GirlGI | Girl Gone International Issue 6 - Page 64

The power of soccer to be more than just a sport struck me while I was living in a rural South African village, volunteering for 2 years with the Peace Corps. Life there was uncertain and challenging, but the modest, dusty soccer field was always a place of hope. It was there, that the children who were most quiet in the classroom opened up and gained confidence, empowered by the bonds formed with their teammates and coaches. I wanted to spark that same enthusiasm at a school where I taught classes about HIV – a vitally important topic in a country where one in five adults is HIV positive. This is when I got in touch with Grassroot Soccer, an organization which harnesses the global passion for soccer to inspire, educate and mobilize youth in the fight against HIV. Grassroot Soccer (GRS) was founded in 2002 by four pro soccer players in Zimbabwe who saw their communities devastated by HIV and AIDS and realized they had a unique platform from which to raise awareness and inspire change. Kids learn best from people they respect and identify with; GRS recruits their role models - both soccer stars and local community coaches - to fight stigmas and spread the message of HIV prevention through programs utilizing active games and sports-based metaphors to educate in a fun, accessible way.