Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Tis the Season

The holiday season always seems to be a time when we all give thanks for the great things in our lives: family and friends, roofs over our head, our health and all the blessings that we have. I have been thinking about what I am thankful for a lot lately, especially because my life and my work here has helped me to prioritize and appreciate what I have even more.

There are two things that I wanted to briefly write about, to highlight some of the frustrations, and common practices in South Africa, which I have been thinking about a lot lately.

About a month and a half ago, much to our surprise, we had two break ins at our house. We live in suburbia, comparable to Southern California, a place that you would not expect to have break ins. But, what we have learned is that you cannot expect anything here. Life is different, and South Africa is a completely different world. Just because it looks like America does not mean that it is comparable to the States. At any rate, one morning we awoke to find our back sliding door unlocked and open, and things strewn about on the floor of our living room. A robber managed to steal computers, iphones, ipods, sneakers, money and a door key while we were all asleep. Then, a week later, another(or the same) robber returned and while we were eating dinner downstairs, climbed onto our upstairs porch, opened a window and stole sneakers, a camera, a wallet and some soccer jerseys. It was such a mess, and certainly a huge wake up call for all of us. We learned that just because a place looks safe does not mean that it is safe. What is the most disappointing thing to learn is that in all honestly, people don’t really care about these things. Petty theft is so common here, it’s almost a rite of passage. Everyone we have spoken do has experienced a similar(or worse) situation, and the police here barely even bother with reports. They don’t really care, so they don’t even bother trying to help. It’s completely jarring to think that this event which impacted our lives so much is just another day in South Africa to most people. While these experiences have made us grow and we have learned a lot from them, it also makes me wonder if I could ever actually live in a place where events like this are common practice, and having your guard up is just part of life. Who knows. One thing that we have to be incredibly thankful for is that the robbers were only looking for things, not for us.

Another thing that I wanted to touch on briefly is one part of my week that always humbles me. Usually once or twice a week, one of the interns brings the trash from the office out. Where we bring the garbage is to a large pile of trash, mixed with twigs and branches. This pile sits right behind the Primary school where we work, and often you will see kids rummaging through the trash. And, the common practice with the garbage is to simply light it on fire, rather than disposing of it any other way. I mean, in all honestly, with the other things to worry about in the township, why would anyone be concerned with where their trash is going, or that they are releasing harmful toxins into the air every day? Either way, every time that I throw our black trash bags onto the pile, I always have to step back and think about things. As small of a thing as it is, that is one thing that I still have yet to fully accept. We see a lot of things on a daily basis that are quite shocking, but that we are learning to accept as part of the scene. But this garbage pile is something that I can never really get over. It makes me think about the frustrations over lack of recycling and compost in the States, and in comparison to garbage situations in most countries, we are extremely progressive. As I said, although small in the scale of concerns that South Africa faces, this small act that I am contributing to always makes me stop and think, and appreciate the every day novelties we are blessed to have in America.

So, in between holiday parties, gift shopping, skiing, skating, shoveling snow, baking and celebrating, try and remember all the great gifts that we all have every day. It’s easy to forget all that we have to be thankful for, and even seeing such hardship here sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own world that I forget to step back and appreciate all the wonderful things in life. I hope that these two small glimpses into life in South Africa help you to appreciate and recognize the gifts of life in America.

Well after work this week I am off to Tanzania with Rosie and Anna for Christmas, leaving this Friday, so I will have lots of stories and photographs to share when I return. I hope you all have wonderful holidays, and happy new year!

Voluntary Counseling and Testing

On November 28th, in conjunction with December 1, World Aids Day, we had our annual Voluntary Counseling and Testing(VCT) Tournament. This is an event sponsored by Grassroot Soccer that allows high school teams from three of the townships in Port Elizabeth to participate in a soccer tournament, as well as have an opportunity to get tested for HIV. The event is also open to the public, so community members can come, watch some soccer, enjoy some live music and know their HIV status. The events are always a huge success, and this year in particular Grassroot Soccer has been breaking testing records across Southern Africa at these events. So, we were really excited to help out and see our first VCT.

The 28th also happened to be right after Thanksgiving, so after enjoying a delicious feast on the 26th with friends and co-workers, we got down to business to prepare final logistics for the big day. Dom had been working on this event for months, facing challenges, budget cuts and other frustrations along the way, but the day of the event everything went incredibly smoothly, and everyone had a lot of fun. We tested 188 people, which was a huge success. And, for the first time ever, we had every team show up to participate in the soccer tournament, which was a huge accomplishment. Everyone had a great time. All of our staff and coaches were there, helping out in various areas, like coaching the teams and ensuring that the day ran smoothly. We had prizes and giveaways as well, like cool vuvuzelas, a plastic horn that are like the South African national instrument, used at any soccer match. We also had a signed Bafana(the South African national soccer team) jersey as a prize, which a student won, so that was very exciting.

All in all, the day was really really fun, probably one of the best days that I have had in South Africa. It was a great bonding experience for our entire staff as well. The highlight of my day was at the end, we all were dancing and goofing around, then we decided to all go and get a beer together to celebrate the end of the VCT. So, Dom, Mike, Rosie, Anna(another intern who was visiting for the week) and I, along with about twenty of our coaches piled into various cars to head to a bar near the field where we held the tournament. Anna had brought her truck down for the week, so I jumped in the back along with about fifteen other coaches. We were dancing, singing and playing vuvuzelas, in a euphoric and adrenaline filled state in the back of the truck. I have rode around in trucks before, but usually on back roads in Vermont, so riding around in the back on some major roads in the township probably wasn’t the smartest move that I could have made, but I jumped on board in the excitement and energy of the moment. So, we were all packed in the truck bed, singing and jumping around, waiting for the other cars to catch up, and we see a cop come crawling towards us. My heart sank. Immediately, my gut reaction was, “If the cop sees a white girl here, in the back of a truck, he’s going to fine me”. I held my breath and tried not to make eye contact with the close approaching police vehicle. Dom, Mike and Rosie in the cars behind me watched nervously. The cop car approached us slowly, then accelerated while driving up on a grassy embankment on the side of the road, zooming past us without as much as an acknowledgment of our cars. I was in shock. While most of the time, our thoughts towards the cops here are that of frustration and resentment, at this moment, I loved the cops here, and I loved South Africa! That would NEVER happen in the States. I breathed a sigh of relief, and let out a huge laugh. We were on our way, cheering and singing songs again. That is a moment that I will never forget.

