• The Drink of a Nation

    April 13, 2017. Coaches Across Continents Process Consultant, Charlie Crawford writes about working with partners at Futbol Mas Paraguay.

    The first thing to stand out throughout Asuncion is the fact that a significant portion of the population always carries with them a small cooler accompanied with cup and a flattened looking straw. For those of you that have not had the pleasure, Terere in Paraguay could be considered a form of cold tea and more significantly, an icon and integral aspect of their way of life. In the cup is the supply of mate (crumbled leaves/botanical matter that I did not examine very thoroughly) which, when filled with the ice-water from the cooler and is filtered through the special straw, becomes far more than a refreshing drink.

    Paraguay is hot. As one of this week’s participants told it, “The Devil once came to Asuncion, started to sweat, and has not been back since.” Terere is undoubtedly the principle solution to this heat. This ritual helps and continues to build a community of trust centered around a shared cup. And as with any social construct, there are rules and etiquettes to follow this ritual sharing of Terere. The first thing I learned is that the owner of the cooler is the one to pack the cup, and that there are preferred methods to this packing. Once prepared, it’s up to the youngest member of the group to fill the single cup, pass it to the most senior, refill the cup and continue passing it around. You will continue to be offered a fresh cup until you say “gracias”, signifying your satisfaction. After making the dramatic mistake once, I was informed of the most important rule, ‘don’t move the straw’. The depth, position, and angle of this flattened straw are part of the preferred experience of the owner and are not things to adjust as you will it.

    As much as I wanted to dedicate an entire blog to this cultural drink, there is no possible way to leave this week without focusing on how incredible a program this was. After experiencing Futbol Mas in Lima the previous week, expectations were reasonably high for F+’s Paraguay branch. Participants here ranged from specialists in government organizations, special needs teachers, competitive coaches, competitive players, volunteers, students and more. None had ever experienced a training of this sort before and their earnest attitude, eagerness to learn, and belief in progress through problem solving were second to none. While most of the trainings were held on the National Secretary of Sport’s official compound, two of our days were spent in the local slum of Chicarita. This area is closer to the river than the rest of the city and, as such, suffers severe flooding on a regular basis. Unauthorized housing packs the area and social stigma closes it off from the rest of the world.

    Learning that the vast majority of our participants had never even set foot in this part of their city was not terribly surprising. What was a bit of a surprise, were the attitudes that made clear shifts by the end of the week. It would be accurate to say that there was a feeling of being uncomfortable during the first trip into Chicarita. This atmosphere not only dissipated but was replaced by an opposite eagerness to engage with this world even more. By holding the training within this community, the barrier of prejudice that literally circled this neighborhood was crossed, discussed, and ultimately considered unnecessary by the participants.

    The ritual of Terere remains strong. The ritual of avoidance and turning a bling eye does not. This is a great example  of what our partners are able to accomplish. I am left with only appreciation for being able to work with both Coaches Across Continents and Futbol Mas.

  • To Lima, to the Coast, to Huachipa!

    April 12, 2017. CAC Process Consultant, Charlie Crawford, writes about CIC Daniela and program in Lima, Peru.

    Arriving in Lima, Peru felt like stepping into both a foreign world and coming home at the same time. While our program would start on Monday, I was able to spend Saturday exploring the latest CAC office and surroundings before meeting up with fellow Coaches Across Continents staff Mark Gabriel, on Sunday. This opportunity led me to a bubble of Peruvian culture expressed along the jagged coastline spotted with public parks. Bike paths, futbol fields, and countless shady palm trees lined the winding cliffs and overlooked the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The highlight of this coddiwomple was stumbling onto the Park of Love, where mosaic tiles, colorful flowers and a massive statue of a loving couple holding each other in their arms helped create an atmosphere of comfort, connection and intimacy all in this beautifully publicly acknowledged space. Families, couples and friends would sleep, relax and spend their sunday in the best possible way here, in this paradise of a setting.

    Every program is different. After working off-field in recent weeks, it was extraordinary to get back on the job with one of our strongest past participants and CIC’s, Daniela Gutierrez. Daniela has had consistent experience with CAC in past Peruvian programs which made working with her directly an obvious step. Currently working with Liga de Futbol Feminino e Integracion Social, Daniela used some of  her connections to local schools and Sport for Social Impact individuals to organize a training in the neighborhood of Huachipa. This is an area no small distance away from central Lima. Through travels so far, I’ve found that many inhabitants of big cities tend to claim the ‘world’s craziest traffic’ title. While it’s my thought that no one has enough experience to empirically determine this, I’d be willing to consider Lima as a possibility.  Public transportation is built around these monumental highways sunk into the hills and valleys of the cityscape. Within these highways are designated lanes for public buses and it was partially through these buses that we would travel to our venue every day (often with multiple taxis included in each direction of the trip).  The training itself centered around a local school in Huachipa and the mothers of the students. Clearly new to the idea of Sport for Social Impact, we were able to introduce these parents to using sport in a way to address Gender Equity, Conflict Prevention and a number of other topics in our time together.

