After an incredible day in Livingstone and a night sleeping in a shack, we got up early and flew to Lusaka where we would spend the next two days. On arrival we were straight off to the Barclay’s Centre. A staff of ten, including Zambians and Americans, manage the GRS programs out of the Lusaka office. This dedicated team, along with the staff and volunteers, have collectively worked to oversee the graduation of over 23,165 youth through the GRS curriculum and indirectly exposed an additional 68,000 people to messages of the curriculum.
Today we were there to witness the GRS Bridging the Gap Programme. Bridging the Gap (BtG) is heavily focused on counselling and referrals to treatment, and maximizing adherence to treatment for young people. BtG is a forward-thinking combination prevention program designed to increase the number of positive youth identified, and adhering to their treatment programs. GRSZ works with its partners to link effective HIV prevention education with HCT, treatment and care. GRSZ enables all of its program participants and those that it reaches through its soccer events to access testing and medical treatment. Today we saw some terrific role play in motion as some of the Skillz coaches re-enacted typical scenarios they deal with when working with the local community.
After some lunch we got to hear about their coach development programme. GRS have a real focus on coach development as they train role models to go out into the community to educate and inspire young people. The programme gives the coaches the tools to continuously develop themselves in order to give back their knowledge to their community.
After a day of learning about GRS programmes there was a chance for everyone to blow off some steam as a football match was organised between the GRS board members and the GRS Skillz coaches. The match was full of entertainment as players from both sides got to show off their skills. It was Foxes FC’s very own Max Bishop who stood out as he bagged a hat-trick with some clinical finishing. The match ended 7-6 but ultimately it was Grassroot Soccer that was the winner!
After the football I headed back to the Interns house where I would be staying for the next couple nights. Each year, Grassroot Soccer selects a small group of recent college graduates and young adults to serve as unpaid, volunteer interns in Africa. Interns fill crucial roles and assist in the successful delivery of Grassroot Soccer’s programs in numerous sites across southern Africa. Interns gain valuable work experience in fields such as international health and education, and youth development through sports. Most importantly, interns develop meaningful, long-term relationships with team and community members to help build capacity, local ownership, and ultimately sustainability.
Grassroot Soccer Interns come from many walks of life. Most have recently graduated from college or even finished a graduate degree, while others are young professionals who have been working for several years. Although the intern class is diverse in terms of background and life experience, each intern embodies several key character traits, which are consistent throughout the group: flexibility, creativity, independence, open-mindedness, enthusiasm, cultural sensitivity, and compassion
Today I met four of the current GRS interns – Sandy, Bud, Chris and Melissa as well as Angus who is currently employed by GRS as an Assistant Site Co-ordinator following two years as a GRS intern. Many of the GRS interns roles include a range of responsibilities as they are assigned to office-based departments, including communication & marketing, curriculum & training, finance, monitoring & evaluation, operations, partnerships, and program development.
It was great to chat to them and find out about their experiences working for GRS and living in Africa for the last year. They all spoke so passionately about their roles and experience working for GRS and all feel they have learnt so much about themselves and gained new skills as a result of their internship.