The picture above is of Mike, Dom and I with a bunch of coaches and DJ Slyso(in front), a well known radio DJ who performed at the VCT.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This weekend we went to a Bafana Bafana Match(translates to "The boys, the boys") versus Japan. Bafana is the name for the South African National team, and we got to see them play in the new world cup stadium built in Port Elizabeth. The stadium was awesome, although the game ended in a 0-0 draw, which was a bit frustrating. The energy and the fans however, made the day. It was so awesome to see people rallying behind their team, people know much more about the national soccer team here than most Americans do about our own team! The flags, the colors, the chants and the music made the viewing experience unlike any other game I have ever attended. But, you could still feel that unified comraderie leaving the stadium just like it feels when you leave Fenway Park. We all had a great time. Here is a photograph of the four of us with a bunch of our coaches who attended the game as well. Did I mention we sat five rows up from the field?! Don't think that will be happening for the World Cup!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Graduation Time

So, in between having my brother visit, hosting about 10 other interns at our house for Halloween, our office has been really really busy planning for our upcoming event that coincides with World Aids Day on December 1st. Every year, the Port Elizabeth office has a VCT Tournament. VCT stands for Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV, and we combine that with a soccer tournament for local high school teams. So, teams compete in the tournament, as well as have the opportunity to know their status. The event is also open to the community and is one of the biggest events that Grassroot Soccer performs across South Africa. So, we have all been working on that, Dom in particular, and it has been quite stressful, in large part because most tasks are just incredibly difficult here.

Along with working on the VCT, it is also Graduation season. Graduations are held at at each school we work with once all the students participating in our Skillz Curriculum complete the eight practices, or graduate. It is an event that parents are invited to, as well as teachers, and the principal usually attends and speaks. Graduates are given an opportunity to share something as well, either a song, dance, poem, skit or any type of performance. They are wonderful moments of coaches and students coming together one last time to celebrate the achievements of the children during their time with Grassroot Soccer. Grassroot Soccer also provides snacks for the children and guests, which is one of the highlights of our jobs as interns(not really). We get to venture to a place called “Sweet Connection” which is a warehouse of junk food, where we buy packages of Beef flavored chips, Fruit Chutney, Nik Naks(think cheetos), and more for the people attending the graduation. This pretty much goes against all that GRS stands for, as we are trying to teach kids to be healthy and active, but if we brought them apples and oranges there would probably be a riot, so it’s best to just give them some treats on this special day.

This round of graduations in particular meant a lot to me, as it was all the schools that Dom, Siya and I visited when we first arrived in PE. I have gotten to know the principals and teachers in these schools, as well as some of the students, so I feel really connected to these places, and it is weird to think that we will not be going back to them, or else at least not until next year. It makes me think about how strong of relationships the coaches must be developing with these kids, and how hard it must be for them to say goodbye. On Tuesday, Cingani High School(pronounced Thing-ah-ni), had their graduation, where approximately 230 children graduated from our Skillz Curriculum. I was particularly excited for this graduation, because the coaches had told me these children were all really intelligent and passionate about Grassroot Soccer, and because I have gotten to know one student at Cingani quite well. Wisdom, a 14 year old girl was at the holiday camp in Motherwell as well, so I got to talk a lot with her there, and she is such a motivated, inspiring girl who is intelligent beyond her years. We talked about life goals and dreams, as well as HIV/AIDS and the pressures that girls face in South Africa. She recited a beautiful poem to me about HIV, and I encouraged her to recite it at the graduation, which she did. I have decided to include it in my blog, because I think it is so beautiful:

I am here today with a big bag
I'm ready to produce my seeds
Spread them and plant them

Seeds with no future
Seeds with no life

Ready to wipe the nation
So you better watch out

The only thing I am after it's you. You cannot run you
cannot hide

But the only thing you can do is
to protect yourself not for one minute
but for your whole life

So be aware and be wise
Use protection before
I get you!!

She is quite the amazing girl. It meant so much to her to get to perform this poem in front of so many of her classmates. She is just one example of the many, many children that Grassroot Soccer touches in such amazing ways. Before beginning the Skillz Curriculum, Wisdom barely knew anything about HIV/AIDS, and she actually refused to partake in the activities. It was only after talking with the coaches more, and learning more about Grassroot Soccer, that she agreed to participate, and after that, she was hooked.

I hope that her story and poem will continue to inspire and touch you all, as it did for me. She has made a big impact on me and my life, and seeing how affected she was by GRS was a reminder to me about just how amazing and powerful this organization truly is.

Much more to come in the next few days, this weekend we are going to see Bafana Bafana (the South African national team) play Japan in a Friendly World Cup match in the new World Cup stadium in Port Elizabeth. It should be nuts, I cannot wait.

Hope you all are doing well, thank you for the continued love and support.

Ben's Visit to South Africa

My apologies for not posting in a month...the time is flying and things keep getting busier and busier! I thought I would include a photo from my brother, Ben's recent trip to South Africa. He came and spent a few days in Port Elizabeth, went to work with me, got to meet a bunch of other interns for Halloween, and then we drove from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town along the Garden Route. It was a great week with Ben, and it was so sad to have him leave. It was such a nice feeling to have family come and visit. This is a photograph of the two of us petting an elephant, which we got to ride afterwards. It was such an awesome experience, although not very comfortable!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Thought I should include a picture of the group after we went Bungee Jumping! Yes, Sarah went bungee jumping, shocking, I know. This is picture of the four of us with Fergus, the other guy who jumped with us and our bungee crew. We jumped off at a place called Bloukrans, the world's highest bungee jump off a bridge. We jumped at 216m, equivalent to the height of the Met Life building in New York! Craziness. Never again, but quite the rush!

Braai with the Coaches

This weekend we had a “Braai” (BBQ) with all forty of the coaches at our house. It was really exciting to have them over in a non work setting, but I don’t think any of us realized how many people forty truly is! It was a little bit chaotic, but a lot of fun, and great to spend time getting to know all of the coaches outside of a work setting. There was lots of incredible food that they cooked for us, as well as lots of dancing and playing games. I don’t think I have ever met forty people as loud and crazy as these coaches-when they all come into the office everything stops because they are so ridiculously loud, yelling and dancing around, it’s hysterical, but easy to max out on it after awhile. If you think that I am loud, you have not seen ANYTHING! The four of us pretty much stop working once they all roll in for meetings and sessions on Fridays, because there really is no way to get anything done with them all here. Certainly a really different work dynamic, but I have grown to love it, and I miss the coaches when they are not in the office, because they bring so much fun and good energy to the office. It’s nice to get to joke around and laugh with them to break you from the stress and hectic office environment.

