Every day, more than 7,000 people become infected with HIV. Young people are those hardest hit by AIDS, yet they are also the greatest force of change! Grassroot Soccer, which is active in more than 20 countries all over the world, has understood this. By linking soccer with prevention of HIV, this organization helps boys and girls to do life-saving decisions.
Buntu Kwanina, Community Project Coordinator of the Cape Town branch, describes his passion for Grassroot Soccer and helps us to understand how it works.
What problems does Grassroot Soccer want to solve?
“Grassroot Soccer focuses on HIV and AIDS, using soccer as a tool. However, it is a diverse organization which focuses also on eliminating all the social issues that affect the young: gender-based violence, alcohol abuse, lack of sporting activities, lack of education and activities which inspire youth.”
Why is using soccer a tool for social change?
“In Africa and mostly in South Africa, everyone knows soccer! For most of the youth, it is the number one sport which they connect with. It is quite easy to introduce soccer because everyone will join as they know and understand it, and we found an opportunity to educate them about the social issues that affect them.”
How does the organization works?
“We work in different ways. One of them is in primary schools and high schools where we have a tailor-made curriculum specific to sport initiatives. We also have program for girls, called the ‘Skillz street program’, facilitated by our feminine facilitators. So, we have a range of programs and most of them are operated in schools all around Western Cape and South Africa.”
… and you also organize HIV tournaments?
“Yes! It is one of our initiatives to raise awareness about HIV testing. It is a one day tournament where we invite teams from all around the community to Khayelitsha (note: the biggest township of Cape Town). Each team gains points when it wins a game, and also when one member of team goes to the HIV test! It might sound tricky, but it is for their own benefit. We also invite testing partners and government stakeholders into the community during these events.”
Grassroot Soccer was created in 2002; it arrived in Cape Town in 2008. What are the main results that you are proud of?
“I am proud of Grassroot Soccer being able to see a gap in Khayelitsha. I mean being able to assess the community and find out the social issues and challenges for this community. Grassroot Soccer was able to reach out to many organizations, many funders, and many trusting partners. Thanks to this a beautiful center was created to facilitate the work of our programs.”
Could you give three words to define the spirit of Grassroot Soccer?
“Educate, inspire and mobilize to stop the spread of HIV!”
Personally, why did you decide to become a community project coordinator in Cape Town?
“Going back from the days when I was a coach in 2010 and before joining Grassroot Soccer, I had heard of it and fell in love with its mission. I always wanted to be at a leadership level where I am able to see the talent in the community, and be able to shape up the talent… and then let them go out there to spread the world! I always saw myself as one of those people who train the others and make sure that they really find their purpose in life. Joining Grassroot Soccer is a fulfilment in life. Now I know, this is where is want to be.”
Many South African young people want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Could you give them one advice?
“It is the right thing to do. If they have entrepreneurial skills and realize that there is a need in their community, they will be able to turn a business into saving lives! I think that is a great opportunity. My advice would be: believe in what you want to achieve, and always have at the back of your mind that everything is possible. That is entrepreneurship.”
How do you see Grassroot Soccer in 10 years?
“Apart from being a great organization, I have a feel that in Cape Town, Grassroot Soccer could be able to open up other sites as well. For example, the community of Ghuguletu where I come from doesn’t have such a center and these programs. I would love to see Grassroot Soccer taking that direction in the next ten years.”
A last word?
“Hopefully, within the next 10 years, we might meet again, and it will be a different story, how the changes that I have wanted to see would have happen!”
Interview conducted in February 2014.