Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings! I am writing to share my plans for the next year with you because I have decided to spend 10 months in Zimbabwe working for Grassroot Soccer on HIV/AIDS prevention education and research. I will be a volunteer, and I would appreciate any support you might be able to give. I want to tell you a little bit about Grassroot Soccer and explain exactly what I’ll be doing in Zimbabwe starting in August 2011!
Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is an international NGO which uses the power of soccer in an innovative curriculum to educate African youth about their HIV/AIDS risk. GRS is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Nike, (RED), and many other global partners. As a former collegiate soccer player and future physician, I have long admired GRS’ work in Africa and now have the potential to fill an important role for the organization as the first GRS intern in Zimbabwe since 2006. The experience will allow me to build upon my undergraduate work in global health and I believe it will ultimately help me to become a more compassionate, effective, and globally-minded physician.
My opportunity to contribute to GRS’ fight against HIV/AIDS is multi-faceted. The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) has partnered with GRS to implement a revolutionary and holistic HIV/AIDS education, testing, and counseling program in South Africa and Zambia. I will help to coordinate the launch of the program in Zimbabwe, where the EJAF partnership will provide funding to support voluntary counseling and HIV testing at GRS curriculum graduation events. I will also oversee an evaluation of Zimbabwe’s current GRS curriculum with senior mentorship from faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. This research, backed by a grant from Barclays Bank, will help GRS shape future interventions in Zimbabwe as it seeks to revitalize its school-based curriculum there. Finally, I will have the opportunity to shadow Dr. Mark Dixon of Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to better understand the challenges to providing quality healthcare and HIV/AIDS treatment in low-resource environments.
I was admitted to Harvard Medical School in March 2011 and I have chosen to defer my matriculation for one year to serve in this field intern role for GRS. Besides allowing me to make a tangible impact on the lives of African youth, this exceptional opportunity will hone my leadership and public health research skills, deepen my understanding of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and make me a better physician. I plan to pursue a career in pediatric medicine, and am therefore extremely excited to help implement GRS' kid-focused curriculum, which I believe is the most holistic school-based HIV/AIDS prevention program on the African continent. Nearly 400,000 African youth have graduated from its HIV prevention programs since GRS was founded in 2002.
Grassroot Soccer covers half of the expenses of my internship, and I am responsible for raising the second half, or $10,000. I would truly appreciate any support you might be able to give. I realize these are difficult economic times but any amount helps and it adds up quickly! If you donate to Grassroot Soccer through the Google Checkout button here on my blog page (www.derekinafrica2011.blogspot.com), the funds will go directly to support my work in Zimbabwe. You may also send a check to Grassroot Soccer with my name in the memo, to PO Box 712 Norwich, VT 05055. All donations to Grassroot Soccer, a registered 501c3, are tax deductible.
If you are curious to learn more about Zimbabwe and my internship, you can follow me here as I blog from Bulawayo!
Thank you so much.
All the Best,