So, after a busy week, it’s nice to have a bit of a relaxing, rainy Sunday to relax and catch up on things before work begins again tomorrow. This week will be another busy one, preparing for an evaluation we have of some coaches in two weeks, and this week the coaches are going through psycho-social and basic counseling training, so there will be a fair amount of things going on in the office.

I hope you all are doing well and enjoying baseball playoffs, the start of the NFL season and all the other great things that fall has to offer in the states! Thank you again for all the love and support, it’s so great to hear from you all!

This is a photograph of me at the holiday camp with some Motherwell Coaches: Lavista, Sindi, Nikza, V.I.P, Spakes, Voete and Mhama. It has been great to get so close to all of them, they are teaching me so much.

Holiday Program

Last week was quite the hectic week, as we ran holiday camps in all three of the townships that we work in. These camps, sponsored by Castrol, were a great way to keep kids active and off the streets during one of their school holidays. The idea was to recruit students from each township through local soccer and netball coaches, as well as teachers in the township schools. The students were given four hours per day to play games and participate in our curriculum. By the end of the week, students who attended camp every day were given Certificates proving that they had graduated through our Skillz Curriculum, just like their peers in school, which is the area that we normally target.

The week of the holiday program was really hectic, but also a lot of fun. We only had one car to get us between three sites, as Rosie was at a Training of new coaches in a town a few hours northeast of Port Elizabeth. It made for quite a lot of driving and waiting in between sites, but we worked it all out. Our car was packed with mini goals, coaches and supplies as we darted in between the three sites every day.

We also were lucky enough to have Bill Miles, our COO, and a Norwich resident, in town visiting with his family. It was great to see them and catch up on things in the Upper Valley, as well as in Cape Town. Also, two Cape Town interns were up for the week: Phil, who works with Bill, was around to help us out for the week and observe the camps, and Corey went to the Training of Coaches with Rosie. It was great to see other interns and show them around PE, as we are really proud of the city and the places that we work.

Siya, my supervisor who has taken me under his wing training me in all things Programs, was at the Training of Coaches for the week as well, so a lot of responsibility was placed on me, which was both exciting and overwhelming! It was pretty cool to be the only GRS worker at the camps, besides the coaches. It made me feel like the office really trusted me, and that gave me more confidence to step it up. Because the camp was sponsored by Castrol, there was a lot of extra work that had to be done, taking pictures, interviewing kids, observing and taking data, so the week was exhausting, but rewarding. It meant so much to me when I spoke with kids and they talked about the impact that the camp had on their life, and what it had taught them. It kept kids out of trouble, even for a few hours, and taught them a great deal of valuable information about themselves, HIV/AIDs and respecting others. Getting to be out, in the field for the entire week watching the coaches work also gave me much more respect for them as people and for what they do. The work that they do is truly amazing. They inspire and motivate children in ways that I have never seen before. It’s funny, sometimes the coaches just look like quiet, average people, and once they are in front of a group of children, they light it up and are completely different people.

Working at the camp really made me appreciate Grassroot Soccer and the amazing work that is being done by the organization across southern Africa. If this is happening in one site, I cannot imagine what great work is being done across all sites. Working in the NGO world, you get to see a lot of other NGOs and talk with people who work for them, so you begin to realize how much GRS really has their act together, and what we are doing is light years beyond many of the other partner NGOs that we work with.

After an exhausting week for everyone, the PE crew along with Corey and Phil, the two Cape Town interns visiting for the week, went up to Hogsback, a mountain town about two hours away. It was beautiful, and reminded me so much of Vermont. We saw pictures of it in the fall and winter and it looked just like New England. It was cool to go on a long hike and explore the town, I definitely want to go back there. A great, relaxed atmosphere, and it was so nice to get away after our busy week.

Now that the camps are over, the office has been hectic collecting all the data from the camps: the quizzes we give the kids before and after the camp, (which helps us to see how much the kids are learning), as well as the focus groups we have to run with campers(participants) and the coaches, about what went well, what we need to work on, and any feedback that they have. The work is never done! Things are really starting to pick up in the office, and I think from here on out we are going to be really busy. There is a lot of exciting work being done, so I am pumped to get started with more projects. All of the interns as well as the assistant site coordinators have a lot of ideas and side projects, as well as the day to day work, so things are certainly picking up.

Friday, October 9, 2009

This is a group photograph taken at Tsitsikamma, a gorgeous national park that we went to for a weekend.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Please Vote for Ethan!

If you have a minute, please vote for Ethan Zohn in this competition. If he wins, half of the proceeds($5,000) will be donated to GRS! Former Survivor: Africa winner and co-founder of Grassroot Soccer, Ethan is an amazing man, so please show him support!

This is a picture of me hanging out watching a Street League soccer match behind our office with some of our amazing coaches.

Coach's Story and Development Session

Happy Fall everyone! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the changing of the seasons(for most of you). Things are moving along really well in Port Elizabeth, work at the office is becoming more and more hectic with ongoing projects and upcoming events, so the atmosphere is great and quite high energy most of the time!

In a previous blog I mentioned what my work for Grassroot Soccer entails this year, but I wanted to expand on it further and go into more detail about some specifics. In Port Elizabeth I work in Programs, an element of which involves implementing our curriculum that we have created, called Skillz, into the schools that we work with. Skillz is an intensive 8 session(each session(“practice”) is 45 minutes long) run by our “coaches”(role models from the community) which encompasses games, team building activities, group discussions(“team talk”), and assignments to work on before the next session(“micro-move”). There is a TON of lingo within the Skillz curriculum, so I won’t overwhelm you just yet with all of that. In the time that I have been here, I have already grown really familiar with the practices, and I have even gotten to help facilitate a few(with the help of coaches) at various times, which has been really cool, and something that I never actually imagined would happen. I have also had the chance to go out “in the field” many times to schools in the townships that we work in to see coaches in action running through practices. Really cool stuff. The picture I posted before of the kids playing “find the ball” is just one example of an activity played in a practice.

