Grassroots Soccer is an innovative organization that uses the power of soccer as an entry point to achieve its main objective of providing rigorous health education, focusing on HIV and AIDS. The program started in Zimbabwe in 2003 and reaches youth aged 11-18. Led by coaches, in addition to engaging students in critical learning about HIV prevention, the program provides psychosocial support and the opportunity for kids to form trusting relationships with responsible adults who are role models. The role model component is especially important because many of the kids in the program don't have positive role models at home. The program consists of 14 sport modules that use soccer and games to engage students in fun ways of understanding important information about HIV and health issues.
In addition to being an enjoyable way for kids to learn and internalize important information, the Grassroots approach of using fun and games achieves results. In a 2007 evaluation, it was found that children who went through the program had significantly reduced incidences of multiple sex partners compared to children who did not participate.
In addition to providing a small grant, Children First, with funding from USAID, has worked closely with Grassroots Soccer to improve its programming and financial management capabilities. Because of this, Grassroots Soccer was able to expand its program to reach 3000 children in Bulawayo schools this year.