Cedric Zevallos is one of eighteen people from developing countries who are in Brighton this week for an intensive course to help them to use football as a way of reaching young people in their communities to stop the spread of HIV.
Cedric is a tall 27 year old and father of a two year old daughter. He lives in Port au Prince in Haiti, a city not long devastated by the powerful earthquake that destroyed so much of it in 2010.
“Growing up in a third world country like Haiti builds character because you are forced to work so hard for everything. Fortunately, this helps you value your every possession even more,” says Cedric.
A graduate of finance Cedric is currently studying an MBA and works at Delta Airlines as a customer services agent.
“In Haiti, football is not just a passion but one of the rare tools able to bring together the youth no matter how hard life’s situations are. It is an important key to harness their attention and have them enjoy a sport they love at the same time teach them about HIV prevention and general well being.”
Cedric loves playing football and cites his favourite players as Frank Lampard and Kaka. “I played at University and was able to help the team reach the finals in 2006. I also had the wonderful opportunity of playing 3 seasons with River Plate PR winning one championship in 2008 and reaching the finals in 2009 of the Puerto Rican Soccer League.
Cedric has been nominated by the Haitian NGO Promoteurs D’Objectif Zerosida (POZ), a linking organisation of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to take part in the Albion Alliance Football project. POZ is an established NGO in Haiti that conducts HIV prevention and offers guidance, counselling and support to almost 3000 people living with HIV.
People living with HIV in Haiti are routinely subjected to violence, denied access to medical services and social support, and abandoned by friends, family and neighbours. This can lead to the loss of livelihood and human rights violations.
Following the devastating earthquake, the vulnerability of people living with HIV has increased due to the breakdown of support systems and difficulties accessing the antiretroviral therapy essential for their survival.
57% of people living with HIV in Haiti and the majority of the centres that provide HIV medication were in the cities of Port au Prince, Petit Goave and Jacmel, all of which were seriously affected by the earthquake.
Cedric is joining other participants from across the world to participate in the Albion Alliance against AIDS: Football fighting back project in the UK, a unique training project being organised by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Albion in the Community, the charitable arm of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. The week long course will include a host of training sessions and activities at Brighton and Hove Albion’s new stadium and other venues across the city.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to meeting the other people taking part on the course and sharing ideas and experiences with them. I want to develop my football coaching and HIV communication skills so I can take them back to Haiti and make improvements to how we help prevent HIV through sport."
Hear from more of the participants:
Six of the participants took part in a photo workshop alongside the event, find out more and see the online galleries here.
Read the Guardian's coverage of the event, Using football to kick about a message on AIDS.