Category Archive for "Journey"

Day 31 – Alaska Mine, near Chinoyi, Zimbabwe

The third place playoff between Brazil and The Netherlands was a much-anticipated match, which we showed in the small town of Alaska, near Chinhoyi in Zimbabwe. Alaska was once a prosperous mining town but has become a desolate area since the mine closed over ten years ago. We partnered with an organisation called Pamuhacha HIV/AIDS Prevention Project, which is the Shona name of an indigenous tree where people could traditionally go to seek food or healing. We set up the screen in an area surrounded by run-down shops and several bars. Most of the crowd were passers-by or those looking for entertainment in the small trading centre who took an interest in the huge screen and loudspeaker, although some had heard about the event through Pamuhacha’s mobilization efforts earlier that day.

The name Alaska could not have been more appropriate for what turned out to be an exceedingly chilly night. Once again, there was over an hour available for our partners to engage the crowd in a discussion and question and answer session bout HIV. There were prizes given out for correct answers and information packs, along with Pamuhacha’s own pamphlets, were distributed to everyone who formed a somewhat-orderly line. Among the cheery bar-goers, there were also a number of children, who were all happy to receive the age-appropriate HIV and World Cup information booklets designed specifically for children, in partnership with SAfAIDS.

There were enough vuvuzelas in the crowd to create a humming atmosphere. We also had facepaints and audience members were very keen to have the Dutch and Brazilian flags painted on their faces which added to the festivities, although some were quick to switch alliances and requested a change in colors after the first goal was scored in the third minute of the game. However, the crowd was overall sympathetic to Brazil’s plight, hoping they could redeem themselves after the semi-final debacle. Once again, the bitter cold and late start to the game were not enough to dampen the crowd’s spirits. The Africa Goal team crawled into bed, exhausted but very pleased with the outcome of the event, at 2am to recharge in time for the final game.

Day 24 – Kubatana Primary School, Epworth, Harare

The Epworth Africa Goal event which was organised and lead by SAfAIDS, in partnership with Young Africa, and Population Services Zimbabwe, was the culmination of a full day of activities including football, netball and volleyball matches, HIV information and quizzes and on-site Voluntary Counselling and Testing. Around 1,000 people attended the event during the course of the day, 76 were counselled and tested for HIV, and 22 signed up for Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision.

After a long day of driving from Chirundu on the border with Zambia, the Africa Goal team arrived in time for the end of the sports activities in time to set up, sparking great interest from the crowd. Faced with the option to project the match on to the side of one of the school buildings or set up the screen, the team opted to use the screen double-sided in the centre of the sports field to ensure as many people as possible could watch the match comfortably. In this poor suburb of Harare without electricity, there was almost no other possibility to watch the game, so we knew it would be popular. Indeed, despite the cold, and fact many were sporting only shorts and t-shirts as they were playing sports, around 500 people of all ages remained and gathered to watch the Belgium – Argentina match.

The diversity of ages was a welcome sight, with 240 adult kits of targeted information and education communication (IEC) materials and 200 children’s IEC kits distributed and excitedly received, unpacked and read by audience members. A further 60 adult and 100 children’s IEC kits were taken by SAfAIDS for use over the coming days. An additional HIV information quiz with Africa Goal t-shirts and OneWorldFutbol balls as prizes got the audience fired up before the match – a tense one – with Higuaín’s early goal for Argentina in the 8th minute shattering Belgium’s hopes for reaching the semi-finals. While the Belgian team produced only a few real chances at drawing level – often being caught offside – the numerous attempts of Argentina and their star Messi to further Argentina’s lead were thwarted by Courtois’ expert goal-keeping. In the end, all efforts only yielded a score of 1-0.

According to one audience member who informed us he had not planned to have an HIV test but took the opportunity on site, the idea of using football to reach people with HIV information and services was a very welcome one – “When you speak about HIV, you do not have the ear of young people. If you bring them together to play and watch football, it is a great way to reach out to them.”

