Sunday, June 6, 2010

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:

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.

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