After a pretty frantic morning of final preparations before ‘kick off’, the Africa Goal team hit the road, heading North from Nairobi for the first event of 2014 in Kasarani township, about 45 minutes on a dirt road outside of Naivasha. Having planned with all the relevant authorities and arranged to meet at their offices on arrival to be shown the event location, we arrived to find that none of our three contact people could be reached on their phones or found at their offices, homes or anywhere in town!
Mild panic set in as our HIV partners began to arrive while we were left in the dark about the exact event location – as the sky also steadily got darker – slightly nerve-wrecking as we anticipated the prospect of our first full equipment set up in the field and with an audience!
Ominous black clouds gathering above us – completely obscuring the full moon – and the threat of imminent rain, added to the sense of drama.
After talking to some of the community members, we were led to the central football field as a potential location and, willing the clouds to pass, began to set up amidst much excitement and intrigue from all the kids in the community.
Our bigger-than-ever-very-impressive-screen went up first, followed by flood lights, satellite dish and finally connecting the decoder, projector and stereo to the generator. There was a collective sigh of relief when we found signal almost instantly – everything was falling into place.
Marie Stopes’ HIV counselors also arrived at that point and, since they had lent their mobile testing tents to some other partners previously, needed a private place to conduct the HIV counseling and testing (HCT) services. A combination of the Landrover backed against a wall, with a rope strung from the car to a pole pegged next to the wall, and sheets hanging from the rope worked perfectly as a make-shift counseling and testing room. The uptake of HCT at this – our first event of Africa Goal 2014 – was higher than ever before – there was already a queue forming as we completed set up of the testing area. The queue remained for the duration of the World Cup game – with at least 10 people waiting in line at any time. In total 58 people accessed HCT, about 20% of our audience members.
PS Kenya’s peer educators did a fantastic job of keeping the crowd’s attention with HIV information and condom demonstrations before the match and during half time – and encouraging everyone to know their HIV status. There was much amusement as audience members were encouraged to show off their skills by putting a condom on a torch (the most suitable apparatus that any of us had to hand!) – those who demonstrated putting on a condom correctly were rewarded for their efforts with an Africa Goal T-shirt.
Amazingly, and to all of our huge relief, the rain held off until the very end – we had a few light showers which we had to protect the equipment from but only when the game had ended, the equipment been taken down and as we were getting in the cars to leave the site did the rain really begin to fall heavily. After an early start, long day, exciting first event and late ending (we finished at 2am), the Africa Goal team members were exhausted but thrilled with the success of the first event. Thanks to our partners, PS Kenya and Marie Stopes, for their enthusiasm and support of our project – and for helping us make it such a success.
This first event was a fantastic example of what Africa Goal is all about – sharing a love of ‘the beautiful game’ with people who may otherwise miss out on the World Cup; finding new ways to support access to HIV services and information in the places where need is greatest; finding ways to overcome the inevitable challenges of working in remote areas – and occasionally, like this where the weather was concerned, having to rely on a little dash of Africa Goal luck!