Thursday, May 26, 2011

making moves

grassroot soccer recently graduated its 400,000th youth through its curriculum!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

check these out

an amazing video! it is an hbo special that follows 4 hiv positive people in zambia. one of grassroot soccer's vct tournament is featured in the video even, and we work with one of the main women, constance. it is only about 30 minutes, and very much worth the time. it gives a good depiction of how hiv truly affects people's lives:

an article about new, interesting aids research:

Monday, May 23, 2011

testing stories

story #1:

at our event this past saturday i was hanging out listening to the music and watching the little kids dance. all of a sudden an older man, godfrey tembo was his name, probably in his 40's, came up to me and asked what the whole event was for. he seemed a bit drunk, sorta slurring his words and walking with a bit of a stumble. i almost brushed him off because i get harassed by drunk guys often at our events. but, i decided to humor him and explained that we were providing free hiv testing and whatnot. he had thought it was one of the phone companies and was hoping to get some free talktime or a tshirt. i couldn't offer him a tshirt, but i told him that if he got tested for hiv he would get a free bracelet (like a livestrong bracelet, but for grassroot soccer).

immediately he was sold and asked me to escort him over to the testing tents. as we were walking and talking, he explained that he didn't want to know his status, because "if i end up testing positive, then i will die," was his reasoning. i tried to explain to him that he had it backwards. if he tested positive, he would be able to get on arv treatment and live a healthy life, but if he didn't get tested and didn't get treatment, then he could potentially get really sick.

we make our way to the testing tents, he goes through the pre-test counseling where the counselor explains to him what to expect when he tests. moves to the next tent to get his finger pricked and then awaits the results (it only takes about 5 minutes which is amazing). in between each of these stages in the process he would come over and talk to me and explain how nervous he was to get his results. he kept saying, "i don't want to get my results. i think i will collapse when i receive them."

i kept trying to reassure him that whatever his results ended up being, he would be ok. if negative, then he can keep living a safe and healthy life. and if he ends up testing positive, then he can get enrolled on treatment and get healthy.

throughout the whole process, though, in the back of my head i kept thinking, "how will i react if he comes back from receiving his results and tells me he's positive?? what do i say to him?" i can't imagine what it would be like to receive a positive result, and i am in no position to try to pretend i know what he would be going through.

luckily, he came out of the results tent with a huge smile on his face and waving a piece of paper with his results on it. the paper read "nr" aka not reactive aka not positive! he was beaming with joy. 40 something years old, his first time testing, and negative. happy days. and he got a sweet bracelet to go along with it....the initial incentive.

glad i didn't brush him off like i had initially been inclined to do.

story #2:

as i was hanging around the tents waiting for godfrey tembo to go through the testing process, i got a chance to talk with some other people getting tested. normally i don't spend a lot of time around the testing tents because i don't have a role with the testing, and i feel as though i am invading their personal rights a bit hanging around and chatting as they are going through this scary process of testing for hiv.

but i was talking to one boy, probably 18 years old, who just found out he was negative. it was his first time being tested. his smile was stretching from ear to ear he was so happy. he explained that he was now going to apply to the army (which is a respected position) because he now knew he was healthy.

at the end of the day, as i was getting in the car to leave, he came up to me still smiling from ear to ear. he thanked me for making this the best day of his life (even though in fact i had nothing to do with it). but you could tell a weight had been lifted off him to learn his negative status. it is definitely something that looms over a lot of zambians' heads, but most are too scared to confront the fear and test. it was reassuring to see a young man testing voluntarily and seeing how it changed his whole outlook on their life.

story #3:

this 8 year old girl and her little sister, maybe 1.5 years old, came up and started talking to me. i was hanging out with them for a bit chatting and asking them questions. i assumed they were just passing by and stopped by when they heard the music. but then their mom came over and escorted them over to the tents to get tested. it made me really happy to see the mom willing to bring her whole family to come get tested together. it is so much easier to keep you and your loved ones safe if you all get tested together and know everyone's status at the same time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


this past weekend i went on a spontaneous trip to mongu, a town about 8 hours away by bus in the western province. i went for the ceremony called kuomboka. the ceremony is for the king of the western province, and it based around him moving from one house to another. seems a bit strange. but he has to move houses every year from the low land to the high land because the houses where he lives in the low land start to flood this time of year from the rains. so there is a whole ceremony focused on him moving to his house on the high lands. although the idea behind it all is a bit odd, the ceremony itself was really cool.

i actually remembered to take pictures this weekend, so i'm going to give you guys a picture book story time. probably the easiest way to explain this ceremony....