Day 23 – Chirundu…Elephants and Truck Drivers at the Border Crossing

After a relaxing couple of days by the Zambezi river, near the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, we were excited to have the opportunity to show the France-Germany quarterfinal match in the border town of Chirundu. Our original plans of reaching Harare that night fell through, but we were able to make a last minute plan with the National Employment Council Transport Operating Industry (Nectoi) in Chirundu, which gave us some additional time to relax and also to put together 600 information packs in preparation for the next couple of events. Shamiso Chisauka is the site agent for Nectoi and acts as an HIV peer educator for the town.

We were a bit apprehensive about the choice of venue in Chirundu town – just next to a busy bar where truck drivers were already enjoying bottles of Sorghum beer. However, Shamiso assured us that this was the best option and we realized that we would be reaching one of our main target audiences. Sure enough, the crowd was almost exclusively male and many were truck drivers, who are a high risk group when it comes to HIV.

We were pleasantly surprised when one of the first guests to take an interest in the set-up was a bull elephant! Unfortunately, he wasn’t there to watch football, but rather to rummage in the large, open rubbish heap just in front of the bar. The residents of the town told us that some elephants have become very accustomed to being among people and eating rubbish. While it was exciting to have an elephant in our midst, it made us sad to think about the implications of population growth on the environment and its wildlife.

The match drew a crowd from the bar nearby, while others watched from a distance. During the match, we distributed information packs and, with the help of Shamiso, spoke with small groups and individuals about HIV. The local residents were aware of the clinic with HIV testing facilities available in the town and most had been tested as well. They were all grateful for the opportunity to watch the game and for the condoms and information in the packs that we handed out.

Most were happy with Germany’s 1-0 win over France. The team was mostly relieved that it was only a short drive back to the place where we were staying, where we then enjoyed a late dinner of fresh Tiger fish from the river.

Day 19 – Bustling Chongwe

Chongwe, despite being considered a small town, seemed like a positive metropolis compared to the rural village where we had showed the match the night before. After a long drive from Chipata, we met up with the District AIDS Coordinating Advisor, Lucia Nkausu, who works closely with SAfAIDS – our lead partner for the Chongwe event. We met at the District Commissioner’s office and received a warm welcome from the Commissioner himself. We then drove over to the local football grounds where there were already a large number of people milling around – students heading home from school, some young men playing a casual football game and plenty of others just going about their business along the busy main road. We decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to make our screen double-sided so that more people could watch. While we set up our equipment, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) set up an HIV-testing tent and immediately started to register people for testing.

A group of drummers helped to attract people to the grounds and there was great enthusiasm as people realized that they would get to watch the match on a big screen. We were also really pleased to link with Chiparamba Breakthrough Sports Academy at the Chongwe event. Most of the crowd, including the Africa Goal team, were supporting Nigeria in their round of 16 match against France. The energy was high in the first half as Nigeria maintained possession of the ball and even got it in the goal, only to be called offside.

At half time, our partners led a question and answer session, with Africa Goal T-shirts and One World footballs being handed out as prizes. There was a high level of knowledge among the crowd, which even included some local medical students. The mood became slightly more somber during the second half as France scored one goal and then a second. At the end of the match, we received many thanks, but most people left quickly, which made for a quick set-down. Our partners informed us that 84 people had been tested during the event, close to their goal of 100. Six of those people tested positive, which was a good reminder to all of us how prevalent HIV still is in this part of the world, despite what seems to be good progress in terms of awareness of and knowledge about the disease.

Day 17 – Chinyama Village, Malawi (near Salima): Nail-biting Penalty Shootout Brings the Crowd to Their Feet

After a much needed day off at Lake Malawi, the team made the short drive southwards towards Salima for the start of the group playoffs. We showed the Brazil-Chile match in the small village of Chinyama, several kilometers down a dirt road, where electricity and running water are still conveniences of the future. It was a friendly crowd of about 400, many of whom had heard about the event from the local chief, who had been informed by our partner organization, Salima AIDS Support Organization (SASO). Having been there before with the same partners in 2010, the Africa Goal team received a warm welcome as we arrived at the local football pitch. The crowd’s level of knowledge about HIV/Aids is a testament to SASO’s hard work in the area. Almost everyone asked knew that HIV testing was available at the nearby hospital, or as part of SASO’s outreach activities, and that antiretrovirals are available to those who test positive.

