Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thank you from the USA!

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to write a quick note to say that I am safely back in the States, after a year in Port Elizabeth interning for Grassroot Soccer. I arrived home on July 30, and have enjoyed seeing family and friends across New England. I can't wait to see everyone and catch up on a years worth of stories!

Now that I am no longer a Grassroot Soccer intern, I was able to help with the training of the newest Intern Class while they prepared to leave for their internships in Soweto, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberly, Mtubatuba(Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa), Lusaka, Zambia, Lesotho and Lilongwe, Malawi. It was a great way for me to wrap up my intern experience, while also helping the new interns prepare for their new adventure. While it was sad to realize that I was no longer an intern, it was really great to meet all the new guys and help them ease into this insane transition.

Well, now that I am home I will no longer be keeping up with this blog, but I just wanted to say thank you again, from the bottom of my heart for all the love and support that I received this past year. This internship truly would not have been possible without the support of friends and family, so I cannot thank you enough.

I hope that you all are happy and healthy, and enjoying the last few weeks of summer! As always, I love hearing from you, so feel free to send me an email at sjcallaway@gmail.com with any updates or just to say hello!!

All the best and thank you again,


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mr. South Africa

Here is the picture of us with Mr. South Africa, Denver Burns. This picture made us famous!!(just kidding).

Feel It...It is Here!!!

This picture is of me tearing up the Dance Competition at our Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Tournament! HA!

Hi Everyone!

So sorry that I haven’t updated my blog sooner, there has been so much going on and lots of updates!

I’ll briefly run through some of the highlights of the past two months:

APRIL: What a great month! We went to a music festival in the Drakensburg Mountains(near Lesotho) over Easter weekend, which was amazing. Camped out, listened to some great music and had a great time with other interns. Great to see another part of the country.

Our second Voluntary Counseling and Testing(VCT) Tournament was on April 27th, Freedom Day in South Africa. It was a really great, successful event, that was near and dear to my heart for numerous reasons: it was hosted in Motherwell, the township that I have been working closely in this entire year, where I know the teachers and children the best, and it was an event that Rosie, myself and Titie, one of our “Master Coaches” had been planning since January. So, this event was the culmination of a lot of hard work and time! Our VCT was a chance for community members and school children to get tested for HIV, while also presenting an opportunity for children to partake in a soccer tournament. Through the help of the Port Elizabeth Municipality and an organization called New Start, we were able to test 289 people, a new record for Grassroot Soccer Port Elizabeth!! We also had the Coca-Cola “waya waya” truck on hand, providing music and entertainment, even holding a dance competition(in which Rosie, Titie and I performed in! The crowd went nuts for our Mulungu(white person) dance moves! It was a very special day, one of the best days that I have had this entire year. Check out the article on the Grassroot Soccer website: http://www.grassrootsoccer.org/2010/05/13/port-elizabeth-hosts-freedom-day-vct/

MAY and JUNE: For the past few months, and since the beginning of 2010, really, we have been working and planning for the very soon to come 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP!! South Africa, as the host country, is an amazing place to be right now. Grassroot Soccer has been lucky enough to be partnering with, and sponsored by companies that are sponsors of the World Cup. Castrol, the well known oil company, is sponsoring Grassroot Soccer holiday programmes throughout South Africa during the World Cup; providing children with a healthy and positive outlet during their school holiday. And, in conjunction with the World Cup, Sony has donated thousands of tickets to Grassroot Soccer through their Sony Ticket fund, allowing underprivileged children to go to World Cup matches. So, with all these wonderful sponsorships and donations, comes quite a great deal of work! But, I think all of Grassroot Soccer is incredibly excited and honored to be given so many opportunities during this huge World event.

In Port Elizabeth, we are hosting 8 holiday programmes throughout the entire World Cup, and taking children(approximately 200!) to two matches here in the city. So, over the past few months we have been securing venues for the camps, doing security checks, determining children and other guests for these tickets, and having them sign and return consent forms. Sometimes it feels like our entire staff is on wild goose chases across the city, but slowly but surely we are making progress. While I know the next month is going to be such a crazy busy whirlwind, I think we are all trying our best to stay present and enjoy every day as it comes, recognizing that we are incredibly lucky to be getting to go to some of these incredible World Cup matches, seeing some of the best players in the world play right here in Port Elizabeth! I cannot wait. I have learned where the Ivory Coast may be eating dinner after their match here(Didier Drogba is one of their strongest players, and a player I have newly started to like), and I also heard that the teams coming through PE will be training and warming up at the gym that I go to, so the month will probably spent doing my fare share of soccer stalking, haha. I cannot wait to see some of these players in person!!