5:00 pm thursday - my friends, mike and jen, and i decide were going to go to kuomboka

8:00 am friday - get on our 8 hr bus ride to mongu. it wasn't a bad bus ride at all. i sat by a lovely woman named mavis who is originally from mongu but now lives in cape town. she hadn't been back home since 2005, so she was going home to see her family and for the ceremony. she took buses the entire way from cape town.....that's days and days of buses. miserable.

bought a whole bushel of bananas for 1,000 zmk, which is about 25 cents. things are so much cheaper when you are out in the small villages and not in the city.

4:00 pm - arrive in mongu

set up our campsite. the lovely owner kalube, let us camp for free since we were volunteers, and let us use her personal shower. she was super sweet.

went into town to explore and grab some dinner. the town was very dead, which we thought was really weird because we had heard the ceremony usually attracted 30,000 people (a lot being locals). but still, the town was very quiet for the night before the ceremony. we later found out that is was because a lot of people weren't attending the ceremony this year because they were afraid of riots. recently, zambia implemented a new constitution that stated the king of the western province no longer has any rule over the western province. so there was a lot of tension against the government, and people were afriad there were going to be riots started by people supporting the president. we were stupid/naive and really had no idea this was going on. so we decided to make it an early night and went back to our campsite after dinner.

got up the next morning at 5:30 am

cooked some lovely egg sandwiches for breakfast and had some tea to get warm

went down to the harbour to get on a boat to get to the king's 1st house. the one that is on the low land and starting to flood. the boat ride was about 30 minutes, and so beautiful in the morning sun. made me realize how much i miss being on water (can't wait to visit home in july!)


boats we road in

huts along the water

men fishing

we arrived at the island of the king's 1st house fairly early....probably around 8am. we were some of the first to arrive, which was kinda cool because we were able to talk to a lot of the paddlers. they invite paddlers from all over the western province (which includes about half of zambia) to come and paddle the kings boat. it is a very big honor to be asked, and people train to be selected for this position. so since we were early, they were all still hanging out and it was cool to get to talk to them and learn more about the ceremony.

a bunch of the paddlers huddled together

the red hats represent being a follower of the king. then the paddlers all wear their chitenge (that's the pattered fabric) skirts and vests. and they wear animals furs on a belt around their waist. you can kind of see the little bit of fur on the hat of the man on the left. the men who wear the fur (or lion's mane) are of the royal family.

this is people carrying all the kings belongings onto the boats. as they walk by with the royal belongings, you have to kneel down and clap. there are specific ways to clap depending on if you are a woman or man

this is an example of how the houses flood from the rain and why the king has to move to higher grounds....

the king's procession from his house to the boat

all the paddlers getting ready

the boat starting off

and they're gone. the paddlers use the big sticks to push along the ground (the water is only a few feet deep since it is just from the rains. in the dry season, there is no water in this whole area). the paddlers paddle for 5 hours! in the hot sun! and it was extremely hot. apparently someone said that if any of the paddlers can't finish, they get thrown overboard.

after the king's boat left, we got back on our little boat, back to the harbour, back into town to get some lunch, then back to our campsite for a few hours. we knew roughly the time the kind would be arriving at the spot of his 2nd home, so we had some time to kill.

3:30 pm - we headed to the arrival site of the king

women singing and dancing as we were waiting for the arrival of the king

4:30 pm - the king's boat arrived

the boat comes into the inlet and then goes back out 3 times to simulate the elephant charging.

all the paddlers had so much energy after having just paddled for 5 hours straight. amazing!

the king exits the boat in his fancy outfit. i was expecting him to be wearing something more like the paddlers, but he is in almost a full military looking outfit.

there is a whole ceremony at the end. music, dancing, speeches. above the paddlers are doing a traditional "paddlers" dance for the king. different groups performed different dances. the vice president was there and spoke.

and then it just ended. haha. all very anti-climactic actually. the vice president finished speaking, and then everyone just started leaving. i thought it was very strange that throughout the entire ceremony the king never spoke. but apparently that is normal. not really sure why.

all in all, though, the ceremony was a very interesting and cultural thing to see. i'm really glad that i decided to go. and like i had said earlier, a lot less people attended this year (no, there didn't end up being any riots. thankfully!). it ended up being nice that it was fewer people because we were able to get a much better view than normal. many times you don't even get a chance to see the king or a lot of the ceremony, and we were front row for all of it. so that was really cool.