Our second partner organization for the evening, Play Soccer, was also in attendance and provided us with 20 additional One World Futbol Project indestructible balls for trading. Similar to the Africa Goal project, Play Soccer uses football as a platform for addressing health and other social development issues. One of the many of the successes of the event was the meeting of these two organizations, who were enthusiastic about the possibility of collaborating in the future.

Before the match, SASO facilitated an HIV question and answer session with the crowd and the prizes included football jerseys, shorts and tracksuits donated by Club Brugge in Belgium. The timing of the prize jackets was perfect as the night got cooler and others ran home to get sweaters and blankets. The session was useful as it illuminated a lack of understanding about the relationship between HIV and TB, which is an area the organization will focus on addressing in this community. During half time, SASO showed a short video entitled Never Too Late about a young Malawian woman who has overcome many hardships and is hoping to improve her life and support her children by completing her education and becoming a nurse.

The Brazil-Chile penalty shootout made for a frenzied finale to the night. Although many of the youngest children had already been sent to bed, there was still a big group of front-row fans split down the middle with one side cheering for Chile and the other for Brazil. It was a friendly rivalry, with each side chanting for their team as the players took their shots. The Africa Goal team was also fully invested, having placed bets on the match earlier in the day. When the final Brazil goal went in, the kids all jumped up to cheer in the beam of the projector. Their shadows danced on the screen until the generator went quiet and we packed everything up for the next day.

Trading Footballs – Khazakani four-a-side

Name: Virtan
Age: 12
Location: Khazakani, Malawi

On the way to the Malawi-Zambia border we stopped at a village called Khazakani and took part in an excellent game of four-a-side, which drew quite a crowd, a few of whom acted as referees and linesmen to ensure offsides and corners were correctly awarded. This was one of the most competitive matches so far, as we struggled to contain the opponents’ menacing four-goal target-man (“watch the kid in blue”), and one of our players acquired some impressive blisters from the hard dirt pitch. At the end of the game we exchanged a ball donated by Nike Belgium for the match ball, made from melted plastic by Virtan, 12, and staggered back into the Land Rover.

Day 15 – Nkhotakota, Malawi

Nkhotakota is located about midway down the western side of the long, narrow lake that stretches from the north to the south of Malawi. It was a long trip from the north of the country, where we had crossed the border from Tanzania the day before. Due to some unforeseen delays in the morning, we decided to split into two groups and send the Land Cruiser (aka The Beast) ahead with all of the equipment. It was a good thing we did, because they arrived at the bustling Chisote Trading Center in Nkhotakota with barely enough time to set up. Short-handed, they had to be extra-productive, but with the light of the car, they were able to complete the job in record time. The market-goers quickly became more interested in the giant screen that was going up and by the time the Ghana-Portugal match started, there was a crowd of more than 500.

The second team, following behind in the Land Rover (aka Landy) had a slightly more leisurely drive, knowing that they wouldn’t make it in time to help with the set-up, and managed to do two ball trades along the way. They arrived just in time for the second half, bringing much-needed nourishment to the A-team who had skipped both lunch and dinner in their haste to get to the location and set up in time for the match.

Our partner organization was Nkhotakota AIDS Support Organisation (NASO) and they were able to provide HIV testing on-site to 76 people, well over their 50-person target. Testing went on in their tents for over an hour after the match and there were still more people signed up for the following day. Each person tested received an information pack from us, which included condoms, a poster and a World Cup-themed informational booklet. Our partners promoted these, along with the importance of getting tested, during half time and this helped to attract many more people to get tested.

Despite a disappointing end to the match, which we all hoped that Ghana would win, the evening was a great success, with the crowd swelling to around 1000 by the end of the night. It was late by the time we packed up the last lights that had been illuminating the testing tents and we all fell into bed, glad to have a day off to look forward to the following day.

