On August 11, GAIA welcomed over 1,500 villagers at the opening ceremony of a new youth center in Kukada Village in southern Malawi, made possible through funding from Grassroot Soccer (GRS). The new center will be used by GAIA’s GRS coaches, community volunteers who lead local youth through SKILLZ, an interactive soccer-based HIV prevention and life skills program. To date, GAIA’s GRS coaches have provided HIV prevention messages to 4,425 adolescents through the power of football at 7 primary school and 44 clubs located in Kukada.
In addition to providing a meeting place for free youth programs, the center will serve as an HIV testing site and meeting space for community events. Fifty-one youth were tested for HIV at the opening event. One young woman tested HIV positive and was immediately counseled and linked to care.
At the dedication ceremony, the guest of honor and ward councilor Mr. Samson Makwinja remarked “There are many NGOs working here, but GAIA comes first. Its interventions are visible, the benefits are tangible and the activities are sustainable. That’s what makes GAIA unique.”
Kukada Group Village Headwoman Gloria spoke about the positive impact GAIA has had on youth in the area. Young adults and adolescents are dropping out of school at lower rates, are actively seeking out health information, and are newly able to understand the difference between HIV and AIDS.