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.

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