Trading Footballs – Nkhata Bay

Further along the road in the region full of rubber trees near Nkata Bay, we spotted a lively late-afternoon game that looked too fun not to join in. Here we traded a One World Futbol ball with their hand-made team ball. The ball we received had a similar feel to the one we got from Manmade, likely to have the same base of a bladder with rubber strips, but this time it also had a protective layer of colourful fabric, plastic and yarn. From playing with the team we soon saw the reason the team added the protective layer to the ball, as their skillful passing showed the signs of plenty of practice. Their new ball should last a lot longer!

Day 13 – Ilula Trading Centre, near Iringa: Circumcision Celebrations

Around 60km before we reached Iringa, we met the Jhpiego team in a small trading centre called Ilula. Jhpiego had already set up their mobile dance stage – on the back of the pick up truck as we set up our equipment next to it and got underway with the event. We all definitely felt the huge benefit of three extra pairs of hands and set up our equipment in double quick time!

Jhpiego focused on sharing information about voluntary medical male circumcision which has been found to reduce risk of HIV transmission in men by 60% or more. On arrival, we were handed their blue shirts which promote medical male circumcision, switching things up from our usual bright yellow for a night!

Jhpiego work with IDYDC for their Iringa activities which was very exciting for us as we had partnered with IDYDC in 2010 so they already had a clear idea of how the events work and were very well organized to make the most of it. We were so impressed by the amount of energy that all the Jhpiego and IDYDC guys had – D-Jing, dancing and conducting games and quizzes to keep the audience entertained in the lead up to the match. They had a group of traditional dancers who performed an amazing dance too.

About 10 minutes before the match was due to start, disaster struck. We had found satellite signal and all was fine but we suddenly lost signal and had an error message on the screen. Not sure what had happened, we double and triple checked all our connections and went through all the settings – everything seemed to be fine but the error message remained. We called DSTV to ask if there was a transmission issue and were told that, due to exchange rate fluctuations, the payment we had made for our second month’s subscription was now a couple of dollars short! Thankfully, the man we spoke to was sympathetic to our problems and reconnected us on the agreement that we would top up the following day. Whilst we were still on the line, the picture came back and we were good to go again – phew!

It was a great event – made so because of the huge effort and enthusiasm of our partners, Jhpiego and IDYDC. Despite competition from another event in town, we had a huge crowd with around 600 or more people and Jhpiego registered 40 people signing up for voluntary medical male circumcision, a fantastic result for an evening’s work – we’re already looking forward to the 2018 event with Jhpiego!

Day 12 – Chamwino Village, Morogoro: The long road to Chamwino

We had a very early start as had 750km left to cover before we arrived in Morogoro where we had a big event planned. We had hoped to cover more distance the day before but, unfortunately, the Landy had other plans. Just as dusk fell and with 200km left to cover the night before, we discovered that our headlights weren’t working. Pulling off on the side of the road, we checked all the fuses and electrical wires – quite a feat to follow the birds nest of wires which make up the Landy’s electrics! After an hour or so of poking around under the bonnet, the lights suddenly came back on – a huge relief to get back on the road although we’re still not sure which wire was jiggled in which way to get them working again!

Arriving in Morogoro town after the very long drive, we met with our partner organization, Hacoca, and followed them a few kilometres out of town on dirt roads to Chimwano Village. We set up the equipment on the edge of the main football field in the centre of the village. After a quick set up, Hacoca started an HIV discussion and question and answer session, distributing Misgav Football Club jerseys and shorts which were donated to Africa Goal as prizes for correctly answered questions. There was a lot of excitement about the jerseys and audience members were very keen to join in and try their hand at winning one of the jerseys. Hacoca do a lot of work around Gender Based Violence, as well as HIV, which made for a very interesting discussion around the different manifestations and causes of gender based violence – as well as the links with increased vulnerability and HIV risk.

As night fell and the match started it became clear that, although we had only driven a short distance out of town, we were already in rural Morogoro and the light from our projector and floodlights was the only visible light around. Since English is much less frequently spoken in rural Tanzania compared to some of our other locations, we bought a small radio to link up to the projector so that the football commentary could be transmitted in Swahili which made for a fun new addition to our kit.

