Coe’s internship work uses soccer to help prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa

Martha Coe's soccer career may have come to an end at Division III Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., last October, but the next step in her life will continue to involve the sport. Coe, who graduated from Macalester in May and from Grand Haven High School in 2007, was recently accepted for a year-long internship with Grassroot Soccer (GRS), a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize youth to stay free of HIV and AIDS.
Nate Thompson
Jul 14, 2011

Coe, a midfielder who was also a team captain during her senior season at Macalester, said she was familiar with Grassroot because her school would host a 3-on-3 tournament every year, with the profits benefiting GRS’ cause.

“After I graduated I started looking around for internships and found that (Grassroot) had an opening,” Coe said. “I applied and this spring I was accepted. It was a year-long internship, and I felt it was just too good to pass up.”

Coe’s next step with Grassroot includes traveling half-way across the country, as she’ll fly to Port Elizabeth, South Africa on August 7 to begin her internship. Coe will act as an operating intern, with responsibilities including training community leaders, improving operational processes, and even educating professional soccer players on Grassroot’s curriculum.

Grassroot uses a program called “Skillz,” which creates simple, but powerful connections between soccer and life. Ideally, it helps young people ages 12-18 take small steps in achieving their goals, help them become resilient when faced with challenges, and protect themselves and others from HIV and AIDS.

Coe said her position uses soccer as a teaching method, but she hopes to quickly locate some playing partners to play the sport recreationally in her spare time.

“Since the World Cup was held (in South Africa) I have to assume people are still pretty passionate about soccer,” she said. “I’m going to look for a team or some other people to play with as soon as I can.”

More importantly, Coe, an international studies and religious studies major, is thrilled to lend a hand in curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. South Africa is one of 12 nations on the continent that is either a flagship or partner country with Grassroot.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “With the frontline research that (GRS) does, it definitely helps put more people in tune to HIV and AIDS. We have a chance to make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

GRS will cover Coe’s work-related expenses, but she must furnish the costs of living expenses while she is there, since it is a volunteer position. She must cover the costs of airfare to and from Port Elizabeth, local transportation, food, health insurance, required visas, immunizations and medications.

“My fundraising goal for 12 months of service is $10,000,” she said.

To support Coe’s mission, a tax-deductible donation can be made to Grassroot at 198 Church St., P.O. Box 712, Norwich, VT 05055. On the check memo, include “Martha Coe’s Internship.”

Donations may also be made online at Coe’s personal blog: grsmartha.blogspot.com.

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