WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 15, 2011 – The Peace Corps and Grassroot Soccer (GRS) announced a new partnership to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people around the world to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Through the strengthened collaboration, Peace Corps volunteers will implement soccer-based HIV/AIDS education programs in their local communities. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams and Grassroot Soccer Co-Founder and Africa Executive Director Kirk Friedrich at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. to formalize the collaboration.

“The Peace Corps is delighted to partner with Grassroot Soccer to make a difference in local communities and combat the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Peace Corps Director Williams. “Using soccer as a tool to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention is an innovative way to engage young people and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.”

GRS and PC sign agreement

Kirk Friedrich, Grassroot Soccer Co-founder and Africa Executive Director, and Aaron S. Williams, Peace Corps Director, formalize the GRS / Peace Corps partnership.

“We believe this new partnership between GRS and the Peace Corps will be a success because both organizations share a passion for empowering young people to live healthy, productive lives,” said Co-Founder and Africa Executive Director of Grassroot Soccer Friedrich. “GRS is excited to work with the Peace Corps to combat the spread of HIV through the combination of our proven activities-based curriculum, the energy and enthusiasm of Peace Corps volunteers, and the widespread network of the Peace Corps organization.”

The new partnership establishes the framework for the Peace Corps and GRS to work together on technical training for Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterparts, implementing soccer-based HIV prevention programs, resource exchange, and placement of Peace Corps volunteers in Grassroot Soccer offices overseas.

For the past seven months, GRS has worked with Peace Corps/South Africa and Peace Corps/Zambia to implement a pilot project. Twenty-five Peace Corps volunteers are currently implementing a new edition of GRS’ “Skillz” HIV and AIDS life skills curriculum for young people age 11 to 18. The curriculum was specially designed for Peace Corps volunteers and their communities and consists of interactive activities and discussions on making healthy decisions, avoiding risks, building support networks, reducing stigma and discrimination, increasing knowledge about HIV testing and treatment, and addressing gender issues.

GRS and PC leadership

(L to R): Robert Holley, Chief Development Officer, Grassroot Soccer; Aaron S. Williams, Peace Corps Director; Kirk Friedrich, Grassroot Soccer Co-founder and Africa Executive Director

“The Grassroots Soccer-Peace Corps pilot program uses games and discussions to teach HIV education and awareness, a welcome change from what the children are accustomed to in their classrooms,” said Douglass Mann, of Annandale, Va., a Peace Corps health volunteer who works with orphaned and vulnerable children at local centers in South Africa. “The program has thus far resulted in a heightened understanding of how HIV is spread and how to be protected from the virus. Myths about the virus have also been discussed and debunked.”

Peace Corps volunteers worldwide teach classes in HIV prevention, educate at-risk populations, and develop community support for children orphaned by AIDS. Other HIV/AIDS awareness projects include encouraging communities to adopt healthy behaviors, training peer educators, and supporting health clinics. Today, 22 percent of Peace Corps volunteers work in the health and HIV/AIDS sector. Peace Corps volunteers have collaborated with Grassroot Soccer in host-countries, including the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.

About Grassroot Soccer: GRS is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and empower communities to stop the spread of HIV. Grassroot Soccer envisions a world mobilized through soccer to create an AIDS-free generation. GRS has programs in 10 African countries with flagship sites in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Founded by four professional soccer players, Grassroot Soccer is mobilizing the most vulnerable population of youth ages 12 – 19 to break the cycle of AIDS by engaging local coaches who equip young people with the knowledge, skills and support they need to avoid HIV.  For more information visit grassrootsoccer.org

About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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