Below is story from a SKILLZ Plus participant in Zambia. SKILLZ Plus is a Grassroot Soccer (GRS) program that provides interactive, evidence-based curriculum for HIV-positive youth. SKILLZ Plus is part of Total Health, a three year initiative to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes in Zambia and Zimbabwe that has brought together partners including the Vitol Foundation, MAC AIDS Fund, Bohemian Foundation, BT Supporters Club, and Johnson & Johnson.

Linda* is an enthusiastic 18-year-old young woman who is HIV-positive, with special needs related to hearing and speaking. Her mother died when she was two years old. Linda has been raised by her father’s mother, and her father and the rest of the family are very supportive in her life.

A Grassroot Soccer SKILLZ Plus participant, Linda spoke to Grassroot Soccer for an interview through her father, who uses sign language. Of his daughter’s experience with GRS and finding out his daughter was enrolled in the SKILLZ Plus program, her father shared, “The SKILLZ Plus program was introduced at the clinic where Linda collects her medicines, so she signed up for the program. But with her hearing impairment, I had to be there to interpret.”

A GRS SKILLZ Plus Coach who worked with Linda explained, “I had no idea in the first practice that my participant had a hearing impairment, but I realized during the second practice when I noticed that she was not participating in the activities or contributing. I saw that she came with her father for the next practice, and started fully participating and seemed to love the program.”

When asked what Linda liked about being a Grassroot Soccer participant, her father said, “It was a very overwhelming experience. Linda doesn’t have friends in the community, so the program allowed her to socially associate with her peers.” Through sign language to her father, Linda also reflected, “The SKILLZ Coach was so kind and accommodating, which made me feel wanted and loved.” She added, “As it stands, our communities are not fully equipped with information on sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS, and we are still fighting discrimination. Therefore, such programs have a high positive impact on us as individuals as well as a community.” In response to a question about how Grassroot Soccer has influenced their lives, Linda’s father answered with a smile that, “Linda’s adherence has enabled me to disclose my status to family members as well. [My] young girl understands that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence from the knowledge she has acquired, and so she gives me courage to take my medicines and look forward to a brighter future as well.”

Linda aspires to be a nurse and is also working hard to get herself a higher education scholarship.

* Name has been changed

To watch a video about Grassroot Soccer that includes other interviews with participants and Coaches, some of whom are part of SKILLZ Plus, visit our YouTube channel.