As we packed up after the game, the village leader came to speak to us. He was thrilled that Africa Goal had come to his village: “Thank you so much for including us in your project. Very few people here would have seen a World Cup 2014 match but now they have the opportunity which is fantastic – HIV is also a big problem for us so it is really important that this information reaches the people”.

Trading Footballs – Against the Clock

Name: Abdul
Age: 12
Location: Mutukula

On route from Mutukula (on the border between Uganda and Tanzania), we saw a number of groups of children playing roadside football games with their handmade footballs.  We were against the clock as had 750km still to cover but couldn’t resist stopping for a quick kickabout. Playing first with their handmade ball, then switching ends and playing with a OWFP ‘nearly indestructible’ football which we traded. The kids were thrilled with their new ball and ran off to show their friends as we pulled away to continue our long drive, grateful for the quick break.

Day 9 – Kasekulo, Sesse Islands: Much demand for HIV services in an Isolated Fishing Community

We left Kampala early, heading west towards Masaka to get the 1.30pm ferry from Bukakata to Luku – on Bugala, the most populated of the Sesse Islands. The towns on the Sesse Islands have some of the highest rates of HIV in Uganda, fueled in part by poor economic conditions and associated high levels of transactional sex between fishermen and fish market sellers who exchange sex in lieu of payment for fish.

The last 50km was on a dirt road which, having recently been flooded and now with an alarmingly steep camber, made for a slow, bumpy and skiddy drive. Just when we thought we had safely made it, 5km from the ferry dock, the Landy cut out suddenly and rolled to a disheartening halt, the ignition refusing to engage again. Aware that the ferry departure time was fast approaching, we frantically searched under the bonnet, looking for anything that might have caused the engine to cut off.

After much trial and error (it turns out the Landy has a number of ‘loose end’ wires!), we finally found the culprit – an electrical wire which normally plugs into the solenoid had jiggled lose, cutting the fuel supply in the process. Unfortunately, by this point it was clear that we had missed the 1.30 ferry and would have to wait for the 4pm one so planned to get our cars in line at the dock and find some lunch while we waited. Luckily, the 4pm one would still get us to the island in time for all the planned activities, but our set up would have to be very speedy.

Lunch has become something of a rarity for the Africa Goal team so it was an exciting prospect to actually sit down and have some food rather than grabbing a chapatti on the go! Putting all the tools back in the boot of the Landrover, we slammed the door closed (the Landy boot needs a fairly hefty slam in order to close) only to find ourselves surrounded by an explosion of glass! Much to our surprise, the back windscreen had completely shattered. We are still not sure how it happened as there wasn’t anything in the boot that would have smashed it. Suffice to say that lunch was even more rewarding after our second fix of the day, this time taping up the back with cardboard and gaffer tape!

After our eventful morning, we boarded the 4pm ferry, met our partners for the event – the wonderful Strides for Family Health – at the ferry arrival dock in Luku and followed them about 20km through stunning forest and past beautiful white beaches to Kasekulo Landing Site. Kasekulo is the largest landing site for fishing boats on the island and the nearest clinic for Kasekulo residents, for whom the fishing trade is their mainstay, is 30km away. HIV prevalence in the area is high and HIV services are far and expensive to reach, so many people do not know their HIV status, inhibiting their access to treatment, care and support. As one audience member explained, it costs 15,000 Ugandan Shillings (about 6USD) in transport to get to the closest clinic which is a big expense so many people do not seek medical services until they are very sick. Bringing the services to the community here and providing them for free is really helping people.

On arrival, there were already 25-30 people lined up for testing services and this queue remained constant throughout the event. In total, 250 people went for testing at the event – a huge achievement which made the arduous journey and mechanical challenges on the way here more than worthwhile.

A reporter from NTV Uganda was also there, filming the event and interviewing the team. The report is due to be aired at 9pm on the 21st – hopefully we will be somewhere where we can watch it!

