I studied to be teacher, and after finishing my degree I played professional soccer for a few years. I had the chance to see the world with professional soccer. It was a mix of my education, my volunteer teaching in Africa, and also my experiences losing friends to HIV/AIDS that led me to help found Grassroot Soccer. Along with a pediatrician, and a few other professional soccer players, we came together to start the organization about 10 years ago.
We started GRS in Zimbabwe in 2002. For the first year we piloted the program and did an initial evaluation of the results. Based on the lessons learned and the demand for our programs we decided to scale up in two ways:
1. We started new GRS programs in Zambia and South Africa. Those programs are still going strong today and continue to grow.
2. We designed a model to work with local organizations to provide technical assistance and training to set up similar projects to GRS. We’ve now helped organizations set up soccer-based health education projects in more than 22 countries around the world.
When we started GRS we had no idea what the potential would be. I don’t think in my wildest dreams I ever expected us to have the success we’ve had. The global power of soccer is even greater than I ever realized.