Also, in June, we hosted a really special event called the Nike GameChangers. This event was one that was also near and dear to my heart, as Mpumi, my supervisor, and Rosie and I had worked really hard on, putting it together pretty last minute. The GameChangers award is a term that Nike created, in association with their Nike (Red) Campaign. Nike, as one of our biggest sponsors, created this wonderful idea to reward high school girls who excelled in the Grassroot Soccer Skillz program, as well as in their schools, their communities, and who were aware and working towards an HIV free generation for South Africa. We had girls apply from our three sites in Port Elizabeth: Zwide, Motherwell and New Brighton, and had a top three from each site. Nike donated R15,000(approximately $2,000) towards this event, as well as the prizes: first place received a Red Dell Laptop!! Second and third places received Nike hampers filled with all sorts of Nike gear. We held our event on Friday at the Radisson Blu Hotel, a new, swanky hotel in Port Elizabeth who we have recently partnered with, and who agreed to let us host our event their for quite a cheap price. Holding our event in a swanky bar made it feel even more special for these girls! And, our coaches, as well as their teachers, some of our partner organizations, and Mr. South Africa, Denver Burns( a friend of ours, and another Ambassador for Grassroot Soccer Port Elizabeth) were all in attendance, and helped to make it a special day for these girls. Side note about Denver: he was on a television show the other night called “top billing”, sort of like Entertainment Tonight, and he spoke about his work with Grassroot Soccer, and they showed a picture of Rosie, Dom, another intern Anna, myself and Denver on TV! We freaked out!

Anyways--back to the GameChangers event-- It was so great, as a woman, to help empower and reward other women for their personal strength and dedication to their schooling and their futures. I could tell how excited and overwhelmed these girls were: some were crying, some could not stop smiling, others were speechless; it was really great to get to share this special moment with them. I was talking with one girl afterwards who told me, “I cannot believe I got a computer! Girls like me don’t get computers! I don’t know anyone with a computer!”. She was through the roof with excitement, thinking of all the things she could do with her own computer. I felt really lucky, and grateful, to Nike and Grassroot Soccer, for creating this award, and allowing us to have such a special event along with the prize giving. Even though the World Cup is almost upon us, and as a staff we have a million and one things to do, I am glad that we worked so hard to make this event special, and that our entire staff rallied around this event, and these girls. Many of our coaches are quite close with these girls, so it was great too, to see our coaches sharing and celebrating with these young women. I will never forget the reactions on their faces. It was such a great day, and one I hope they all remember for years to come.

So, that is a bit of a rundown of what is going on in my life. The World Cup kickoff is Friday, Bafana Bafana(South Africa) v. Mexico, and we cannot wait!! As they say here, “Feel it. It is here”. Soccer fever has arrived in South Africa, and in Port Elizabeth, and we are ready. I hope you all will be tuning in to watch some matches on television! If you watch any matches that are being held in the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth, look for me! I’ll try and wear something bright! But, if you don’t see me, at least try and root for the United States. They look good, and I bet Dom(one of my roommates), that if they make it to the semifinals, he has to get a tattoo of the US Soccer logo; so lets hope for some big victories!!

Regardless of what team you are cheering for, I do hope that you will tune in and watch. Enjoy it, and look out for Grassroot Soccer on TV!

Hope you all are doing well. I look forward to seeing you all stateside when I return in August! Thanks for all the love and support. More updates to come soon!

This is a picture of the intern gang at Splashy Fen, the music festival we went to in the Drakensburg Mountains. From left: Dom, Hooter(intern in Kimberley, Northern Cape), Karti(intern in Jo'burg), Chris(intern in Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal), Rosie, Mike, me.

Monday, March 29, 2010


This picture is of all our coaches in front of our office, at Sithembile Primary.

As the end of every week rolls around, I begin to get more relaxed and relieved that the weekend is in sight and that things are calming down at work. Fridays are such a different type of day at our office; so you know that when you have made it through Thursday you have pretty much reached the weekend.

On Fridays, we have what we call Development Sessions; they are a day when all of our Coaches come into the office for a few hours to learn better tactics to deliver the curriculum, to receive payment stipends, to meet in their small groups to plan for the next week, and to do general logistics and spend some time together as a group.

