Founded by Tommy Clark,MD, Grassroot Soccer became a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization in 2002. Dr. Clark conceived of the idea after having played soccer professionally in Zimbabwe. During that time he witnessed first hand both the power of soccer and the tragedy of HIV. He enlisted a group of friends who had similar experiences, and with the help of co-founders Methembe Ndlovu, Ethan Zohn and Kirk Friedrich created Grassroot Soccer.
Their web site states:
"Grassroot Soccer works primarily in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Botswana. In addition, through select partnerships, we work in other African countries, including Ethiopia, Liberia, Lesotho, and Namibia. Click here to learn more about our global efforts to address the HIV epidemic."
To develop the best youth targeted HIV prevention curriculum possible.
To share our curriculum and approach with local organizations - this allows us to achieve scale in a sustainable way while making use of local knowledge and skills.
To use the power of soccer in a variety of ways to increase our impact.
Grassroot Soccer's mission is to mobilize the global soccer community in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We have developed an internationally recognized HIV prevention curriculum that uses soccer players and the game itself to teach awareness about the disease, critical life skills, and prevention strategies to young people.
They say that "using the power of soccer in the fight against AIDS, Grassroot Soccer provides African youth with the skills and support to live HIV free.
"The GRS approach uses the power and popularity of soccer to break down cultural barriers, educate young people, and bring communities together around this important issue. GRS uses a unique activities-based curriculum to prepare trainers and peer educators to reach out to their communities and educate the population at large about how to avoid of HIV infection.
"It is a tremendous challenge to make the leap from HIV/AIDS awareness to HIV/AIDS prevention. It involves a much longer and more targeted intervention. The GRS curriculum is a very deliberate in its attempts to do that -- however it is not a stand-alone document. The training of trainers is an extremely important part of the strategy."
Because of this GRS sees the curriculum as a process, and recommends against simply using one or more games from the curriuculum as part of a separate program of youth HIV/AIDS education. They encourage interested individuals and organizations to contact them in order to discuss what strategies might work to enable a particular program to include the GRS curriculum in their activities, including GRS's options for Trainer-of-Trainer sessions.
The GRS website states:
"We help students feel they are supported by their communities - a key to successful behavior change: The percentage of students who could list three people they could talk to about HIV increased from 33% to 72%
"We help students know what resources are available in their communities: The percentage of students who knew where to go for help for HIV related problems increased from 47 to 76%
"We help students battle HIV-related stigma: The percentage of students who said they would feelcomfortable providing emotional support for an HIV positive classmate increased from 52% to 73%
"We help dispel life-threatening misconceptions: The percentage of students who believed condoms were effectively increased from 49% to 71%
GRS has several Outreach Programs
"GRS has its four "flagship" projects in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa, but it runs "outreach projects with NGO partners that are interested in and have the capacity and funding to run effective sport for development projects. Grassroot Soccer helps organizations to start successful programs by providing technical assistance through training, curriculum and project design, and systems for monitoring and evaluation. Outreach projects are an important part of Grassroot Soccer because they allow us to share our educational resources and expertise in using soccer as an HIV/AIDS prevention tool without being stretched too thin in terms of our own human resources."
"Grassroot Soccer says that it began these collaborative projects in 2004 with the Sports For Life (SFL) program in Zambia and Ethiopia. Sports For Life is a project run by Health Communication Partnerships (HCP), a USAID funded initiative that involves such organizations as The Academy for Educational Development (AED) and Johns Hopkins University Center For Communication Partnerships (JHUCCP). Grassroot Soccer worked with Sports For Life to design a joint curriculum and help them launch a major project in Ethiopia that is now being delivered in more than 1,000 schools and has reached more than 1.4 million people. GRS has since then provided training and technical assistance for several successful SFL projects including recent initiatives in Lesotho and Namibia.
"The success of SFL and interest in sport for development in the NGO community has also led to several additional collaborative projects for GRS in the past few years. We have worked with Mercy Corps to help start projects in Liberia and Sudan. We have worked with Lesotho Planned Parenthood to pilot a project in several districts in Lesotho. We have also worked with our NGO partners to design and develop new educational materials such as the Extra Time magazine. By sharing ideas and resources GRS has been able to reach out to tremendous numbers of people. We are always looking for like-minded partners that seek to integrate sports related HIV/AIDS prevention into their programs.
