Thanks to generous support from The Arsenal Foundation, hundreds of adolescents in Zimbabwe have gained life-saving health knowledge through Grassroot Soccer holiday camps. Continue reading for a special letter of gratitude from a SKILLZ Coach.

My name is Patience Tembo, I am a SKILLZ Coach at Grassroot Soccer Zimbabwe and I have been with the organisation for 2 years. I want to thank Arsenal and Grassroot Soccer because this opportunity gives me the change to impart life-saving skills to my community. I am currently part of the team that is delivering the SKILLZ street intervention in Matabeleland North and South provinces of Zimbabwe under the Arsenal grant. In the month of February and March 2018, we have been delivering programs in rural areas of Zimbabwe, and the set-up is different from where I come from (Bulawayo) which is an urban set up. I have so far worked with close to 600 participants in these schools and all the girls that I met were unique in their own way. 

The reception at these schools was so overwhelming and the authorities in these schools allowed us to work without any disturbances. The girls were excited about the programs that we were bringing to them, of particular note were the activities and energizers that kept the excitement levels on a high.

As a Caring Coach, my role is to make sure that I immediately translate general and scenario discussion questions to Ndebele as most of our participants are not well-versed in English. This makes the flow of communication a lot easier. One participant I came across at St. Sebastian Secondary School, Plaxedes Ncube, revealed that she was a former GRS Participant from Townsend High School in Bulawayo. This gave her confidence during the sessions and made her stand out. The participants displayed great enthusiasm for the soccer sessions and soccer seemed to be an appetite-builder for the program.

As Grassroot soccer, our soccer analogy which is embedded in the activities makes the program unique. The soccer aspect builds interest in our participants and makes it easy for the educative aspect of the program to remain entrenched in the participant’s minds. The participants become easily aware of their rights and responsibilities as they go through the fun and educative learning process. Sexual Reproductive Health is a topic of great interest to the participants as witnessed by the level of attentiveness during sessions and the questions asked. HIV testing and other health services offered during the testing events have afforded the participants an opportunity to access these services without having to travel long distances to the nearest clinic.

The reception from the school authorities was very commendable as they made us feel at home and this helped us create a safe environment for the participants. The headmaster from Bembesi Secondary requested in future to come back and reach more learners including the boys too. The rural communities of Matabeleland South and North were excited about the program as they saw it as a source of hope for their girl children who often fall prey to illegal gold panners (Amakorokoza) or foreign-based men (Omalayitsha) who use money to lure girls into sexual relationships leading to high cases of teen pregnancies.

We believe our program has sparked a wave that will help reduce the HIV prevalence rates in the rural regions of Zimbabwe and contribute to the reduction of teen pregnancies.