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 staff 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.
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how you can donate to their future races).