Re-envisioning The Field
August 19th 2015. Coaches Across Continents volunteer Emily Spring talks about her first week On-Field in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with IndoChina Starfish Foundation.
We step onto the football field in Phnom Penh for the first time this year on a hot August day. Before the end of our first day training coaches from Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), laughter could be heard in abundance, and this theme of joy continued throughout the week.
“Joy” wasn’t always a word that could be used to describe many fields in Phnom Penh. For most westerners who come to this place for the first time, Cambodia is infamous for its Killing Fields, one of several locations throughout Cambodia marked for its mass graves discovered after the Cambodian Genocide. However, among this group of dedicated coaches – many of whom have returned for the second or third year – the Genocide could not be further from their minds. For these coaches, the field represents a place of fun and laughter for everyone.
ISF – CAC’s partner program here in Phnom Penh – has worked to foster hope in the communities of Chbar Ampov and Stung Meanchey, just outside the city center. This week, ISF and CAC have been working together with 30 coaches who impact thousands of children. The field no longer has to represent a place of discrimination, pain, or suffering. We are working to build a new type of field in Phnom Penh – both tangibly and metaphorically. This December, a new, tangible complex will be built – complete with two full-length football fields and one Connor Sport Court where kids can safely play, run, and kick a ball around.
More importantly are the various fields that ISF has already established throughout Phnom Penh where they train dozens of teams and thousands of children. Through its partnership with Kousar Thmery – a local school for deaf children – ISF has created an inclusive space where kids of all abilities are welcome to play. Through the Rabbit School for children with disabilities, ISF has ensured that the field represents a place where no child is discriminated. And through its various community outreach programs, ISF has already established itself throughout Chbar Ampov and Stung Meanchey, creating several programs based in inclusion, education, and play.
In Phnom Penh, we are working to instill hope to all children involved in ISF’s programs – hope for a better future that moves away from a violent history of harsh discrimination. Thanks to our games in CAC’s Chance to a Choice program, we have not aimed to create an escape from the past; rather, we have created a space where coaches and kids can safely speak about such issues. ISF and CAC are reenvisioning the field for Cambodia – one that is no longer rooted in discrimination, but instead represents an inclusive, fun, and safe environment. One where all children are welcomed and encouraged to speak up – a field where hope can finally be found.