Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 10: Staff and Partnerships

Highlights o Day Ten
  1. Getting to know the GRS staff
  2. Meeting some key people from Breakthrough Sports Academy
  3. Watching a 5 yearold Michael Jackson dancing prodigy at an Intervention Graduation at Garden, Kampala ground

I quickly got to know the different personalities of the young, energetic Grassroot Staff. There are 5 interns from the States and then 6 staff from Zambia. Here's a quick synopsis on the fun staff:

Lena, Emily, Brian, Libby, and Tommy L are all US interns that live in the house next to the GRS office. Lena is on a six month extension as a fellow following her year-long commitment as an intern. The internships run from August to August. All of them but Libby played soccer in college (for Dartmouth, Brown, or U of Vermont).

Izek, Lazarous (who has an adorable 3 year old son), Gesh, Felix, Grace, Fridah, Bruce, and David are all Zambian. I think only Izek, Lazarous, Grace and Fridah have a paid position in the office. The rest are volunteers as coaches and program coordinators. There was a flux of people coming in and out of the office for meeting this past week as people prepare their End of Year narrative and financial reports.

Lena, Lazarous, and Brian are the coordinators for the Nike/UNHCR NineMillion Campaign for the two refugee camps Mayukwayukwa and Meheba. Those three are also working very closely with Breakthrough Sports Academy. Grace and Tommy are the coordinators for the interventions based in Lusaka sponsored by Barclay's bank. These programs are partnered with an organization called Peers Educating Peers, which is again a like-minded organization that works with soccer leagues in Lusaka.

Bruce is a local program coordinator along with David. Those two were quite the sight to watch at the graduations. However the rest of staff can easily match them in enthusiasm!

Today I sat in on a meeting with the UNHCR/GRS project staff and the BSA staff. It was really interesting to listen to how Grassroot Soccer and Breakthrough Sports Academy coordinated their efforts last year to graduate over 1500 children.

Some of the major changes they are looking to make include:

  • The curriculum is going to focus on "behavioral change"; The prevalence of HIV has not dropped as drastically as everyone expected after the big HIV information push throughout the country. The information is widespread now and the prevalence has dropped from 17% to around 13%, from what I remember from talking with Namonje. However, this drop is not as significant as it "should have" so the push is changing from the scare tactics to how the information should cause them to change their behavior.
  • Logistically, they have to prepare for the children that will still be in the leagues from last year and have already graduate from the GRS Intervention program. They need to ensure that previously graduated kids do not receive another certification in order to avoid "double counting" them as graduates of 2010. Tracking the number of children they reach is a crucial component of their reporting for the UNHCR NineMillion campaign; it's essentially their success rate.
  • There was discussion about facilitating communications between partners and even more talk about transportation logistics. Transportation is always a hot topic around here!

It was exciting to hear that according the number of children and the ambitions of having 180 coaches, the GRS goals of reaching all children in the refugee camps in the 11 to 18 age range is very feasible goal for 2010. To learn more about GRS, check out Brian's blog at

The executive director for Breakthrough Sports academy, Owen Mukando, was present for the meeting. I was given a few minutes at the end of the meeting to speak on behalf of globalbike and assure them that we wanted to continue to grow in our capacity and partnerships. Forgive me for being so bold in the meeting, but I promised Owen to increase our communication with BSA and look into a more direct partnership with them. In my opinion, BSA as an additional partner is not far fetched because their volunteers are already receiving globalbikes through GRS as a filter. GRS and BSA work so closely that having a partnership with one is like working with another.

The entire meeting wasn't directly pertinent to thisblog, even though I found many parts interesting and some seemed to drag on, it was helpful to hear how the two organizations work together. I have a much better understanding of Breakthrough Sports Academy and the staff. The same energy that the GRS staff have is just as abundant in the BSA staff too! And besides, I got to network with another NGO executive director! (Curt, I have his contact information and gave him yours)

That afternoon I went with Brian, Gesh, and Bruce to see at graduation at Garden on the Kampala ground. The graduation was held at the Chiyanyang Community school for over 50 kids. I had no idea what I was going to see and there's no way I could be prepared for the entertainment that was to follow!

As we waited for the children to arrive from school, Gesh explained that the Kampala ground is a rough neighborhood for kids to grow up in. HIV is rampant in this area of Lusaka particularly which can create a lot of family isssues. There is a lot of effort put into keeping these kids off the street and at home despite a terminally ill caregiver as well as keeping these keeping them away from vices like alchohol and prostitution. In garden, GRS intervention is done in conjunction with Barefeet, a performing arts group, and PCI. Barefeet was started by a Zambian street kid that got himself through college then came back to Lusaka.(His name is Tobias and I got to meet him briefly the next day).

The graduation was open to the entire lot of kids that were around playing soccer or just hanging out. So as the children arrived from school so did the mass of children from the community. The group of children quickly massed to 150, easily. The Barefeet crew got the drums going followed by some energizers and a dance performance from some girls. I never knew a 7 year old could move her hips like that! The most entertaining part of the whole thing was the dance competition that occured; there was one kid that got to the middle of the circle that broke it down like MJ. No joke, this kid was sick! To watch a 5 year old dance that well was so awesome! That's gonna be the first thing I add to the blog when I can upload stuff. There was even a group of kids that showed up with their drums and played the national anthem for us!

After the drumming and dancing the GRS/Barefeet staff tried to hand out graduation certificates in an orderly fashion but it was just pure chaos with the number of kids that were there. They let me sign a couple of them to make them "official" which made me feel quite special since I know these kids treasure the certificates. The whole process was crazy but I enjoyed being around that many kids again.

After the two hour procession of events, Gesh took me over to sit in on a Peers Education Peers (PEP) and GRS coach's meeting. We arrived during the discussion part of the agenda. Tommy, Grace, and David were leading the meeting because these particular group of coaches are part of the Barclay's sponsored project. Izek was also there to offer some insight and comedic relief. They were discussing the question "Has the introduction and use of condoms brought any harm or good?"

I was getting introduced to yet another partner organization as well as see Zambian twenty-somethings discuss a hot topic and highly debatable issue. I offered my input when it was my turn in the cirlce, but of course I spoke too fast and it was lost on majority of them. By the end of the discussion, it was decided that no matter how they personally feel about birth control, condoms, pre-marital sex, etc, they as coaches, counselors, and peer educators have the responsibility to give the children unaltered, unslanted factual information. The children, no matter their age, in the end cannot be forced into a decision or action. Granted, your opinions will always find a way of being expressed but the effort of being open and unbiased is crucial.

Touche, Grassroot Soccer, Touche.

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