The first day that we arrived in Port Elizabeth, we arrived on a Friday. I will never forget it: totally overwhelmed, exhausted and nervous, we walked into the office and introduced ourselves in front of the entire group, then stood in a line as each of them came by, shook our hands and told us their name. I think I remembered one name, Amy, because her name was one of the only familiar sounding names I heard that day. The four of us were completely out of our element, surrounded by 40 loud energetic individuals, speaking in a language we didn’t understand, using dramatic gestures and expressions: the four of us stood like flies on the wall, suddenly shy and quiet, barely uttering a word to anyone, just forcing smiles on our exhausted faces. “So, this is what every Friday is going to be like”, I thought.

As the weeks went by, and we all became more comfortable in the office and around the coaches, Fridays became like a welcomed habit. The format of Fridays has ranged from running activities outside, playing soccer and netball(in which, with all of my soccer coordination, I kicked a penalty kick into one of our coaches’ head), doing skits, sharing stories from their work with GRS and so much more. I wish I had kept track of what we have done every Friday, because each one has been so different, but so interesting.

Now, we have staff meetings on Thursdays, and part of the meeting is deciding what will be on the agenda for the development session. The four of us have become much more vocal in what we think should be included in these courses, and Dom and I have both had the opportunity to help lead activities for the entire group. One of my favorites was when Dom ran an energizer that involves all of them closing their eyes and walking around like an animal, trying to find their animal twin. I had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard.

Development sessions usually begin around 10 am, but the coaches begin arriving at the office between half past eight and nine, so there really is no time to even get settled in the office before they arrive. On Fridays, I usually never even open my computer before the session is over, or at all. I’ve sat on floors, tables, stood and sat outside during the duration of sessions. In short, these do not follow any sort of traditional format. While there is an agenda, and we stick to a time frame, beyond that these sessions are unlike anything I have ever experienced. It will be weird to go back to the States and a job where I will have to adjust to a more routine schedule on Fridays.

It has been interesting to have other guests and interns visit and come into the office on Fridays. They are completely overwhelmed and thrown off, unsure of how to operate, where to make phone calls or use their computer. We usually stake claim of the small closet in our office as our makeshift office for the day, the four of us eating lunch, doing work and making phone calls in a small closet filled with goals, soccer balls, papers and graduation snacks. I would say the closet is about 10 ft by 10 ft; so it is definitely some close quarters. The four of us are all used to sharing space and not really being able to get things done on Fridays, but it is absolutely entertaining to see the panic and frustration on the faces of others as they try to check their email and print things amidst the chaos of Fridays.

Because of Training workshops, end of the month payments and holiday break, we have not had a development course in over a month, so I am starting to miss Fridays. It is weird not having the coaches in our office all the time, checking in and chatting about their week. But, the next development session that we will have will fall on my birthday, so I am really looking forward to that one! I'll be sure to keep you posted. All the best from South Africa!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Take Me Out To The Cricket Match

Over the past few months, Rosie, Dom, Mike and myself have been attending cricket matches in Port Elizabeth. There is a 20/20(20 overs) league, similar to the MLB, which plays across the country. The season is pretty short, and we didn’t really catch on to the excitement until later, but we have all gotten more interested and gained a better understanding of the sport.

Now, to the novice, Cricket seems really confusing. I will admit, I had little interest in watching the sport on television, simply because the rules seemed too confusing; I just didn’t have the patience to watch. But, after going to a few games and getting to root for the home team, I was hooked. PE’s team, the Chevrolet Warriors, also proved to be a very strong team. In the three matches we went to, they won every time. One of the matches was incredibly exciting: it came down to the last bowl of the game(a bowl is a pitch). Basically, it was the Bottom of the ninth with two outs and a full count.

Let me just give you a little bit of a description of the scene at these games: they are crazy! The energy and enthusiasm is unreal. And, the best part about Cricket is that the matches are also very social; you can be walking around, chatting with friends or having a picnic on the grass banks while the match is being played. And, the tickets are affordable, so families and all walks of life are able to attend the matches. To put it in prospective: the tickets are about 45 Rand each, which is about 6 dollars. I don’t think you could even get a hotdog at Fenway Park for that price! So, you know that everyone will be at the matches. And, we see everyone. You are constantly running into people you know or have seen around town. Cricket matches bring in people from across the city. And, they are so much fun. The singing and celebrating in the stands is contagious, and it is one of the few times that you see all generations and races all mixed up together cheering for the same team. There was a really amazing moment at a match we went to where the entire section we were sitting in began singing, “Shosholoza”, a song that was sung by miners as they boarded the trains to go off to work. This song was also the song that united the famous 1995 South African World Cup Rugby team at the tail end of Apartheid. So, it was a really special moment to hear everyone belting this song out at the top of their lungs.

