Sunday, December 13, 2009
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.