In 2006, Ian Oliver was an international consultant leading a large portfolio of sport-based development programs in Africa. He was also a soccer coach. After viewing some of Ian’s photos from his HIV prevention program at a refugee camp in Zambia, his U16 elite girls team asked if they could join him on one of his trips.
Initially, Ian dismissed the idea thinking that taking a girls soccer team to Africa would be too heavy a lift logistically and that convincing parents to allow their daughters’ to participate would be impossible. He was quickly proven wrong. After a few initial meetings with his partners in Africa as well as the parents in Washington, Goals for Girls was born and would have impact far beyond what anyone could have imagined for years to come.
Ian quickly organized his team and his network to make the project happen, intending it to be a one-off program in 2007. But well before they boarded that flight, the idea of U.S. girls connecting with their counterparts in other countries through the game of soccer started gaining traction, including through The Washington Post who covered the inaugural project in a significant way before, during and post-program.
Ian recruited Tiffany Roberts, icon of the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympics and FIFA World Cup to join him and his team on a 2-week program to South Africa in partnership with Grassroots Soccer and Ubuntu Education Fund. There they worked with hundreds of girls teaching them soccer skills and joining them in learning about HIV prevention and reducing stigma.
Upon their return, word spread and Ian and his colleagues decided Goals for Girls could have continued impact on American girls and their peers around the world through this program. Today Goals for Girls benefits from a robust alumni network, dozens of international partners, funding support from a variety of institutions and individuals, and a growing demand for this platform that connects girls.