• “She was prominent. She was confident. She knew the game.”

    January 31st 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

    Upon arrival into Port-au-Prince I could already get a sense of the bustle around the capital city. Our partner arrived at the airport shortly after we landed and drove us to the guest house the CAC team would be staying for the week. The sun was relentless in its heat and humidity, and the amount of cars we saw on the road could rival the infamous Los Angeles traffic. The sidewalks were full of vendors selling t-shirts, shoes, electronics, rice, beans, fruits, vegetables, and drinks. We arrived at the beautiful guest house the local partner offered to CAC, with a beautiful pool in the courtyard, wi-fi, electricity, and three prepared meals a day. The continuous energy that welcomed us as we walked off the plane was the same energy that surrounded us for the remaining two weeks on and off the field.

    It was an amazing opportunity to get the chance to play in Haiti’s National Stadium. The stadium is located near the base of a mountain, which made the views all the more beautiful. Every morning we’d pile into the car and drive for an hour to get to the field that was three miles away. Streets were busy every morning with young children dressed in their school uniforms walking to class along the sidewalk with motor bikes zooming in and out of traffic. This past week we had a total of ninety participants, among them were coaches, players and students. The partnership with Haitian Initiative (HI) is in its fifth year, therefore, the decision was made that by the end of the week Coaches Across Continents would be there as support, while the coaches of Haitian Initiative would run a futbol for social impact program with CAC curriculum and their adapted games they’ve created over the last five years with the participants. The games included some from CAC Curriculum, class sessions with CAC, and adapted games created by Haitian Initiative coaches specifically for the local issues they wanted to address as leaders in their communities.

    In the middle of the week, inspired by CAC staff Emily Kruger and Jordan Stephenson, Haitian Initiative coaches decided to create a list of criteria that they believe encompasses a successful training session for self-assessment and peer-assessment to make improvements. Once this list was created, every afternoon following, the HI coaches would sit down and run through each session from the day and check off (or not check off) the boxes. In doing this, we saw noticeable improvements each day! HI coaches took full ownership of running the program for the week by Thursday and Friday. It was incredible to see CAC’s program come full circle and achieve the goal of sustainable social impact through sport.

    One of my favorite moments this week came from an HI coach named Astrude. Among the HI coaches, there are about four women. One of the women is a powerhouse, she’s one of the best coaches within the group, male or female, her name is Marie-France. When the participants were split into smaller groups, Astrude was paired with Marie-France. I had never really heard Astrude speak, she was quiet and kept to herself often. Then the day came, I could hear and feel her presence on the field, and ran over to catch the rest of the session. She took initiative (no pun intended), she was prominent, she was confident, she was heard, and she knew the game. Not often did I see a woman leading a group of men this week. Astrude was as confident as the best of them while leading a group of twenty-five men in teaching skills and proper technique. She was knowledgable and is a great player to begin with, so you can tell she was comfortable. What an inspiration. She’s surrounded by talkative men throughout the day, but when it was her turn to step up, she filled even the biggest shoes.

    This week was a lot to take in and a bit challenging at first, from sights to smells, to navigating communication without being able to speak the same language. I was lucky enough to learn from the leadership of CAC’s staff Emily Kruger and Jordan Stephenson. They are great role models to follow when it comes to circumventing new and unfamiliar situations on and off the field. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be a part of. I’ve learned a lot, met a lot of new people, learned a lot of new games, built new friendships, and look forward to keeping in touch with the inspiring coaches I’ve met on this trip. Thank you Coaches Across Continents for sharing what you do and allowing for opportunities, like this, for people like myself to volunteer. I look forward to my next trip to Mexico with CAC!

  • Epiphanies in Kigoma

    December 11th 2016. CAC Global Citizen writes about our work in Kigoma, Tanzania with Kigoma Municipal Council on their Connor Sport Court.

