Small Group, Big Impact
Boston University student and soccer center-back, Rachel Bloznalis blogs from Kumba, Cameroon
June 18th 2015. After my third week in Cameroon with CAC I am realizing why they call Cameroon “the melting pot of Africa”. We started the journey in Yaounde, the nation’s capital, which is in the Centre Region. Then we traveled to Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Region, Dschang in the West Region, and the town that we are in now, Kumba, in the Southwest Region. Each destination has such a distinct culture that it makes them each feel like a different country. The landscapes, climates, religions, food, languages (over 250 dialects in Cameroon), tribes, traditions, and people are unique in every one. Our partner program in Kumba, Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP) is made up of incredibly smart, eager, friendly, funny, and talented people that make Kumba unique.
CFDP is unlike the other programs that I have been a part of because it was week one of a two-week program. In week one we had the chance to work with the full-time staff, which is about eight fulltime men and women. The second week we will be working with community coaches and young leaders in addition to the direct staff totaling about 40 educators and coaches. Working with a small group of full-time local coaches dedicated to using soccer for social impact was extremely insightful for me. Getting to know the coaches personally, while also being able to have serious in-depth discussions about important issues in their community made this week very productive. At the beginning of the week, we had them brainstorm a list of issues that they thought were prominent in their community so that we could adapt games to fit exactly what they needed. The biggest issues in Kumba that they identified included tribalism, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual health and HIV, child labor, domestic violence, corruption, and school dropouts. It was a successful week because we had time to learn from them and listen to them so that they could learn from us.
The CFDP staff has the people and the motivation to make a long-term impact on their community. I could see and feel the direct CAC impact in all of the coaches when they were able to adapt games to teach about a specific community issue. A moment that stuck out to me was when one of the young leaders who attended every training session this week was able to create a game and coach it to the group. He chose to address the issue of school dropouts, which he knows first-hand is a big issue being a 15-year-old schoolboy. He created a simple game that involved foot skills and agility, while teaching about the negative influences that cause kids to drop out of school, which they defined as negative peer-pressure, child labor, alcohol and drugs, and financial issues. He taught this game confidently and proficiently to a group of coaches who were all older than him, some by 20 years. This was rewarding because he used what he learned from the CFDP curriculum and coaches with the help of CAC and applied it to make a direct impact on his young peers.
Another perk of a two-week program is being able to build strong relationships with the coaches and learn more about the local culture. A few of the coaches took us to Kumba’s crater lake on Saturday and we got to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake with them. I also got to experience more Kumba culture when one of the coaches brought me to church on Sunday morning. English is the first language in Kumba, which is another reason it feels like we are in a different country. Speaking English has helped me get to know the coaches better and more importantly it has allowed me to coach a few games after seeing them coached by Nora in French for two weeks. The local’s speak Pidgin English so it has been fun learning some phrases and words that sound like slurred broken English.
I am looking forward to the next and my last week in Cameroon with an excited and smart group of coaches!