Our Story 

"Woza." A constant, unmistakable term at the heart of the passionate Zulu soccer culture from which our organization was founded.

 

The inspiration for Woza Soccer materialized on a soccer field in Mtubatuba, a small rural town in the Zululand region of South Africa, where Woza is slang for “pass me the ball.” It was there that Woza Soccer Founder Chris Kaimmer, living in Mtubatuba while working for Grassroot Soccer, met Sheldon Hughes, the director of Mtuba Football Academy (MFA). MFA uses soccer as a means to provide life skills, adult support, and other resources to local Zulu youth.

Woza Soccer was born out of a collection of deeply positive personal experiences gained from traveling all over the world with the game of soccer in one's back pocket. It is vividly clear to our organization, and tightly entwined in our basic values, that soccer players have an incredible opportunity to use their sport to serve others and make their own travels far more meaningful. Soccer connects people in a way few other things can. 

Chris Kaimmer and South African boy bonding through soccer service

The impact of MFA inspired Chris and Sheldon to dream up Woza Soccer, a travel program focused on highlighting the influence soccer has on communities around the world, and the connections made through the beautiful game.

 

South African boys soccer team celebrating with Chris Kaimmer. Beginnings of Woza soccer and building and supporting community though soccer and service.

In June of 2014, Chris and Sheldon’s dream came to fruition when, as Woza’s inaugural trip, Chris took a group of 12 players to South Africa to connect with MFA in Mtubatuba and Grassroot Soccer in Cape Town. After that first summer, Kate Silverman joined Chris, bringing with her seven years of leadership and work experience in the Student Travel Industry, as well as her strong passions for travel and soccer. Chris and Kate helped Woza grow as Co-Directors for three summers, adding Costa Rica, Peru and Malawi as destinations. In 2017 Chris stepped away from the organization and Kate served as Executive Director until late 2020 when the organization closed its doors indefinitely.  

After six successful summers, there are 300 alumni with the Woza experience inspiring their futures (including nearly 50 who traveled thanks to full scholarships and even more thanks to significant grants), our partners have expanded their programming and possibilities, and their own participants have had their horizons broadened as well. Woza could not be prouder.