Happy Friday everyone! We spent this week with Whizz Kids United in Edendale, KwaZulu-Natal. This amazing organization is revolutionizing the way access to sexual and reproductive health services and education are provided to adolescents through innovative programming and an adolescent focused clinic called a Health Academy, which is located adjacent to the Edendale Hospital.
This is a photo of the Whizz Kids United Health Academy, their first adolescent focused health clinic. (Photo thanks to WKU)
They have taken an innovative approach to sexual and reproductive health education by moving it from the classroom to the soccer field. Their facilitators teach HIV education embedded in soccer training curriculum in schools and in the community, as well as on site at the Health Academy. The end goal is to not only get the kids to be more educated on sexual and reproductive health, but also to encourage them to use the health services at the Health Academy. Services include HIV counseling and testing, one-on-one Sexual Risk Counseling, couples counseling, ARV treatment and psychosocial support, family planning, management and treatment of STIs, a support program for orphans and vulnerable children, a computer resource center, and recreational and educational programs like arts and crafts, dance, choir, and a homework club.
Here are two WKU staff members debriefing from the previous week and addressing challenges and goals for the week. (photo thanks to WKU)
And messages that we could use in the US are present on the clinic walls…
Although South Africa has a diabetes rate of 4.5% in comparison to the comparative rate in the US of 10.5%, they have health information on the disease up in the youth focused clinic. (photo thanks to WKU)
We love this organization because the program is fully integrated into the South African health system. The Department of Health provides the staffing for the Health Academy, the running costs of the facility, and a bit of research oversight as well. Aside from the soccer curriculum (called “On The Ball), they also run Mixed Gender Soccer Leagues to promote gender equity and challenge gender roles and stereotypes, a peer education program in schools, and they are currently in the process of developing a youth leadership program called “Gamechangers.”
Here are some of the youth that have come to the Health Academy to access health services, play a little soccer, take part in the homework club, or perhaps get a plate of food. (photo thanks to WKU)
These two girls could be the next “Gamechangers!” (photo thanks to WKU)
This 9 year old receives food at the Health Academy as part of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program. (photo thanks to WKU)
He also played a little pick up soccer with the older boys and um….me. I couldn’t resist and jumped in to play a little bit. And afterward some of the girls wanted to pose for a picture with me…
So here are the girls posing with their beautiful smiles. (photo thanks to WKU)
Of course the boys were just annoyed that we were on the soccer field, so as soon as the photo was taken, they shooed us off so that they could continue their game.
One of the coolest things about WKU is that if this approach can be proven to work, the Department of Health will look to upscale and roll this model out across the province. In addition to all of the great programs and the amazing facility, the Health Academy site has been chosen as one of the FIFA Football For Hope Centers and they will be breaking ground on a new soccer field that will serve the greater community and a new building (next to the existing one) that will accompany the field and provide WKU with a little office space. For more information about WKU, please visit www.whizzkidsunited.org.
Join us next week as we travel a couple hours and a beautiful drive into the Drakensberg, the highest mountain range in South Africa, to a little place called Underberg.
Have a great weekend everyone!
-Lorrie, CTAOP Head of Programs