Two weeks ago we went to a match and the same night, at the same time there was also a big rugby match going on in the new World Cup Stadium. PE fans were torn between what match to go to. The four of us were just so psyched that there was so much enthusiasm and pride in the city, and that each match brought such a large turnout. A problem we have seen here is that there is a real lack in publicity for events and such. There are so many cool things going on, but it seems like people never know when and where things are happening, so nobody shows up!

This Friday night was the series final of the 20/20 season between the Chevrolet Warriors(our home team) and the Highveld Lions. This was the World Series of 20/20 Cricket, and we were all really looking forward to the game. We usually buy our tickets a few days in advance, and on Wednesday, Mike went to buy some only to discover that the match was sold out. In just a few days the 17,000 tickets had been sold. We were shocked! We had just assumed that most South Africans would buy their tickets at the door or something; we never thought that people would actually plan in advance.

So, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle: we really wanted to go to the match, but we had no idea how we were going to get tickets. Two other interns, Alex from Cape Town, and Anna from Richmond, were also going to be in town, so getting six tickets seemed nearly impossible.

So, on Friday afternoon, with no plan, only ambition, Dom and I set out for the stadium a few hours before the match was scheduled to begin. Foreign to the scalping world, we thought we would just start asking people for tickets near the stadium. To our surprise, the parking area was already filling up and people were able to enter the stadium hours beforehand. We were torn: do we keep trying to get tickets, hoping we can get six, or should we just go to a bar and watch the game together? After walking and asking people for a bit, one man parked in his car waved us over and told us he had two tickets. We negotiated with him for a bit, looked at the tickets and decided to go for it. Inspired and optimistic, we then decided to divide and conquer: I walked up and down the street and Dom walked along the road asking cars stuck in the traffic. With our charm, American accents and ambition, we were able to get five tickets, and we knew we could get a sixth. As we were celebrating, we decided to examine the tickets again, just to make sure none of them were counterfeit. And, sure enough, the tickets the first man sold us were from 2009. We got scammed! But, luckily, there was still lots of time before the match, so we continued walking and talking, and secured our last few tickets with time to spare. Dom and I were laughing the whole evening about how the fake tickets had been our motivation to get tickets in the first place. But, even though we lost a little money, all of us got tickets to the match and Dom and I met a lot of characters in the process. Having never scalped before, I realized it is much easier than you think, especially in South Africa. As I have said before, Police here are a joke, so cops would walk by us as we were negotiating ticket prices without blinking an eye, so there really wasn’t any issue. It is definitely going to be a big wake up call when I return to the States!

So, we made it into the match and had a great time packed in like sardines into the stadium. The Warriors killed the Lions, and we stayed in our seats long after the match had finished celebrating and dancing with everyone. It was such a great match to watch and a great way to unwind after a long week. And even though the season is over, I have a new appreciation and interest in cricket, a sport I never thought that I would find any interest in, so that is pretty cool. It may not be the Red Sox, but the energy in the stadium and the level of play made for some really exciting Friday nights.

Here is a picture of the four of us with our friend PJ at a cricket match. For this game, we got to sit in box seats for the second part of the game: the view was amazing!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Inspiring Grassroot Soccer Story

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share a story that has been circulating throughout the Grassroot Soccer community over the past few weeks. This story is particularly near and dear to my heart, and to the entire Port Elizabeth team, because this story comes from one of our coaches, and it is one of the experiences he has had working for Grassroot Soccer. Each Friday at our office all of our coaches come in for a Development Session, which involves going over announcements, meeting in their site group to talk about logistics for the week, and as a group they perform various activities which help them to become better at the jobs they do. I'll go into more depth about Fridays soon, because there is so much more to share about that day of the week, but I wanted to say that on a Friday a few weeks back, we did an activity called "most significant story", where coaches shared stories from students they have worked with over the years. We then voted on which story we felt was the most powerful, which was then going to be passed along to Cape Town, and then to potential donors and organizations interested in GRS. I am including this story in my post. If you would like to have this in a word document, please let me know and I am more than happy to pass it along! Thanks for reading, this is an incredible story and Glen is a wonderful person.

Finding Courage Through Skillz

As told by Grassroot Soccer Skillz Coach Siyabonga Glen Mgwadleni, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

I’ll never forget our first intervention at W.B. Tshume Primary School in Zwide, Port Elizabeth in August 2009. Coaches Mendisto, Amy, Nkadi and I were working with sixth grade boys and girls. When we began, it was clear that some students did not want to participate. The down-turned faces, the curious glances and the hushed whispers all said the same thing: the kids were uncomfortable. We learned later that they thought Grassroot Soccer was for little kids because they saw students just running around, and others did not want to participate because they knew we talk about HIV and AIDS and they feared being stigmatized.