So, on Fridays at our office we have what are called Development Sessions. Development Sessions involve all 40 of our Coaches coming to our office from 9:30 to 11:30, or later, usually. Sessions vary in length and style, but all sessions involve time for each township specific group to meet and talk about highs and lows for the week, goals for the next week and general logistics about how work is going. Yesterday our development session was Session 8 of the Skillz Curriculum. Two relatively new coaches ran the practice, so that they had an opportunity to perfect their presentation and receive feedback from more experienced coaches. So, Lidz(“God”) one of our coaches, and Nkiza, led the session. Dom, Mike and I were in the office so we got to participate. When the coaches come for Development sessions, everything else comes to a halt in the office, so Fridays are both fun and really hectic. Imagine 40 loud, goofy, outgoing people all shoved into one room--it gets crazy! So, the practice began with the group breaking into three smaller groups so that we all could share our “Coach’s Story”. The coach’s story is part of the Skillz Curriculum, and it is a story or memory of a defining moment in the coach’s life which they share with the children they are working with. It is a moment for the children to connect with the coach’s better, seeing their struggles and being able to compare their life and relate to the coach on another level. The coach’s story doesn’t have to be HIV/AIDS related, but most of the coaches have stories about the effect of HIV/AIDS on their life.

In my group of about 15 coaches, each person had a few minutes to share their story. I was really excited and interested to hear these coaches tell such an intimate story, and I also was not sure what I was going to talk about, fearful that my stories would not compare to anything that these people have been through. The stories that these coaches told were incredible: beyond what I could have imagined. I was blown away with how easily they were able to share these stories, and also in shock at what these people have experienced at such an early age. Helen Epstein, author of the book The Invisible Cure, one that I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, spoke to the predicament in South Africa. She said that here in particular, not everyone is infected, but everyone is affected. The only problem is that in general, here people do not talk about it. So, getting to hear coaches, role models and young people around my age, talk about how this virus has affected their lives was not only inspiring but also quite intense. To give you a sense of what some of the stories were like, one girl(she is literally a girl, about 18 years old), told the story of how her best friend went out drinking one night, was raped and the assailant was HIV+, thus infecting her. This coach said that working for GRS was her way to help make it up to her friend. Another coach spoke about his sister passing away from HIV, and yet another spoke about her father having an affair, getting diagnosed with HIV and never telling her mother. These are only a few of the stories, and I have not even done them justice with my brief description of what was said. There were tears, lots of hugs and at the end I felt closer to these coaches than I had before, and I also had a better understanding of who they are and why they are so passionate about working for this organization.

An activity like that stays with you, and I knew that I wanted to share this with everyone because these stories are ones that I find myself continually thinking about. Dom and I began talking about the coach’s story, and formulating our own, which led to a great conversation between the two of us, and I immediately felt more connected to him. It’s remarkable how, when given the right venue, people can open up so easily.

Friday night, we were lucky enough to have two surprise guests from Cape Town staying with us! Zak(the Monitoring and Evaluating MASTER of GRS),and Elise(who works closely with Bill Miles, our COO in Business and Development), both Dartmouth graduates who now work for GRS and live in Cape Town came through PE on a surprise, unplanned visit. They were on vacation and missed their flight so we got to show them around the city and spend time with them, and it was wonderful! Getting to see familiar (American!) faces, talk about GRS news and updates, and laugh it up was a wonderful feeling; the four of us were giddy with excitement and happiness! I think that talking with them, and hearing about what is in store for the upcoming year, for GRS and in Port Elizabeth in particular, made me all the more excited and enthused about what is to come. It was a very pleasant surprise, and a great start to our weekend!

Something that I also wanted to briefly highlight about what makes Grassroot Soccer so great is that every voice matters. Tommy Clark, one of the founders, is constantly corresponding within the GRS community, emailing the interns and checking in with everyone. And, even lowly interns like myself feel that we truly have a voice and make an impact. Ideas that I have had and mentioned are now becoming a reality-all it takes is speaking up to any superior and most likely, if feasible, your goals can be met. It’s a really empowering, and inspiring feeling to know that your ideas(“nuggets” as they are called in the GRS world) actually can make a difference. With an NGO such as GRS which is constantly evolving and changing, sometimes it is overwhelming to think of adding in other suggestions or ideas to the mix, but it is reassuring and inspiring to know that our feedback is greatly appreciated and taken into consideration. It certainly helps to light that fire within me to think of more constructive methods of approaching aspects of our work and other things that could be done to help GRS out overall.

If you have a free minute, check out the new GRS website: They just updated it and it looks great! If you go to the page: Who we are, scroll down to Interns, you can see photos and read bios about the other interns who are working for GRS this year. It’s really cool to read about all the employees as well, and how they got involved with GRS. And, the website has a lot of great information about what is new with GRS as well as information, history and videos. Lots of cool stuff to see!

In other, more light-hearted news, this weekend we went to Addo National Park, about a 40 minute drive from Port Elizabeth, and one of the most well known Elephant Parks in Africa. We went on a 6am safari, which was really cool. We didn’t actually get to see a lot of animals(one elephant, warthogs, kudu(like antelope), and a few others) just being in the park and checking out the scene was awesome. Afterwards, we went to this cool private zoo where we got to play with baby lions! It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, really crazy to get to hold and pet and play with little lions, don’t think that would fly in the states!

Looking forward to the upcoming weeks, we have Holiday Programs starting September 28th, which is a week of “camp” style activities for students while they are on school holiday, so I should have lots of photos and updates from that. Dom, Mike and I will pretty much be the coordinators of the camps in each township. And, Rosie is going to help with a week long training for new coaches, so lots will be happening! I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.

Again, I hope you all are doing well. It has been great to hear from people and to know that people are enjoying the blog! Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing, it is always great to hear from people, even a quick e-mail. Thanks for all the love and support.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Skillz Event with Saint Barnabas Church

This photo is of a group of boys participating in the activity called, "Find the ball". In this game, there are two lines of people standing side by side, hands behind their backs, facing the other group. The leaders of the activity walk behind each line and put the ball in someone's hand, and they pass it down the line until the leader tells them to stop. Then, it is up to the other team to guess who has the tennis ball in the line across from them. We use tennis balls that have "HIV" written on them to teach the children that you cannot tell who has HIV just by looking at them, and the only way you know your status is by getting tested. It's a really fun game that children enjoy and learn a lot from as well. Our coaches do a fantastic job of presenting the game in an energetic and positive matter, it is amazing to watch. We have also been lucky enough to get to help out with these activities and presenting them, which is a bit nerve wracking but also really fun!

This photo is from an event we had this past weekend at Saint Barnabas Church in Zwide, one of the townships that we work in. We had an informal soccer tournament, some netball(like basketball, but worse) and did some of the activities from our Skillz Curriculum. This is a picture of three of us (Rosie, Mike and myself) with some of the coaches and our supervisor, Mpumi(lower right). The event was a great success and a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Port Elizabeth is like Detroit

When I am asked to describe Port Elizabeth, the first thing that comes to mind is that PE is like the Detroit of South Africa. An immediate reaction to that statement would probably be one of repulsion, but Port Elizabeth has a lot more beauty than one would expect, and I think that it is an overlooked city. I compare it to Detroit because PE is a struggling industrial city, with smokestacks and a large conglomerate of the South African automotive industry based here. We pass GM, Volkswagen and others frequently, as their centers are based in PE.

