RPCV Projects

GrassrootSoccer Peace Corps SKILLZ Program

by Mary Gaul (Kombolcha, Welo, 2012-2014)

Ryan and Mary Gaul served together from 2012-2014 in Kombolcha, Welo, Ethiopia. As health Volunteers they were both placed with local HIV, infectious disease and environmental health-focused organizations where they trained local kombolchastaff and health extension workers. They each started after school clubs, Mary focusing on gender, and Ryan focusing on English and agriculture. They also hosted events for a number of international holidays including World Malaria Day, Earth Day, World AIDS Day and International Day of the Girl.

The most rewarding experience Ryan and Mary had during their service, however, was working with the GrassrootSoccer Peace Corps SKILLZ program. Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is an international adolescent-health organization that educates, inspires and mobilizes young people to overcome their greatest health challenges and live healthier, more productive lives. GRS uses the power of soccer to connect young people with the mentors, information, and health services they need to thrive, and empowers adolescents to make educated choices about pressing health challenges such as HIV & AIDS, sexual health, gender-based violence, and malaria. GRS’s evidence-based programs, led by trained local coaches, incorporate soccer into dynamic lessons about health and wellness that engage young people and break down cultural barriers. With proven results and a constant focus on research and innovation, GRS has reached over 1.2 million young people in nearly 50 countries with health education.

During their service, Mary and Ryan trained nearly 500 youth in their town of Kombolcha in the GRS curriculum. They witnessed first-hand the incredible impact of this program, educating and empowering youth to make positive impacts in their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.


Mary with some of the girls . . .

. . . and some of the boys.

. . . and some of the boys.

As firm believers in the program, Ryan and Mary have continued their support for GRS back in the United States by joining their team of endurance runners. Endurance runners run long-distance races throughout the year in order to raise funds for GRS. The money goes directly to GRS and supports their programming, including the SKILLZ program (which covers the cost of training curriculum manuals, an indestructible soccer ball, and shipping costs to send the materials to currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers involved in the program). In October, Ryan and Mary ran their first race — a Tough Mudder in Philadelphia — where they raised $1,700 for GRS.


They will continue to run races throughout the year, and attempt to raise even more money for GRS (please email mgaul13@gmail.com or ryangaul09@gmail.com for details on how you can donate to their future races).

4 responses to “RPCV Projects

  1. I was a PCV in Debarek, the gateway to the Semien Mts. National Park (1972-74). Aside from needing to learn how to ride a horse to get around, I coached the basketball team (a passing only strategy since the floor was dirt/mud). I also learned how to play soccer and anchored left wing, which was something at 10,000 ft. (I also taught a lot of other subjects, by the way.)

  2. I ran 3 soccer teams in Assab 1997-98. I played in college and I’m a club president near Syracuse. If someone needs help then let me know – Rick rebeal@esf.edu

  3. served in kombolcha between 1973-1975, in education, and famine relief

    • Irwin – thanks for writing. You will begin to receive notices when new issues of The Herald are published. And knowing how we can reach you can assist in our facilitating reconnections.

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