Day 8 – Busega, Kampala: Scrambling for Booklets in the Heart of Kampala

The morning started again with us catching up on event write ups, sorting photos and video footage, printing questionnaires for data collection, putting together our packages of materials and following up with partners for the next set of events.
In the afternoon, we set off towards Busega, a high density area in the heart of Kampala . Navigating our way through a maze of small dirt backroads (we wanted to avoid the infamous Kampala traffic!), we finally found our way to Busega Community Primary School, where the event was due to be held.

The Kids League, one of our partners for the event, were finishing off a football tournament which they had arranged to hold before our event. They finished off their last two games as we set up the screen, etc. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, our other partner, had arrived earlier in the day and had set up a HIV counseling and testing area in one of the spare classrooms. They had already tested 40 people by the time the event started.

When we arrived, we met the school headmaster who was overjoyed that the event was being held in his community: “Thank you so much for including Busega Community in your activities – we have had so many parents and community members coming today for testing and they are really grateful to have this opportunity”.

With our set up and the football tournament complete, the Headmaster took to the stage to welcome everybody, before presenting the teams who had won the football tournament with One World Futbol ‘nearly indestructible’ footballs as prizes.

A representative from AIDS Healthcare Foundation then shared some information about HIV, encouraged everyone to access their on site HIV counseling and testing services and conducted a quick HIV quiz – with Africa Goal T-shirts up for grabs for correctly answered questions.

During half time, we distributed information materials to both the children and adults, which caused a huge amount of excitement. It is, of course, wonderful to see how popular our materials are – developed and printed with support from SAfAIDS – however, the enthusiasm can get a little unnerving when fifty 8-15 year olds are about to mob whichever one of us is distributing them! At the Busega game, kids were stashing them in their bags, up their T-shirts and down their shorts, pretending they hadn’t yet been given one!

Once the chaos had died down, we all watched the nail biting second half of the Colombia vs Cote D’Ivoire game – the crowd cheering wildly at every Cote D’Ivoire attempt at goal.

Day 7 – Masese Landing Site, Jinja: Screening on the Nile

We took advantage of the bright, sunny morning to dry out all of our equipment, wash the screens which had got muddied in the storm and and reorganize everything after the slightly chaotic pack up of the night before in the rain. With everything back in order, we set off to meet with our partners from The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO). The event location was on the outskirts of Jinja at the Masese Landing Site – the main landing site for the many fishing boats in the area – easily recognizable by all the banners that TASO had put up for the occasion. It was a great venue for our first event in Uganda!

Turkeys, chickens and goats pecked, wandered and grazed around us as we set up the satellite dish, screen and projector, whilst children and adults looked on with interest. TASO had been on site for a few hours already, conducting HIV testing as well as testing for other STIs, distributing condoms and sharing HIV information.

We set the screen up without the backing so that it could be viewed from both sides – the double-sided screen worked perfectly for the location, with people being tested in a hut behind the screen still able to follow the game whilst the majority of the crowd watched from the other side – including some people watching from the village on the other side of the road. In total, around 600-700 people were watching.

By the end of the event, 93 people had accessed STI and HIV counseling and testing services and the four found to be HIV positive had been referred for treatment at the local clinic. It was a really great first event in Uganda and we were pleased that we had been able to support TASO to engage the hard to reach groups from the fishing communities. This is what one TASO representative had to say:

“We could have reached a greater number of people if we had held the event in the centre of Jinja but here we are reaching the fishermen and sex workers – they are key target groups who are usually very hard to reach so it is a great opportunity to do so”.

Eldoret University – Comments from the Crowd

Day 4 – Sotik

There was a huge amount of excitement as we arrived at the Sotik event, being held in partnership with Community HIV Outreach Coordinators who we had also worked with in 2010. We followed a trail of handmade banners hung up around the community promoting the event and arrived to huge cheers and a very warm welcome from the 1000+ audience members who had gathered for the event! The Outreach Coordinators had arranged activities for the whole day and had already held football tournaments, sack races and tug of war challenges – alongside their HIV information activities and HIV counselling and testing services.

We were greeted with a welcome dance performed by HIV Champions from the community, followed by an HIV quiz – with Africa Goal T-shirts handed out as prizes for correctly answered questions. The whole event had a very celebratory atmosphere – it was a great energiser for the Africa Goal team members following a long and tiring drive from Eldoret.

