by Yamkela Nqweniso

I was born in Cape Town, and I studied primary school at Luleka. That is when I was introduced to Grassroot Soccer. I was still young then, I was 10 and now I’m 15. I wanted to get involved because I wanted to be part of Grassroot Soccer, trying to build a new generation that will be free from HIV, and to be on the positive and the safe side.

I was initially attracted to the game, to playing soccer. I learned that in my own life, if I do this or that, there will be consequences. I found it so interesting. The coaches were also so friendly, playing with us and getting us in the mood, to see the impact of this programme and what change it could bring to our lives. So I got really interested.

When I met Coach Vuyo, he changed my vision, imagining women in sport. I started adapting soccer to be a part of my life. I am a part of RV United, the only all-girls soccer team in Khayelitsha, so we are leaders in our community. I love both soccer and media. I am interested in media, there is a community programme teaching us the basics of the camera and how to use a camera. I’ve always wanted to do media. I have my own camera now.

It means a lot to me to be a part of the Grassroot Soccer team. I am dedicated to building a new South Africa, a team that will fight HIV by all means. People are dying out there, so why should I watch people die? Let me be part of this team that is making progress, something I see that is working. To attract the youth, bring them all together, and share knowledge, share what we have. We have to get girls involved too, because we are at the highest risk for HIV in South Africa.

This is how we can build a new generation that will be free from HIV. I feel proud of myself that I am part of the positive side. I’m not staying out, smoking, partying, like the other youth today. I am happy that I am on the positive side, as well as the safe side.

I share a lot of information with friends, because around Khayelitsha mostly it’s the women who go for HIV tests while guys don’t do it. They still sleep around without protecting others. If the guy doesn’t want to use a condom, you better leave the guy because you are going to be at high risk of being infected. So we have roundtables and warn each other about what we must do and not do, and what are the reasons behind all of this. The topics we always talk about are HIV and teenage pregnancy, because they are the most common problems we have in school. We try by all means to help girls avoid these problems and I tell them that when I am around the centre, I am safe. I am away from drugs, away from gansterism. I’m safe.

I’ve changed a lot. Before, I didn’t know where I was headed. But now I know where I’m from, where I’m headed, and where I want to be in the future. It’s built so much confidence in me, because I know what’s ahead for me. I have strong female role models, and I am part of a team that is trying to build a generation that is free from HIV.

* Yamkela was recently recognised as Youth HIV Ambassador in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans for 2015.

* Love to see Yamkela supporting our Facebook page and joining the conversation 🙂

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About Jenn

Jenn provides photography, communications and Communication for Development services for a range of humanitarian and development clients, and leads photography and communications workshops for youth and professionals. These days, she spends much of her time with the Sport for Development organisation, Grassroot Soccer.
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