Grassroot Soccer in Namibia
"Sports for Life (SFL) uses the excitement of soccer to involve youth and young adults in HIV/AIDS prevention and care activities, capturing the attention of young people in an environment where they feel comfortable exploring serious and sensitive issues. SFL is a peer-driven, life skills program that has been tested, launched, and replicated in rural and urban environments. Through its innovative behavior change curriculum, SFL participants and trainers promote healthy behaviors to youth in their communities through a competitive teams approach.
"HCP/Namibia is piloting a sport-based HIV-prevention program called NAWA Sport which is based on the SFL curriculum, approach, and model. Ian Oliver, HCP/SFL Program Coordinator, and Jeff DeCelles, Grassroot Soccer Program Manager, were brought to Namibia to assist in the initial planning and training for this pilot phase of the program. Grassroot Soccer is a partner organization to SFL that provides assistance with training and program launches in other countries.
"HCP/Namibia has developed a network of Community Action Forums (CAFs) in 10 sites across Namibia. It is through this infrastructure that HCP plans to roll out NAWA Sport.
Grassroot Soccer in South Africa
"In South Africa, we have been working to prepare to launch programs by the end of 2005. We are working closely with the renowned international communications firm Fleishman Hillard to conduct needs assessments and identify communities and organizations to work with.
"The 2010 World Cup will be held in South Africa, and provides the ideal opportunity to highlight the power of soccer as an educational tool and raise the world's awareness about the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"Grassroot Soccer plans to capitalize on this opportunity by having South Africa as the focal point of its programs leading up to 2010.
Grassroot Soccer in Ethiopia
"Collaboration with international NGO and domestic and foreign allows for the rapid launch of a large-scale program.
"Grassroot Soccer helped to launch Sports For Life (SFL) in 2004 with the US Agency for International Development (USAID)- funded Health Communication Partnership (HCP).
"GRS hired and trained 15 local staff that conducted trainings of PE teachers from more than 250 schools, ran health festivals and youth soccer tournaments with more than 50,000 people in attendance, and is in the process of training hundreds of sports coaches to deliver the GRS curriculum to their teams.
Grassroot Soccer in Zambia
"Partnership with the domestic government, and local and international and corporations, yields rapid and effective scale up.
"In just two months operating in Zambia, GRS has had tremendous success and shown the true potential of our program. GRS, in collaboration with various local community-based organizations (CBOs), has trained more than 1,000 young people and infused its curriculum into several existing community-based projects.
"We are working with the International Organization of Migration and several CBOs to run reproductive health education soccer camps in multiple refugee settlements. We have trained staff from more than 10 local organizations to adopt our curriculum into their existing sport for development projects. We have worked with our local partner, Youth Activist Organization (YAO), to train peer educator soccer teams throughout Lusaka.
"As a result of our efforts, we are in negotiations to launch a private-public partnership project that will train physical education teachers to deliver the GRS curriculum in schools throughout Zambia. GRS will work with local organizations and large NGOs to ensure that this project is successful and that thorough evaluation takes place.
Grassroot Soccer in Zimbabwe
"Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second-largest city after the capital, Harare, and is home to nearly 700,000 people. It is also home to the Bulawayo Highlanders, the professional soccer club for which Tommy, Kirk, Ethan and other founding members of Grassroot Soccer played while living in Zimbabwe, and as such was the natural location for our first programs.
"Kirk launched Grassroot Soccer's flagship program in January of 2003, our initial program. Today in Bulawayo, GRS trains professional players from the Zimbabwean Men's and Women's National Soccer Teams to deliver 5-day behavior change educational programs to youth. Thanks to our strong ties to the soccer community and key local organizations, our strong and capable local staff continue to graduate more than 200 students per month from this effective program at a time when many other organizations have had to abandon their efforts due to an unstable political climate.
"The Children's Health Council, a Stanford University affiliate research group, conducted an evaluation of Grassroot Soccer's Zimbabwe program and found it to be remarkably successful at communicating Grassroot Soccer's curriculum. Please click here for more details of the study.
"The Bulawayo program was developed in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, the Bulawayo City Council, Rotary International, and various professional soccer teams.
I have quoted liberally from the Grassroot Soccer website, but to get the full story you really need to go to their web site.