The Switzerland vs Ecuador match helped to keep the excitement and energy of the event going – with loads of tries on goal and a nail-biting finish to the game, with Switzerland scoring in the final minute of extra time.

In total, 103 people accessed HIV counselling and testing – the HIV outreach team and Africa Goal were thrilled to have reached so many people. Of those, three were found to be positive and have been referred for treatment – with freely available treatment now widely available, people living with HIV today can live healthy, full and productive lives. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves health outcomes – the fact that those three people will now be accessing treatment will help to ensure that they stay healthy and can live long, happy and fulfilled lives.
Plans are already afoot for the 2018 match in Sotik!

Day 3 – Eldoret

We had a beautiful drive along the Kerio Valley from Baringo to Eldoret, making for a stunning backdrop for a quick kickabout with Elias, a 14 year old boy who we spotted playing with his homemade football on his way to school. He was thrilled when we traded his ball made of layered plastic bags with one of the footballs which the One World Futbol Project generously donated to Africa Goal for distribution during the project. One World Futbol produce and distribute ‘nearly indestructible’ footballs which can survive being run over, kicked into barbed wire and punctured by thorns – they are perfect for the rugged environments in which the Africa Goal 2014 events are being held.

On arrival, we headed to the University of Eldoret, where we had an event planned with the university’s peer educators to sensitize the students on issues around HIV prevention, testing and treatment. Our event coincided with the fresher’s party which made for a big crowd of very jovial young men and women – it was a great atmosphere.

Family Health Care joined us to provide on-site HIV Counselling and Testing – excited to be conducting their first night-time testing session. We were all really pleased to hear that 56 people went for HIV counselling and testing during the 90 minute match – a fantastic result for both Family Health Care and Africa Goal.

Day 2 – Baringo: Busting Shocks and HIV Myths!

The very bumpy road to Kasarani for the match on the 12th left the Landrover a little worse for wear with a broken shock absorber so the morning of the 13th started with the team having to split – with Ben and Maciej setting off to find a garage whilst everyone else headed to Baringo for our second event. With, two members short, the set up was a bit more challenging than normal but we managed to get it all sorted in time – and even had a moment to take in the beautiful location just on the edge of the lake, near the main boat landing site for the village.

We met with the Kabarnet Talent Theatre Group and Family AIDS Initiative Response (FAIR) on arrival, as well as the PS Kenya Coordinator. More dark clouds on the horizon had the team slightly on edge – particularly when we heard about the massive storm that Ben and Maciej were driving through as they tried to catch up with us.

Ahead of the game, the Kabarnet Talent Theatre Group put together a great little skit about the importance of HIV counselling and testing (HCT) which was hugely popular with our audience members. The stigma and discrimination around HIV in Baringo was very evident and, at the start of the HIV discussions and condom demonstrations, audience members were incredibly hesitant about participating, answering questions or taking condoms. However, we had a couple of people in the audience who had been at our event in 2010 and stepped up to encourage others to engage in discussions. Once a few people had started taking part, others gained courage and the discussion gained momentum – with lots of interesting questions being asked and lots of myths and misconceptions about HIV being ‘busted’. By the end of the event, we were really pleased to see that audience members who had initially been reluctant to take a strip of condoms were asking for whole boxes!

One of the young guys who helped to get the crowd more engaged had this to say: “I came in 2010 to watch the Ghana/USA match with Africa Goal – and came again in 2014 because it’s a very informative event and a great way to enlighten people. I come for the football but I also learn something new about HIV”.

On the way out the next morning, we were pleased to see many of our bright yellow Africa Goal T-shirts being worn around the village. One man stopped us to show us the stash of condoms he had in his back pocket, telling us: “I’m protecting myself from HIV – I’ve got my weapons in my back pocket!”

Although far fewer people accessed HIV testing services in Baringo compared to Kasarani, our partners were really pleased with the outcome, recognising that twenty people over the course of a football match was surprisingly high for an area where HIV related stigma and discrimination is rife.