    Mark & I met and began working together less than a year ago with CAC in Cambodia. In the months since, we have coached together and played in half a dozen countries. Starting this next stretch with him couldn’t have gotten off to a better start and working with our new partner, Futbol Mas, in the coming weeks only makes me more excited. Let’s go Lima!

  • Welcome To Sorong

    May 4th 2016. Volunteer Jon Eisen writes about his time with CAC and Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia.

    After a week of coaching coaches in Jakarta, Charlie Crawford, the leader from Coaches Across Continents who had previously been working for two and half months in Africa, and I boarded a red-eye to Eastern Indonesia. Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands and is the 4th most populous country in the world. Jakarta, where we spent our first week, is essentially the New York City of Indonesia. We spent our second week, the focus of this post, in Sorong, a pleasant tropical town with beaches, palm trees and a more laid back way of life. We were greeted early Saturday morning by Frans and Rudolf, two of the local coaches . We spent the weekend relaxing and doing touristy things, like visiting the Buddhist temple, eating seafood and beaching it with Frans and Rudolf, as well as Nonce, the behind the scenes organizer. Come Monday, we were ready to get back to work.

    Quick refresher — Coaches Across Continents (CAC) is in the sport for social impact game. What that means is CAC uses football (soccer) as a jumping off point for conversations about social issues like gender equality, child rights, safe sex, and problem solving. CAC partners with local organizations, in this case Uni Papua, to put on week-long coaching clinics on how to play games that bring out these messages. After the program, CAC remains engaged with the local organization for at least 3 years, returning for training sessions annually. Charlie continuously repeated that we are not here to tell anyone what is right and wrong, only to discuss the reality and open up a discussion. Two of the most common phrases he says during games is “now, solve your problem” and “use your voice!” CAC knows that no matter what happens in a week-long program or even in the longer partnership, what the coaches coach is ultimately their decision. Our goal is simply to encourage critical thinking and speaking up.

    All that being said, this trip was CAC’s first time in Sorong. We spent three mornings at schools playing games with students and the afternoon sessions, with the exception of one, were predominantly dominated by kids. No matter what language is spoken or what life is like, one thing is for sure, kids love playing games. Even though it’s not the explicit mission of CAC, it was a ton of fun seeing the kids having fun playing games like Scary Soccer, a real life version of rock-paper-scissors and 95% football, essentially soccer without a ball.

    There was one moment that struck me as particularly powerful. It was during a game called Indonesia For Attitudes. For this game, we create four coned spaces on the field that represent characteristics of males. When we call out one of the characteristics, the players race to get to that particular space. After playing several rounds, we bring it back in and rename the spaces to represent characteristics of females. The social impact moment is when, at the completion of the game, you ask why did you pick the characteristics you did for each gender? Can a man be diligent? Can a woman be strong? What are the sources of our beliefs?

    During this particular game that involved only males, Charlie asked where these preconceptions come from. Blank stares. I’m not sure if it was a translation thing, a social thing or perhaps a combination of both. But it struck me that many of these kids may never have considered why they believe what they believe. Self reflection and thinking about one’s society is not always easy and fun. I think it is something that everyone all over the world, myself included, should engage in more often. This game, Indonesia For Attitudes, was a fun way to encourage this reflection.

    Interesting Side Notes About Indonesia

    • From the moment we left the hotel each day, people would shout out “Hey Mister!” and take our pictures. Charlie Crawford, the CAC leader for the trip, was used to the celebrity status of being a white person in a place with no white people. He said it would get old. It certainly was a unique experience but I will admit that by the end of the week, I, like Charlie, was looking forward to the anonymity of being in America.
    • Our final day was cancelled as the Commander of the Armed Forces, the third highest politician in Indonesia, was making a surprise visit to “Armyville,” the location of our field.
    • While not a lot of people speak English, the people are incredibly warm, open and kind. Everyone hangs out together outside of their homes. There seemed to be a very rich community dynamic. Indonesia is a great place!
    • Martabak Manis will change your life.