But, there is so much more to PE, in fact that is just what you see initially. We have been able to run on trails near our house, called the snake trails, which remind me so much of Southern California. The wafting smell of Eucalyptus, the dry heat, small branches and twigs and palm trees make me feel as though I am in Laguna Beach. Even the road to enter Port Elizabeth reminds me of the curving entrance to Laguna or other southern California towns. At the top of a hill on this run, you can look out over the city, see the ocean and see mountains in the distance. We literally have the best of all worlds.

When we drove out to Jeffrey’s Bay last weekend, about a 40 km drive west towards Cape Town, it felt like I was in the countryside of Europe. Every place we go has a different feel, the valleys and winding roads, along with gorgeous pastures and amazing mountains in the distance had such a European feel, then we would pass a hugely deserted plot of land, with dry, dead looking trees interspersed, and I would remember that I am in South Africa. The variety is quite incredible.

I have gone running down by the beach, and the feeling there is also reminiscent of California: large homes decorate the edges of the sand, and the beach seems to go on forever. It also feels a bit like Delaware beaches, with the tall homes right along the road, looking out onto the channel that drops the water into the ocean. It’s hard to believe that I can see all of this within two minutes from my house.

Then, if we drive for about 15 minutes we are taken to the townships. The township where I will be working this year, Motherwell, is in the opposite direction from where our office is, in a township called Zwide. Motherwell sits on a hill looking over PE, and is much more organized, clean and wealthier than Zwide. It doesn’t feel as much like a township, although all it takes is a cow crossing the road for you to remember where you are. Tonight, for example, even in our swanky neighborhood of Blue water Bay(we live in a nice, suburban part of town, but we call it the ghetto compared to some of our neighboring homes), two donkeys ran across the road in front of us! Donkeys! Near the gas station! It was hysterical.

I think what has surprised me the most, and also frustrated me when talking with other interns who are scattered about in Zambia, Namibia and Malawi, is that South Africa is a developed country. While I was well aware of this upon arriving, I was still excited and waiting in anticipation to see what Cape Town looked like outside of the airport when I arrived. Interestingly enough, we did get to drive through the townships of Cape Town, some of the biggest in the world, before we entered the city, but I was surprised at the infrastructure. After all, the only other experience I have had in Africa was the trip that I took to Senegal while studying abroad in France. Senegal and South Africa are two completely different countries, so expecting to see what I saw in Senegal in South Africa was a bit of a leap. I was talking with another intern who studied in Senegal about the differences between the two, we both remarked that Cape Town did not really feel like Africa, it had more of a European feel. In Senegal, a still developing country, there are is no real order on the roads, many roads are not paved(or if so it is a poor job); in short, there is no infrastructure. In South Africa, driving down the street to the grocery store feels the same as in New York, California or Vermont. However, the townships in South Africa make me feel as though I am not at home. On our drive to work, we pass miles upon miles of tin roof shacks scattered across the landscape as far as the eye can see, every different color. These house families of eight to nine, and sometimes more, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents all living together under one roof at a time. On rainy, cold days I stop and think about what it must be like in those small shacks, with little insolation or protection from the outside. The roads in the townships are dirt, lined with garbage and sewage, stray dogs and goats milling about, mixed with children running around and women selling fruit along the streets. People are, as I have so often found, so friendly, outgoing and optimistic considering the obstacles they face on a daily basis. The other day we were leaving the townships and we saw a man get tackled on the street by security officers as well as locals, because he was trying to steal from a woman’s fruit stand. So, it’s nice to know that people are still looking out for one and other, when you could so easily be consumed with looking out for yourself.

I think that the combination of lives that I am living is one of the best experiences about living in Port Elizabeth, because myself and the other interns whom I live with are all experiencing so many different worlds. We get to interact and meet Afrikaners in our neighborhood(I will get into more detail about the segregation still present), we get to mingle with tourists down by the beaches, and we get to work and spend majority of our time with blacks in the townships. I still cannot get over the feeling of walking into schools in the townships to the stares of hundreds of kids, fascinated by your color, your clothes, your accent. Having the respect of the people in the townships is the most important thing to me, because they look at most white people with such distain and hatred, so once they know that we are a. trying to learn xhosa, and b. not an Afrikaner, they usually treat us much more in a kinder and more civil manner.

Let me give you an example of our split lives: Last Friday, we finished work at about one thirty, after meeting with all of the coaches(there are 40 in PE), discussing the upcoming week and making sure of all them were paid correctly. So, after work, the three people that I live with were famished, so we decided to go to our favorite braai(BBQ) place just down the road in Zwide, the township where we work. They have the most incredible meat that I have ever tasted. What you do is you walk in to this little deli/store, order the meat that you want(we always chose beef and lamb), they pour their spice concoction on it, you buy whatever else you want to buy(we choose cokes and a loaf of whole wheat bread, in an attempt to feel a bit healthier), then you bring the meat around to the back of the building where grills and outdoor seating is set up, and the men back there grill your meat to perfection and bring it over to you, on thick brown paper, and you gnaw, rip and chew at the meat in any fashion you want, as long as it does not involve silverware or napkins. It’s a riot. And, it’s great to be in the thick of it all, we have already become friends with the grill men! So, we ate there, went home, hung out for a bit, then went down to the boardwalk by the water for the evening. There were a few soccer games on that we wanted to see, so we decided to have dinner down there as well. The boardwalk has a casino, a movie theater, bowling alley and lots of cute little tourist shops, it feels very much like florida or any resort spot. We ate at this cool little restaurant with house music blasting all night, and sipped on wine and mixed drinks while watching the game. One of my house mates commented on the drastic difference between our two meals that day, one in the township and one in the city: literally like night and day. It’s a great combination though, because not only do you get to experience both worlds, but it is nice to have a place to come back to that can bring you out of the intensity of the townships, as thinking about it over time gets me incredibly overwhelmed and sad.

