the primary and secondary school in our village.

Grassroot soccer training -- pretending the balls are multiple partners, which makes it easier for a person (HIV) to come and tag me while I'm trying to dribble four at a time

Grassroot soccer training — pretending the balls are multiple partners, which makes it easier for a person (HIV) to come and tag me while I’m trying to dribble four at a time

Katie, my fellow CYLA alum, and myself met a former City Year South Africa staff member -- Tony Gubesa -- at our Grassroot Soccer training! LOVING these international ripples!

Katie, my fellow CYLA alum, and myself met a former City Year South Africa staff member — Tony Gubesa — at our Grassroot Soccer training! LOVING these international ripples!

Grassroots soccer spirit break! This isn't real life! On LA! C-Y-L-A anyone?

Grassroots soccer spirit break! This isn’t real life! On LA! C-Y-L-A anyone?

Look at that spirit, discipline, purpose and pride

Look at that spirit, discipline, purpose and pride

The English workshop was shorter and touched on corporal punishment and classroom management, English teaching games and teaching the writing process. I invited a life orientation and technology teacher as my English teaching counterpart, Miss Molefe, because she is teaching English for the first time next year.

She is a newer and dedicated teacher and I think working with me next year will really help prepare her to take over English when I leave. And not to mention, she’s definitely one of my favorite teachers – not long ago she taught me how to bake amakhekes at her house (little South African biscuit cakes)!

At the supervisor’s workshop, my principal and I decided I will teach grade 5 English as my own class and the listening/speaking portion of the English curriculum to grade 6 and 7 for about two-four scheduled hours a week. Miss Molefe will teach grade 4 English and we will work together.

Miss Molefe, my English counterpart, and myself

Miss Molefe, my English counterpart, and myself

This will honestly be one of the most challenging things in my lifetime yet, but at least I acknowledge that I’m going to need to work my butt off. Thankfully, I am not teaching grade 4 because it is their transition year from being taught in isiZulu to only English. Teachers can code-switch when needed, but if I taught grade 4 I wouldn’t be able to translate everything for them – probably only simple sentences and words. I’m glad I finally know what I’m teaching next school year (starting mid-January) so I can start prepping.

Peace Corps scheduled IST at the perfect time because we’re ready to start that transition from acquaintances to relationships with our South African counterparts and fellow PCVs. The amount of time I got to spend with my counterparts and fellow Volunteers helped me get to know them better as friends and not just co-workers.

Tonight is my last night with SA 26 and I will be heading back to the village tomorrow. I miss my family and my home sweet hut – looks like my “integration phase” was successful.


P.S. — I’ve signed up to run (more like walk) a half-marathon, the Longtom Marathon,  in March that supports the Kgwale le Mollo Foundation — a foundation founded by South Africa PCVs to help send high school students to university. I need to raise at least $100USD! If you would like to donate to help a worthy South African learner receive higher education, go to the Website: and click “Donate Now” at the top right-hand corner on behalf of Liz Warden. Thank you for your support!