ok, this blog post took waaay too long. so don't expect pictures like this again for a long time. but hope you enjoyed.

the end.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


recently, we worked at this amazing school for orphans called chikumbuso. we did our grs skillz curriculum for a group of about 40 orphans, gave them all grassroot soccer tshirts, graduation certificates, and provided free hiv testing. all the kids seemed to love it, and everyone wanted to participate.

it has such a loving feel at the school. there are handprints of all the kids and teachers on the walls of the buildings, artwork in all the classrooms, a jungle gym in the middle of the plot of land, and kids always running around. it felt like a little sanctuary in lusaka.

in addition to being a school for orphans, chikumbuso has a program for widows and single mothers. it teaches them how to make beautiful bags, baskets, wine holders, cup holders, etc out of plastic bags (like the ones we get from grocery stores). it is amazing the patterns and details they can create with plastic bags. unless i had been told, i don't know if would have been able to tell they were made from plastic bags.

hand bags and baskets

wine bottle holders (really cute gift idea)

it is an amazing program bc it gives the women a skill they can use to make a living for themselves and their families. they go through a whole training program at chikumbuso to learn how to make the bags.

then, when one of their creations are bought (chikumbuso has a store where you can buy their products, and a lot of stores throughout lusaka sell them as well), the woman who made the bag gets 70% of the money. the other 30% does back into chikumbuso to make the organization run and to pay the teachers at the school. but it is a good incentive for the women to make quality bags bc they want their products to be bought.

the women making bags at chikumbuso

i think that it is an amazing organization and doing wonderful things. if anyone wants a bag, wine bottle holder, basket, etc, i will be coming home in july and would be willing to bring back some stuff. would love to do my part to help support chikumbuso. just send me an email (

Friday, April 8, 2011

baby mascot

at our coach training this week there is a pregnant girl participating. there was a bit of discrepancy on whether she would be ok to participate in the activities or not bc they are fairly active, and she is fairly close to looking like she's going to pop. but during the interview process she assured us she would be fine.

after the training the other day i was walking with her to the bus stop and talking. i finally asked her how far along she was in her pregnancy, and she said she was 9 months pregnant! i couldn't believe she was still so cheerful, energetic, and active.

zambian women don't seem to let pregnancy stop them from doing anything, though. they continue to walk miles each day to get where they need to go. they don't stop working until it is time to actually have the baby. and then, when it is time to have the baby, they don't get all sorts of special treatment like women in the us do. they go to the local clinics, many times sit on the ground while they wait during their contractions, and then only when they are ready to deliver do they get placed up on one of the few beds in the clinic.

also, most times the men are not present for the birth. it isn't customary for them to be in the delivery room.

very different.

the girl, juliet, said if she had the baby during the training, she would name the kids "grassroot soccer." i'm keeping my fingers crossed....

Sunday, April 3, 2011


toc = training of coaches

right now we are in the process of hiring/training a bunch of new coaches/peer educators. they are the ones who lead the curriculum with the kids at the schools; so basically, they are the heart of the organization and very important in the whole process of getting our curriculum to the kids.

currently, we have around 70 coaches. we are trying to get up to 100. but that involves weeding out some of the weaker, current coaches. also, we are trying to get to a 50-50 male/female ratio with our coaches. they are always in pairs when delivering the practices to the kids, so we want to make it always a girl/boy pair if possible. this will be helpful bc there are certain practices that require splitting the boys and girls for the activities to allow the discussions to be more open.

we are training almost 70 new coaches in our tocs and then we will hire somewhere between 30 or 40. we just finished our first toc with half the candidates. it was monday-saturday 8am-6pm. so it is fairly intense, bc they have to learn our entire curriculum, what is required of them as a grassroot soccer coach, and everything grassroot soccer does as an organization. we start our second toc on monday.

i'll be curious to see how the second group is bc i have no basis for comparison for this first group. i have no idea if they were good, average, or horrible. but once i see this next toc, hopefully it will give me a better gauge.

the tocs are pretty exhausting, but also tons of fun. we get to hang out with the potential candidates all day, getting to know them, watching them do teachbacks of the practices, etc. its an interesting process to go through, and it is good for me because every time i see the practices done, i get more and more familiar with the curriculum. some of the practices i've seen done probably 15 times at this point, but it's still interesting seeing them facilitated by different people and seeing the best way of delivering it to the kids so they understand it completely.

new coaches facilitating a grassroot soccer activity

coaches coming together after a "teachback" of a practice for feedback and praise.