Day 1 – Kasarani Kickoff: Testing Times and Triumphs

After a pretty frantic morning of final preparations before ‘kick off’, the Africa Goal team hit the road, heading North from Nairobi for the first event of 2014 in Kasarani township, about 45 minutes on a dirt road outside of Naivasha. Having planned with all the relevant authorities and arranged to meet at their offices on arrival to be shown the event location, we arrived to find that none of our three contact people could be reached on their phones or found at their offices, homes or anywhere in town!

Mild panic set in as our HIV partners began to arrive while we were left in the dark about the exact event location – as the sky also steadily got darker – slightly nerve-wrecking as we anticipated the prospect of our first full equipment set up in the field and with an audience!

Ominous black clouds gathering above us – completely obscuring the full moon – and the threat of imminent rain, added to the sense of drama.

After talking to some of the community members, we were led to the central football field as a potential location and, willing the clouds to pass, began to set up amidst much excitement and intrigue from all the kids in the community.

Our bigger-than-ever-very-impressive-screen went up first, followed by flood lights, satellite dish and finally connecting the decoder, projector and stereo to the generator. There was a collective sigh of relief when we found signal almost instantly – everything was falling into place.

Marie Stopes’ HIV counselors also arrived at that point and, since they had lent their mobile testing tents to some other partners previously, needed a private place to conduct the HIV counseling and testing (HCT) services. A combination of the Landrover backed against a wall, with a rope strung from the car to a pole pegged next to the wall, and sheets hanging from the rope worked perfectly as a make-shift counseling and testing room. The uptake of HCT at this – our first event of Africa Goal 2014 – was higher than ever before – there was already a queue forming as we completed set up of the testing area. The queue remained for the duration of the World Cup game – with at least 10 people waiting in line at any time. In total 58 people accessed HCT, about 20% of our audience members.

PS Kenya’s peer educators did a fantastic job of keeping the crowd’s attention with HIV information and condom demonstrations before the match and during half time – and encouraging everyone to know their HIV status. There was much amusement as audience members were encouraged to show off their skills by putting a condom on a torch (the most suitable apparatus that any of us had to hand!) – those who demonstrated putting on a condom correctly were rewarded for their efforts with an Africa Goal T-shirt.

Amazingly, and to all of our huge relief, the rain held off until the very end – we had a few light showers which we had to protect the equipment from but only when the game had ended, the equipment been taken down and as we were getting in the cars to leave the site did the rain really begin to fall heavily. After an early start, long day, exciting first event and late ending (we finished at 2am), the Africa Goal team members were exhausted but thrilled with the success of the first event. Thanks to our partners, PS Kenya and Marie Stopes, for their enthusiasm and support of our project – and for helping us make it such a success.

This first event was a fantastic example of what Africa Goal is all about – sharing a love of ‘the beautiful game’ with people who may otherwise miss out on the World Cup; finding new ways to support access to HIV services and information in the places where need is greatest; finding ways to overcome the inevitable challenges of working in remote areas – and occasionally, like this where the weather was concerned, having to rely on a little dash of Africa Goal luck!

The Final Countdown

The morning of the first 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the first Africa Goal event, was a true team effort. The last of the materials were collected hot off the press from the printers; any remaining logistics were finalized with our HIV partners, packages of materials were quickly assembled, ready for distribution at the evening event, and all the equipment, booklets, materials and kit was squeezed into every available space in the cars before fueling up and setting off.

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Africa Goal 2014 Fundraising Campaign Launch

The Africa Goal project would not be possible without the generous support and donations of organisations, companies and individuals like you.

Please visit our crowdsourcing campaign page in order to help us raise funds for the 2014 Africa Goal project, using Causevox and Stripe to process credit card donations simply and securely. All funds raised from the website go towards the purchase of necessary broadcasting equipment, HIV & AIDS awareness materials being developed in conjunction with our partners, travel costs as well as footballs for trading.

Through our fundraising page you can see specific items we are fundraising for. To find out more details about the project as well as specific budget details please download the 2014 Africa Goal Project Proposal. 

Please follow the link to support Africa Goal – we are hugely grateful for any contribution that you can make.

Support Africa Goal 2014