Before I forget, I guess I should give a more proper introduction of the people whom I live with. I live with two guys, Mike and Dominic(Dom), and Rosie. Mike is from New Jersey, is 23 and just graduated from Boston University with his masters in Public Health. Super laid back, funny, surfer dude with a great attitude, he is going to be working in Monitoring and Evaluation in our Port Elizabeth office, which basically means he will be running focus groups talking to children, monitoring data and running his own sort of “experiments” here out in the field. He is responsible for recording a ton of data and the quizzes that every graduate must fill out, so as we are expanding,his work is going to get heftier and heftier. But, he has a lot of great ideas and he is beyond competent, so I know that he will rock at what he is doing.
Dom is from Massachusetts, and is also one of the nicest people that I have ever met. Really, the group of people whom I live with is unreal! We all click really well and each bring a different outlook and perspective to the group dynamic. Dom just graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, and is good friends with my friend from home who also went to Bowdoin, Lindsey Schickner. So, we immediately had that connection. He played soccer at Bowdoin and is super funny, positive and such a daredevil! Also a big sox and pats fan(everyone in my house is, so that’s great). Dom is working in Programs with me, which entails working closely with our coaches who implement the curriculum at schools, coordinating their schedules at schools, making sure they are paid on time, but also helping with logistics like our new street league, which is a tournament style league for kids to play in after school, and getting other things up and running. The two of us have been driving around to schools a lot, seeing graduations, participating in some of the activities in our Skillz curriculum and doing other random things. It’s been really awesome, and it is so cool to get to know the coaches and see them in action.
Rosie is from Maine and just graduated from Colby College in Maine. She also played soccer there and is a riot! Subtle humor, positive energy, this girl cracks us all up. She is a little bit more quiet than I am(shocking, I know), but once you get her going there is no stopping her! She and I get along really well, and it’s a nice balance to have two guys and two girls, so the guys can go and have “guy time” while the girls can also go and have “girl time”. We played Pictionary the other night, girls v. boys, and we won by almost ten points...just goes to show that girls rule! ha.

Well, I hope that everyone is doing well, it is great to hear from people about what is going on in their lives, so please e-mail me( at any point to check and or just say hi! I would love to hear from you. Much more to come, I have a few other blogs in the works.

All my best!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First week of work


Well I am settling into life in Port Elizabeth slowly but surely, the biggest hurdle so far being learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road in a standard! Things are going well, we just had our first weekend here where we got settled in, had a braai, a barbeque with the staff in the office and Ro, an intern who is living in our house and moving out tomorrow. I am beginning to learn the real definition of “Africa Time”, a hard lesson to learn coming from the States where everything is go, go go! Just to give you some examples: for our braai we told people to arrive at noon, and they arrived around 130 or 2. Then, at work, they told us to be at work at 8, we arrived at 815, they didn’t begin doing anything until probably’s quite a different world. But, it’s a lot of fun too! Today is my first official day of work, where the internet is down so we are scrambling around trying to get as much done as we can without internet. I have spent majority of the time so far sitting around, and calling the Cape Town office speaking with another intern about ordering some guides for a “Training of Coaches”, a four day training session Siya, my boss, runs to teach new coaches how to implement our curriculum in the schools. They said to expect the unexpected, and a lot of down time mixed with really crazy busy times, so I am now seeing what they mean. You have to be comfortable asking people for work, but also comfortable sitting around when there is no work. So, it’s a lot of cultural lessons. At times I do feel like I have just been thrown into this mix and this world without having a chance to get my bearings, but I think it will all work out soon.

I thought that it would be important at some point to give you all more of a background on GRS and their sponsors, and how we are able to do what we do. GRS is sponsored by a number of organizations, like USAID, PEPFAR(President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) Established by President Bush, who actually did a number of great things for International HIV/AIDS awareness), Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, Nike, FIFA and more. The amount of partners and organizations working with GRS is astounding, and quite surprising. To have an organization that is so new(GRS was founded in 2003) having so many globally respected organizations backing them up is pretty incredible. During our training we learned about these organizations and their sponsorships, as well as some overarching initiatives, like F4, which stands for Football for an HIV free generation. Our Skillz program, the curriculum that we teach kids about HIV/AIDS and confidence building is one of the programs which falls under F4, which is like the overarching HIV/Soccer initiative(confusing, I know. I am still trying to figure it all out!). The amount of balls GRS is juggling is pretty ridiculous.

Some of the new plans that GRS has going on include The Football for Hope Center, a center that they are opening in December in Khayelitsha, a township outside of Cape Town. This is a center with a football pitch out in front, which will also have offices and classroom type space to teach children, run after school programs, and basically serve as a venue for students to get off the streets and to be doing something productive. Part of this Football for Hope Center is the idea of 20 centers by 2010, they are hoping to establish 20 centers like the one in Khayelitsha across the country. Along with this and many other programs, it seems like everyone at GRS has other side projects that they are working on to help continue the GRS mission. It’s really remarkable. I am inspired every day by these people and the work that they are doing. It’s great to be around this incredible energy, the organization is growing by the day and it’s exciting to be a part of it! The staff has expanded in huge numbers, and they are also trying to hire only South Africans, hopefully making GRS a South African organization, with GRS Global that will include other nationalities in other offices across the globe.

That is sort of generally speaking what the Cape Town Headquarters is working on, they are the point person for all of the offices across South Africa. Beyond South Africa, interns are placed in Nambibia, Masiena(near the border of Zimbabwe), Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia. The interns who are not in S. Africa are working on similar projects, or helping to establish GRS in other locations. In Lesotho for example, the two interns there are working on a program called Kick 4Life, which works hand in hand with GRS, so they are not working specifically for GRS, but with a similar organization. In Malawi, they are working with Baylor to help set up a GRS office in Lilongwe. For us in Port Elizabeth, we are doing more of the traditional Grassroot Soccer work. Port Elizabeth is the hub of Grassroot Soccer, probably the second biggest office and the most important for graduating students through our curriculum. The curriculum that we used, called Skillz curriculum, has been adapted and altered over the years and now is a combination of games, activities and sessions for the children to work together, discuss issues, and hear stories from their coaches (peer mentors). Grassroot Soccer as a whole is hoping to graduate 26,000 students through their curriculum from October 1 of 2009 through September 31 of 2010. And, for Port Elizabeth, we are hoping to graduate 16,000 out of that 26,000 in schools in the neighboring townships--well over half of the estimated graduates are expected to come from PE! So, we certainly have a lot of work to do.

