CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Sir Elton John celebrated his 63rd birthday with teenagers at the Football for Hope Centre (FFH) in Khayelitsha Township just outside Cape Town, South Africa.
The FFH Centre is a project of Grassroots Soccer, an international charity that trains African soccer stars, coaches, teachers and peer educators in the world’s most HIV-affected countries to deliver an interactive HIV prevention and lifeskills curriculum to youth.
‘Soccer stars are the most powerful role models for young people today’ said Elton, ‘so it’s fantastic that organizations like Grassroots Soccer are harnessing that power to educate young people about HIV’.
The FFH Centre provides HIV-related counseling and testing (VCT), the ‘Skillz’ lifeskills programme teaching young people about the dangers of unsafe sex, and a football coaching and training programme for local boys and girls leagues that promotes healthy living. The site regularly holds community voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) tournaments where youth and adults can be tested for HIV and, if HIV-positive, referred into local care and treatment facilities.
Elton and partner David Furnish were touring the Centre as part of a week of project visits for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) of which they are both Trustees. EJAF has provided over £10m in funding to HIV/AIDS related projects across South Africa, which has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.
Earlier in the week he officially opened a Community Centre in Vrygrond with fellow AIDS campaigner Annie Lennox.
The duo also hosted a fundraising dinner at Cape Town’s exclusive One & Only Resort to raise money for local projects.Grassroots Soccer Director Kirk Freidrich commented ‘it’s great to have Elton and his Foundation showing interest in our work. It raises the profile of what we are doing, especially in World Cup year, and was a huge treat for the kids’.
‘I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday’ said Elton.