The teacher at W.B. Tshume told us not to pressure those that did not want to participate and mentioned that several kids had personal/behavior problems. We felt like outsiders as we began to run Skillz practices with shy, reluctant kids. It was a monumental challenge. Some kids were absent for days at a time. It was difficult to tell if we were reaching anyone with our messages. One 17 year-old girl named Ntombi always caught my eye. She would just sit in the back, never speaking or participating in games. She was often absent too. When we did Team Talk she did not even look or listen to the other kids in her group. I feared that we were not reaching her and that we were letting her down.

The turning point of the intervention came during Practice 8, the final Skillz practice, which features an activity called “My Coach’s Story.” During the activity, we asked volunteers to come to the front of the class and share an experience that challenged them and explain how they triumphed in the face of adversity. “Volunteers only,” we repeated. There would be no pressure to perform. A young boy, one of our most enthusiastic participants, was the first to step forward. When his story concluded, he sat down, leaving the stage for a new presenter. As silence descended upon the room, I scanned the classroom for signs of life. No one could have predicated what happened next.

In the back corner of the room sat Ntombi, who had not spoken all week. Without lifting her gaze, she quietly got up from her chair and walked slowly down the aisle toward the front of the class. Her quiet confidence mirrored the class’s stunned silence.

In a soft but steady voice, she told the group that her mother was HIV positive and had been bedridden at Dora Nginza Hospital for the past six months. Because her mother had fallen ill, she had moved in with her aunt. But rather than love and support, Ntombi was met with scorn and disapproval. Ashamed of her sister’s “condition,” her aunt was determined to take it out on her young niece. She gained confidence with every word and slowly gained the courage to confess something she had never shared with anyone before.

In May 2009, one day after school, Ntombi went to Greenacres Mall with her brother’s friend. On the way back, he raped her. Despite the fear and pain that consumed her, Ntombi knew what she had to do. Ntombi went to the Dora Nginza Rape Crisis Centre, where one of the diagnostics is an HIV test. There she learned that she had, indeed, been infected with HIV. Shocked and confused, she didn’t know how to handle the situation. Without a strong support base at home, she chose to run away to live with a friend in Motherwell. This was why she had missed so many school days.

She didn’t have anyone. There was no one to protect her and no one to turn to. Although weakened by the experience, she was not broken. She still had the courage to confide in us, her Grassroot Soccer Coaches and fellow participants, to seek help from those who cared for her. She told us her story, and we connected her with the Ubuntu Education Fund, a long-standing partner of GRS that provides long-term counseling and support for youth in Port Elizabeth.

It has been four months since we completed our first intervention at W.B. Tshume Primary School. Ntombi is now attending counseling and is ready to disclose her status to her mother and her aunt. She said that things are much better in her life after sharing and telling other people about her story.

This year, when we went to her school, she was friendly and open and shared with us that she really liked the My Coach’s Story activity because she got to share what she was feeling inside. Now she is working toward the completion of grade seven. This time, when we were doing Team Talk, Ntombi told her friends the story of being raped by her brother’s friend. “Be careful,” she warned, “because even if people know you and offer you things you should not completely trust them.” She also participated in Risk Field and talked to the class about the danger of sugar daddies. Ntombi’s transformation from shy and reclusive to a classroom leader demonstrates the impact our program can have.

Now when we head to W.B. Tshume, students ask us to come early so they can tell us about their friends who also need help accessing counseling services, HIV testing, and rape victim support. These were the same students who wouldn’t even talk to us before, and now they are open to share and even help recruit kids for Grassroot Soccer programs. I am proud that, since 2006, our team in Port Elizabeth has touched the lives of more than 7000 youth like Ntombi. With the support of the Red Ribbon Foundation and others, we will continue to grow and expand our impact on the lives of South African youth.

This story was selected by GRS Coaches in Port Elizabeth using the Most Significant Change method of qualitative data collection, in which Coaches share stories with the group in response to a particular question/theme and vote on the story demonstrating the most significant impact.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Diamond City!

This is a group shot of the four of us on our visit to Kimberly, another GRS site in The Northern Cape. Kimberly is a huge mining city where three other interns are, so we went up there for the weekend to visit them. This picture was taken near "The Big Hole", Kim's biggest attraction, the place where thousands of diamonds were mined.