This week, I have been going with my boss, Siya, a dynamic little jokester, and Dom, a fellow intern, to schools in townships surrounding Port Elizabeth. The township I will be working closely with this year is Motherwell, which is on the outskirts of the city. We have been going to new schools and pitching our curriculum to principals and Life Orientation Teachers(sort of like Health/phys. ed teachers), in hopes that they will agree to have us established in their schools, working with 6, 7, 8 and 9th graders. Tough ages to follow and target, but also some of the best as at that age children are most vulnerable to peer pressure, and are beginning to think about sexual relationships, but hopefully have not started yet. The reason why we target this age group is because GRS hopes that we can prevent these kids from making the wrong choices before they start veering off track. It has been really interesting going into these schools and talking with the administration, and also very intimidating! Siya had me explaining all on my own what we do and why we do it, which was really scary at first, but also so cool. I am really starting to feel connected to the organization, and even more passionate about what we do and what makes GRS such an amazing organization. Also, while we were visiting schools we got to stop by a school that already has GRS working there, and we got to see some coaches in the middle of a session with 6th graders, which was really fun. We did some energizers with them, which involve dancing in the middle of the circle, a take on head, shoulders, knees and toes and some others. And, it is always a great time to learn some more Xhosa, one of the languages spoken here, and the most prevalent language in the Townships. It has a lot of clicks, so it’s pretty challenging, but all of us are confident that we will learn/pick up a good amount by the end of the year. Then, we got to watch the children perform an activity, called Risk Field, where children have to dribble around cones that represent obstacles that they face in life: HIV/AIDS, unprotected sex, rape, drugs, alcohol, violence, etc. If they hit a cone, they have to do pushups. They line up in teams and have to race each other through the cones. Dom and I got to play along with them today, and it was such a riot. The kids are super energetic and excited, participating a ton and working really well with each other. And, they are also really respectful of the coaches, who become huge role models for them as they live in the townships and connect with each of the students. The only thing that’s still becoming hard to adjust to is being white, as we are the only white people around usually, so we get a lot of stares and kids yell, “Mulungo”, which means white person in Xhosa.

So far, things are going great. It’s been really rewarding to see what work is being done in the townships, and getting to play with children and interact with the locals has by far been the biggest highlight for me. Yesterday I had a moment of realization, as I was sitting outside on the soccer pitch behind our office, watching some street league play. I was talking with a few of the female coaches from Zwide, one of the townships, while I was looking around at the scene: us, on a soccer field, in the middle of a township, and it really hit me what I am doing and where I am living. Sometimes I forget where I am, and moments like that bring me back to reality. It’s so eye opening working in a township and seeing what people endure on a daily basis. Certainly makes you appreciate what you have, and how lucky we truly are. And, it shows the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. I have been amazed by everyone that I have met so far, and I know this is only the beginning. Thank you to everyone for your support and emails, it is so wonderful to hear from people. I miss you all and hope that everyone is doing well. I hope to have more to update you all on soon!

All my best and much love,


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The video below shows a bit of our office and all of us working very seriously...we have to get used to having down time in the office as things move a bit more slowly here. But, I am quite confident work will start picking up! This picture is of the entire group of interns(except Dom, one of the guys I am living with, has been cut out a bit). This shot was taken on the turf field that was built in honor of a soccer player at Franklin & Marshall who passed away due to heart complications a few years ago. The field is in Khayelitsha, a township outside of Cape Town. It was pretty awesome to get to play a huge, Grassroot Soccer-wide soccer tournament on this field(even our COO played!), in the thick of the township. We all had jerseys and team names, and balls were flying all over the place, over the fences, everywhere! The highlight of my playing was when one of the founders, Kirk Friedrich(who played on the Zimbabwean National Team), kicked a midfield shot that was going into goal, and I intercepted it, hoping to help with the goal, instead blocking his shot completely. I heard a lot of "Way to go, Scal!" after that, haha. My nickname has stuck even here!

First day of work!

Check this out, this is what the world would like if HIV prevalence determined territory size. Crazy, isn't it?

Also, check out this video of the Cape Town staff of Grassroot Soccer welcoming all of the interns on our second night in Cape Town! Quite the welcome!

If you are feeling particularly ambitious, there is a part two of this, haha.

More updates to come! I am finishing up my next blog entry, look for it in the next few days. In the mean time, I love getting emails, so feel free to email me at! Also, check out for more information on what we do/are doing, our sponsors, etc. Lots of exciting things going on!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hello to all!

Greetings from South Africa, my home for the past two weeks and for the next year! I arrived in Cape Town on August 2nd with a group of other interns, and we had training in Cape Town at our hotel for the first week-packed days going over forms, learning about the history of S. Africa and more of the biology of HIV, and also getting to play soccer with local children, go on some amazing hikes and explore the city. It was an amazing, incredibly busy week. I think the best activity that we did was on the first day we arrived we had a Cape Town resilency race, where in groups of three or four we had to run around the city looking for monuments and random things, and ask(while filming) people about the provinces, languages and more. It was really fun, but exhausting! My group ran around the city from 8am until 2pm, literally running. A lot of people thought that we were on the show, The Amazing Race! One of the tasks in the Resilency race was to get tested for HIV, which was a really good thing for all of us to experience, as this will be something that we will be dealing with throughout the next year. While I knew that there was no way I could be HIV positive, I was still completely nervous/terrified/anxious as I awaited the results. And, seeing the conditions of the clinic made me appreciate all that we have in the States. I am sure that was the first time of many that I will take and observe this year, but it was a really humbling experience and helped me to remember what I am doing here this year.
With the soccer playing, s most of you know, I am not the most talented, but I had a great time goofing off with the other 26 interns, most of whom are division I or III soccer players. But they were all patient and we had some good laughs. And we got to play with children near our hotel who flocked in droves to come and show us their moves. On Friday, they announced are placements for the year at Bill Miles’s house, the COO of Grassroot(GRS), and a Norwich resident. He and his family are living in Cape Town for the year, which isn’t such a terrible gig! Before the placement we played some casual games of soccer as a huge group: staff, coaches, and interns-there were about 5 differenct games going on! And, we played right as the sunset overlooking the city. We had to climb up this ridiculously steep hill and then up a ladder into his backyard where we all huddled together and learned of our placements. We had all been really nervous and worked up about where we were going, so it was great to play some soccer to take the edge off. Before our placements, the interns did our best to thank the Cape Town staff by singing our own version of “Bye, Bye, Bye” (which I co-wrote), as they had re-written “Thriller”, “wonderwall” and “wagon wheel” in our honor on our first night in C.T. The song didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but they got a kick out of it and we had some great laughs.
So, then they announced our placements in team style, and I am going to be in Port Elizabeth, S. Africa for the next year! I am already moved into my house which is awesome, we live in a gated community near the township where we iwll be working. And, we live about 2 minutes from the beach! I am living with two guys and a girl, and all three of them are awesome. Although I am a bit biased, I think we have the best crew of all the sites. Everyone is funny, laid back and hard working, so it should be a great year. I am really excited, and also really nervous for work to begin. We arrived in Port Elizabeth this morning, after driving six hours last night and three this morning PACKED into a little car, and now we are all just unpacking and organizing ourselves. Only one of us knows how to drive a standard, so it’s going to be entertaining for the first few weeks as we orient ourselves and get a feel for driving on the other side of the road and the city.
Another really cool thing about Port Elizabeth is that we get to work in the townships, which is pretty incredible. Our office is in a primary school, so every day we are exposed to the devastating poverty in South Africa. One reason why I am so thrilled about being here is that I will get to interact with the locals and children more than people staying in Cape Town. I think this is going to be a fantastic year. Again, thank you all for your generosity, encouragement and motivation. I would not be here if it were not for all of you: everything that you have given to me has helped me to get to where I am now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One Week and Counting!