    Kigoma was the site of the first-ever Coaches Across Continents program, in 2008. It is a town of about 200,000 on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on the western border of Tanzania. Fortunately, the airport is serviced four times each week by flights from Dar Es Salaam – which saved us a draining two-day bus or train trip last weekend. Its lush green hillsides and the proximity of the second-deepest lake in the world provided a pleasant change of scenery from the dusty plains that have defined so much of our time in this country.

    Though it could certainly have just been the small sample of the community that we had, the relative isolation of Kigoma seems to have shaped the social climate there. When we arrived on Monday, Emily and I were immediately swarmed by throngs of schoolchildren who cheerfully called to us Mzungu! Mzungu!;(which means “white person”) and stared at us in awe and with innocent curiosity – something we had not experienced to such an extreme anywhere else in Tanzania. After the participants asked the children to clear from the Sport Court so we could begin the program, a few remained, and one of our participants (a schoolteacher), frustrated at these few who had not obeyed previous commands, ran towards them and swung a full kick at them so that they scrambled out of his way and off the court – just as he had intended. Out of the 44 participants in the week’s program, just five were women – a more steeply imbalanced ratio than anywhere else on this trip. Early in our session that morning, many participants named witchcraft as one of the things they most wanted to change about Kigoma, a phenomenon not even mentioned once in our other programs the past few weeks. Observing all of this on Monday, I sensed that Kigoma was still fixed to traditions that some other Tanzanian communities have begun to reconsider and reshape, and the idea of our CAC program raising questions about these practices already seemed daunting.  In many ways, our work in Kigoma appeared to be an uphill battle.

    Fortunately, throughout the week there were encouraging signs that some of this could change. In several separate conversations, participants discussed the need to change some harmful traditions (like the normalization of physically abusing children) and how they, holding leadership roles as teachers and coaches, could play a role in driving such changes in their communities. Our program and the games we selected opened the floor for these types of debates, and it felt productive to hear so many people discuss what traditions to change and how to do it, large group conversations which don’t seem to very commonly arise on their own.

    There was one moment though that offered the strongest confirmation of the effect of our curriculum. Midweek, we closed our session by playing India for Choice, a tag game that first creates scenarios of child abuse (regular tag), and then shows how individuals in the community can protect children from abuse (blocking taggers by using the ball). Finally, we designate zones on the field were players can’t be tagged, and the group labels zones as real world places where children ought to be safe from abuse (school and home, etc.). As the game ended and players migrated off the court after our ensuing conversation about child abuse, one teacher stood behind, drop-jawed. With awestruck eyes, he approached us coaches: “That…that…was awesome. Wow.” He was blown away at seeing how a simple field game can be a powerful metaphor for a social topic. Emily and I lit up; what a strong sign that what we’ve invested so much time and energy in has begun to catch on! Witnessing his epiphany was encouraging and inspiring because I know that at least one teacher came away from our program with new ideas about how to discuss touchy topics like abuse with his children and his peers. Even if he had been the only one of our participants to see the potential of using sports for social change (and I’m sure he wasn’t), no step is too small toward allowing a community to reconsider the impacts of some long-held traditions.

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  • Msimamo Standing Together

    December 5th 2016. Blog post from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania by SDL Coach Emily Kruger and Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo about CAC partner program Msimamo.

    “If you are motivated to do Sport for Development by money, then you will not make the biggest impact. Your priority must be developing the children and creating social change.” -Omari Mandari

    This sentiment drives Msimamo, the sport for social impact club in Dar-es-Salaam founded by Coach Omari at his neighborhood field in 2010. He had been coaching at a local chapter of Right to Play (R2P), and when it was shut down in 2009, he decided that his dream of using sport for social impact to improve the lives of children would not die. He convinced R2P to provide him with just enough funding to get his own organization up and running. Now in 2016, between five different locations, there are over 1,000 girls and boys participating in weekly trainings, each with a modest field where four to five coaches come together to lead.