    Thank You’s

    So many thank you’s are due for helping me to be a part of this partnership. First, thank you to all my friends and family that helped me raise funds for Coaches Across Continents and make my trip a reality. Next, thank you to the CAC folks, particularly Charlie Crawford, the man with the plan, a human dumpster for all the food in Indonesia (literally all of it) and the leader of the programs; Nora Dooley for encouraging me to do it even though I know less about soccer than the kids we were working with; and Adam Burgess, who helped with my trip logistics and kept me on track. Thank you to our gracious hosts in both Jakarta and Sorong who made the partnership possible — Maria, Mr. Harry, Andi, Yan, the Salatiga coaches, Frans, Rudolf and Nonce. Finally, thank you to all the coaches and kids that participated. You guys are the heartbeat of the partnership.

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  • Cliffs, Rains and Rocks

     

    CAC volunteer Charlie Crawford talks about his last CAC program of the summer of 2015 with Uni Papua in Mulia, Indonesia.

    October 7th 2015. The flight into Mulia is a journey not many make. Our plane slid 5 adults, an infant, a motorcycle, and 8 boxes of One World Futbols deep into a green valley of central Papua.

    Working again with Uni Papua, the Mulia doctor and program leader, Dr. Jepprey, welcomed us to his home that overlooks the southern valley and the one-and-only airstrip. The Doctor’s house was unique in Mulia. Designed by an American, the layout had a strangely familiar feel to it, and we were even in one of the few homes with running water! A bonus we hadn’t anticipated and a privilege we would shortly have to earn.

    Turner and I had the weekend to settle in before the start of the program on Monday. It was an appreciated time to get our bearings in this chilly surreal setting. That weekend, after a particularly harsh rain, we woke up to learn the water hose had been damaged. This naturally meant that the early afternoon turned into a hike following the hose and up the mountain to solve the problem. Some digging and climbing later we rested with our mission a success on a cliff overlooking the lower end of the valley. The steepness of some of these mountains was as close to sheer drops as possible while still being climbable. Somehow though, the soil was rich and in this seeming impossible setting we were surrounded by lines of crops. A misstep would mean a tumble to the bottom, and it was here that much of Mulia grew their food.

    As we rested with our new friends from Uni Papua, some half dozen kids joined us with a smile and disappeared into the cliffs only to return some time later with freshly picked pineapples clenched in each hand. It was a proper welcome to a new world. A welcome continued by the daily bunt cakes and casseroles from the Vice-Regent’s thoroughly hospitable and generous wife.

    As the week went on, we fell into a familiar cycle of coaching in the afternoon and working at local schools in the morning. Each morning would involve a couple of our participant coaches and a couple hundred school kids. The fields themselves were something of an experience. Between mountains, most would be at some degree of slant. Between daily rains, the grassy patches would turn to mud. But most impressively, the ground of Mulia is mainly made up of various sized shale rocks which meant navigating a playing field required an entirely other skill than most players have to deal with. Regardless of conditions, when the rains came and the rocks hurt, our coaches would smile and insist on 1 more game.

    I’ll remember the crops that came from the cliffs. I’ll remember the Vice-Regent’s wife bringing cake. I’ll remember being thankful for slipping and not hitting a rock. Most of all I’ll remember working with a wonderful group of people for my last program with CAC this summer.

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  • Rained On And Better For It

    CAC regular volunteer Charlie Crawford blogs about enjoying the rainy season in Sihanoukville, Cambodia with M’Lop Tapang.

    September 4th 2015. The rainy season earned its descriptor this week. After two weeks in Cambodia’s Capitol, our coaching staff split into two groups and went to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. As it went, Turner and Spring headed north to Siem Reap while I journeyed to the coast with Markus (or “Helga Mueller” as he appreciated being called after his favorite player’s female alter ego). On the coast, we worked with partner program M’lop Tapang and their 25 participants on one of the closest to ideal fields I’ve ever seen working with CAC.

    Sihanoukville seemed to be rolling out the green carpet for us. For the training we played our games on a beautiful roofed field. A quality astro-turf away from broken glass, mud, and the scorching sun is simply too rare to not show up each day with a smile on your face. As good as it was, there was one moment during this week that the conditions taught an important lesson. Perfect conditions just don’t exist. As we prepared to start the training on Tuesday, the Cambodian rainy season hit the switch. So much rain pelted the roof that we couldn’t hear each other shouting 10 feet away for 3 hours.

    Needless to say, our plan for the day required some last minute reorganizing, yet ended up being one of our best. A feat, in large part because of the flexibility of our three Community Impact Coaches.

