Editor’s Note: Nomazizi Menze is a 22-year old Grassroot Soccer Caring Coach in Khayelitsha, South Africa, one of Cape Town’s largest townships. Here she tells her story in her own words (edited for length):
On life in Khayeltisha growing up: My name is Nomazizi Menze, I am twenty-two years old and I am a coach at Grassroot Soccer. …I was born here [in Khayelitsha]. When I was growing up in my community it was very violent. We had one gangster who lived right behind my home, he was actually the one protecting the community. People were scared of him so no one came and touched us, but when we went to other parts of our neighbourhood they asked us where we were from and then we would get robbed to send a message.
On the HIV education she received as a youth: At school we were told about HIV but I was not interested, I just knew HIV was a virus that kills the immune system and that’s it…They.. told us about HIV, but they focused on relationships, at that time I was not even sexually active, so I got bored. It didn’t apply to me and it wasn’t relatable.
On relating to her Grassroot Soccer participants: I don’t just go and be the teacher of the curriculum but I become someone they can talk to. I can see there is a change, I am bringing a change to them…[T]hings like going to the clinic to check and prevent for pregnancy is something that they are no longer afraid of doing because we teach them that it is ok, you are doing it for yourself and you know what you want in life.
On her role in the community: I want to be a change in my community because I understand and I know that I’m not perfect either but I want to become better. I see a change in the community through me because some of my friends who are behaving badly, if they are with me its hard for them to share as I tell them straight; at the end of the day its going to come back to you, at the end of the day you have to face the consequences….In my community that’s all they talk about, Grassroot Soccer, they invite their friends to come too. A lot of kids come here and we want to see them grow in a responsible way and for them to make good decisions. If they are here they are not just playing soccer, but learning how to live the kind of life that they can choose for themselves.
On the power of soccer: I think that soccer is a really powerful tool that Grassroot Soccer is using because most of kids love soccer more than anything. When they get here they think, I’m just going to play but we introduce the curriculum and the tools we use to teach them about life. That’s when we grab their attention, tell them that life is not just about kicking the ball but to know how the ball gets there. If you could compare life to the soccer its the same, because if you want get there you have to work in a team, if you want to get there you have to learn and make healthy choices.
On her future: I wish to continue being a role model after Grassroot Soccer. I want to go back to school and do social work because that’s what I think I’m good at. The minute that someone is able to share their thoughts with you, that means there is something special about you. I believe I have that, when someone comes and talks to me they can talk about anything.