Hello Everyone!

Thank you again to all the followers and supporters for your help and encouragement, none of this would be possible without all of you! I just wanted to write briefly as I am preparing to leave next Friday, July 31st-crazy!! I had my Grassroot Training last weekend, and it was great. I got to meet all of the other interns, learn more about the programs and play some ridiculous bonding games. You know you are going to fit in just fine/like a group when everyone is crawling around on the ground making animal noises! Needless to say, that training got me even more excited for the upcoming year.

In other news, due to various donations and fundraisers, I have reached the $10,000 mark and I am on my way to $12,000! It is just remarkable. This is further encouragement to me and to everyone that if you believe in something, you can do it. I really would not be able to do this year internship without the support and family and friends, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

More updates to come soon and I am learning how to add links/photos/all of that cool stuff, so hopefully this blog will start looking more snazzy soon!!

Thank you again for all the support, and please e-mail me at any point, I would love to hear from you!

All my best and Kilo as they say in South Africa!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yard Sale Success!

Hello to everyone!

Thank you to the generous donors who have been supporting online, through checks to me, checks to GrassrootSoccer, and those supporting through kind words, connections and advice. It all means so much to me! I am starting to get increasingly excited and nervous for my next adventure, since I leave in approximately 1 month! Lots to do! I am so happy to report that this weekend I had a great yard sale, and with the help of great friends and the generous Barr-Harris family who allowed us to use their lawn, we raised over $1,000!! That certainly exceeded all expectations by far! We sold clothes, knick knacks, household products and had Grassroot Soccer information as well as gear to sell. Generous donations and good publicity helped to make this event such a great success. My overall fundraising is now up to approximately $4,000, although with the online donations it is difficult to say how much exactly, since those take a bit longer to process. But, I am well on my way! And, with a month left until leave, there is still much to be done! Please continue to help spread the word to friends, family, whomever this may appeal to, every bit helps!! Thank you again to everyone for supporting and believing in me and this cause, without you this literally would not be possible. Much love and keep in touch!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I have already been getting wonderful support and donations from friends, family and even people whom I have never gotten to meet, so thank you!! Your support means the world to me, and this experience truly would not be possible without all of you. I am so grateful. Please continue to pass the word on about Grassroot Soccer and my internship, every little bit helps!! I have some great ideas and suggestions going from the Grassroot Soccer office, as well as friends and family in my hometown. We had a great article published in our newspaper, the Norwich Times, about GRS and what we do, with a great little blurb about me and Austin Haynes, another local intern. This weekend I have a yard sale benefit, and Austin and I are in the process of writing foundations, going to businesses and local organizations, and continuing to write letters to family and friends. It is a slow process and lots of work, but I so believe in this cause and I am confident that my goal will be attained. At the moment, I have raised about $3,000, so there is much work to be done, but lots of great fundraisers planned! So, if you have any ideas or suggestions(as always), please keep them coming! But again, THANK you from the bottom of my heart for your support.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An interesting Link

If you have a minute, I suggest you watch this video, it gives some good insight into GrassrootSoccer. Pretty powerful.
I figured I should let you all know exactly what Grassroot Soccer, Inc. is, and what I will be doing for the next year!!

I have recently been selected to serve as an Intern for Grassroot Soccer, an organization based out of Norwich, VT, joining their fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Grassroot Soccer, Inc. (GRS) is an international non-profit organization that is using the power of soccer and community role models to empower African youth with the knowledge, skills and support to live HIV-free. This August, I will begin 12 months of service in one of the following sites in which Grassroot Soccer operates – Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa. As an Intern, I will be involved with all aspects of the successful delivery of the GRS program – training professional soccer players and other community leaders in the GRS Curriculum; building relationships with private, non-profit, and governmental organizations; designing, monitoring, and evaluating program implementation; fulfilling key operational and administrative duties in GRS offices. I am very excited to use my passion and dedication to inspire and move to action many youth in Africa.

Because this is a volunteer position with a non-profit organization, I will not receive any compensation for my time of service. With the exception of housing, GRS is unable to provide financial assistance or services for its Field Interns. Therefore, I am asking for your support in covering my expenses while I am in Africa. This includes travel to and from Africa, local transportation, food, health insurance, required immunizations and medications, and even everyday items such as toiletries. My fundraising goal to support my 12 months of service is $12,000. With the support of my family and friends, I am certain that I will reach my target and be able to serve this worthy cause.

While the HIV/AIDS epidemic is devastating and desperate, it is entirely preventable and treatable. If humankind is going to conquer this epidemic and other issues of poverty and infectious disease we must invest in our youth; children are the future and Grassroot Soccer is helping them make the difference! I want to extend this invitation for you to join my mission and journey in fighting the spread of this preventable disease. I will keep an active blog with stories and photos to share my work and experiences with you.

Having just graduated from St. Lawrence University on May 17th, I am both excited and daunted by this upcoming experience. But, I am hoping that this year will help me to find my passions, challenge myself and allow me to look at the world and myself in a completely different manner. I am confident that this year will propel me forward in my life and towards a future career.

Any contribution that you can make is greatly appreciated, just knowing that I have the support of family and friends means so much to me as I venture forward with this journey.

Thank you so much for your continued love, interest and support. Again, if you have any questions, please contact me at any point! I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


On the right hand side of the Blog, you can donate towards my fundraising efforts for my year long internship with GrassrootSoccer in Africa. Please join me in helping to work towards an HIV/AIDS free world! If you have any questions about what I will be doing or how to help, please feel free to e-mail me at Thank you again for all of your support and well wishes already!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Hello and welcome to my GrassrootSoccer Blog!! I am still a little new to the blog-world, so this may not be the most high tech site ever, but it will be a great resource for updates and a great way to keep in touch! Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement!!