COVID-19 has called for resilience, compassion, and adaptability from all of us. The world as we know it has changed, and youth in Africa are particularly vulnerable. School closures, disruption of health services, and lack of safe spaces to congregate are just some of the barriers young people face. Lock downs have contributed to alarming rates of gender-based violence and a rise in unplanned teen pregnancies. Youth living with HIV are notably at-risk given their weakened immune systems and hindered access to treatment. From the start of the pandemic, Grassroot Soccer has risen to meet this call to action. With your support, we’ve sustained our unwavering commitment to providing youth with the life-saving health services they need.

One example comes from Grassroot Soccer Zambia, which recently debuted a cell-phone based intervention aimed at deepening programmatic impact with boys and young men. The new approach, called 5-a-Side โ€“ named as a nod to a smaller soccer match โ€“ is a phone-based version of our award-winning SKILLZ programming.

The lessons are facilitated by a GRS Coach via conference call with small groups of players. The curriculum is comprised of ten 45-minute sessions with the same objectives as in-person delivery. Although the format is adapted, the tenets of GRS programming remain. The health lessons are fun, interactive, evidence-based, and engaging. As always, they create a safe space for adolescents to connect with a GRS Coach, providing a community-based role model at a time when personal connections matter more than ever.

“These discussion-based activities have helped older adolescents and young people in the program to make informed decisions,” says GRS Zambia Managing Director Boyd Mkandawire. “This results in greater awareness and access to various sexual and reproductive health and rights services through the GRS referral pathway system. Smaller groups of participants allow coaches and participants to create meaningful personal connections and have insightful discussions that allow participants to reflect on the topics and make informed decisions about their health.”