    I’ll remember a number of things about this program.  The girl’s team that had better skills than the boys. The 9v9 pickup game we played with our coaches against other locals one evening. The fried noodle meals that left me wanting nothing else (an uncommon occurrence). But as impressive as these and the rain and the beach were, what truly made this a week to remember was the presence of these CIC’s from Phnom Penh. Sameth “Handsome Man”, Ranya, and Makara became more than a couple of coaches throughout the week.

    Making strong connections with people in a short amount of time is a pre-requisite for on-field work with Coaches Across Continents. That being said, having 3 weeks instead of the typical 1 gave Markus and me an opportunity to form a bond with these three coaches even more. From Sameth’s vitality to Ranya’s massages to Makara’s sense of humor, these three have certainly become part of CAC’s and my own family.

    That roof taught me something. Our success this week wasn’t from it. What it taught me was that no matter the conditions, what pulls a program off is the people involved. Everything else can be dealt with, whether that be by huddling in a corner to be heard or huddling in the shade to cool off. Lesson learned.

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  • A Hopeful Transition

    August 7th 2014. CAC volunteer Layla Joudeh blogs about her CAC experience in southern Africa and returning home.
    7 weeks later and I’m sitting at home in South Carolina. I never thought this day would come. And by the end of the trip, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted my time with CAC to end. Back in the USA, a different life awaits- college, friends, and family. I think part of my hesitation towards my time ending was the fear of adapting to a Western life again. 7 weeks ago I was focused on transitioning from busy college student in New England to soccer coach in southern Africa. Now my focus is on adapting back to school with all the experiences I gained from CAC. The last few days in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo were a great way to end my trip but did make leaving a little more difficult.
     
    After partnering with the Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) and the FIFA Football for Hope Center in the previous week, we had the opportunity to work with GMF’s school. We played games with GMF’s students, teachers, and parents. The Monday with the students was one of my favorite days of the entire seven weeks in southern Africa. All of GMF’s students are young females, so we worked with about 60 girls that were 4, 5, and 9 years old. When we first pulled into the school, the younger students greeted us with a welcome song. Charlie, Jamie, and I tried singing along, but we didn’t sound quite as good as the girls. We spent the rest of the day playing our games with the students. The girls were a little hesitant when we started Circle of Friends- our simple, fun warm up- but as soon as Charlie and Jamie showed off their dance moves as part of the warm up, the girls didn’t stop laughing and smiling. The students didn’t know English so our main forms of communication were silly faces, funny voices, kicking around the ball, and some cone balancing on our heads (see above picture). Anything that we did, the girls were eager to try. Needless to say, Jamie’s elephant impression was a hit. At the end of our break, there was a parade of elephants traversing the field. Playing with the kids was incredibly fun. After seven weeks of coaching, I’ve never had a dull moment with children. They are eager to the play the games and are easily entertained, which makes our jobs a lot more fun(ny).
     
    The following two days were spent working with teachers and parents of the students. When I first approached one of the moms, she berated me in a fairly motherly tone about how my shorts reminded her of underwear. Most of the parents we worked with dressed in the traditional patterned cloth dresses or skirts that came down to their ankles. I realized I was a little out of place in the group of mothers. But soon after we started playing games, everyone was having fun together. We had a pretty competitive group that absolutely loved handball games. The parents and teachers were strong, athletic, and didn’t like losing. On the last day, Charlie and I participated in a few games while we were coaching. We were having a blast, and I truly didn’t want the day to end. For our last game, we brought the students, parents, and teachers on the field for a round of scary soccer- a fun adaptation of rock, paper, scissors. The girls were cheering and excited to play. The adults were getting more invested in the games as their students’ enthusiasm grew.  When a team won a round of scary soccer, the parents, teachers, and kids would all jump up and down and chant their team’s name. I watched from a far for one round of scary soccer and couldn’t help but smile and laugh about this awesome, fun, and funny experience. Different generations were working together and having fun because of a simple game. Sport gave different generations a medium to connect and learn together. That was one of my favorite parts about CAC- watching age and cultural barriers breaking down because of simple, fun games.
     
    As I try to get accustomed to life back in the United States, I can’t help but think of the people I had the opportunity to work with for the past seven weeks.They taught me that adapting to other cultures, people, and communities can be much easier once common ground was found. For the past seven weeks that common ground ranged from a dirt field, a school’s soccer field, a tennis court, and a FIFA Football for Hope Center. Maybe next time I need to adapt to a new group of people, environment, or job, I’ll ask my colleagues to find some grass or dirt to play on because that sure did teach me a lot this summer.
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