    We had the great privilege of working with the leaders from Msimamo every morning for one week, learning about their philosophies and practices while also sharing some of ours at CAC. Turns out, we are in sync. Massive heart: check. Imagining a more equitable future: check. Laughter, dance moves, loud voices, open ears: check. And above all, believing in the potential of children to make positive choices for themselves and their community: MAJOR check.

    Omari and his team of coaches are developing great players and even better humans. We witnessed them use games to spark conversations with 40 boys, ages 8-12, about the negative effects of alcohol and drugs, where the boys can go to get help if their rights are violated, and the importance of creating inclusive communities. The attention of these young boys was held during each game, during each talking point because the boys had an interactive role in the session. Omari, Amar, Ally, and the other coaches were not dictating what to do or what to say, but instead allowing the boys to share their thoughts and express their creativity. The coaches even encouraged peer leaders within the group of boys to take on more responsibility throughout the session; they told us after that they hope to soon have peer leaders leading games entirely!

    True to the quote from Omari, there isn’t any money in this for these coaches; Msimamo is a passion project. But because most of them have very little formal education, they do not have formal employment during the day, making Msimamo a tough operation to sustain. But they have an idea: a waste collection business. All they need is a truck so they can personally remove, sort, and transport waste from their community to the Dar-es-Salaam dump before they spend their evening coaching. In his characteristically heroic nature, Omari envisions killing three birds with one stone: making their community cleaner and safer, supporting the livelihood of each volunteer coach (some of whom cannot afford to eat more than one meal a day), and continuing his program to educate and develop the children of the community. It is downright inspiring and invigorating to see coaches who have such a passion for their work with children that they are willing to do the most undesirable of jobs to ensure the survival of their program. CAC must continue to stand together with the Msimamo coaches as they give everything they’ve got to the present and future of their communities.

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  • Soccer As A Vehicle For Learning

    November 22nd 2016. Discussing our first ever program with the Parikrma Foundation in Bangalore, India.

    This is my second week with Coaches Across Continents and we were in Bangalore, Karnataka, India with the Parikrma Foundation. It is an awesome foundation that takes marginalized children and puts them in a school in order to give them more opportunities when they get older. They have four different schools. Their program runs from kindergarten to twelfth grade and is much more than just schooling. They feed the children breakfast, lunch, and a protein shake and they have an awesome physical education program at all four of the schools. Then after school they have great sports programs for football, taekwondo, and athletics. Both in the classroom and out of the classroom they teach the children about the social issues they face and how to overcome them through Self-Directed Learning. The Parikrma Foundation gives these marginalized children a platform to fully express themselves both in the classroom and out of the classroom.

    We started the week off with Mark, Brian, and I. When we got to the volunteer house that we were staying at on Saturday, 12 November, we met up with Jamie Tomkinson, a talented coach based in Scotland from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Program. Monday and Tuesday a Community Impact Coach named Tejas from his own organization, Sparky Football, came to the training session to add a local presence to our staff. Then Wednesday night Fatma Ahmed came who is based in Tanzania and is also from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Programme. She was a woman of few words during the camp but conveyed some of the most impactful messages during the week. Finally, Nora from CAC joined us on Wednesday night and added another female presence amongst an entirely male dominated camp. It was a very diverse group from different cultures and different backgrounds that came together to make an awesome staff for the week with the Parikrma Foundation. It was also very nice to spend some time and learn from Brian who is a very seasoned teacher/coach and is also a Boston College Soccer Alumni like myself. It was a tremendous group to be apart of where I learned something from each person.

    This week I did a little bit more coaching than the past week in Rurka Kalan. It was easier to coach with the CAC staff giving me feedback and especially with the coaches from Parikrma that we coached being so in tune with the curriculum we wanted to teach. The Parikrma Foundation teaches a curriculum that is very similar to ours, which is Self-Directed Learning inside and outside the classroom. The only reason I saw that Parikrma needed our help was with their coaches implementing the Self-Directed Learning of social issues on the field. That was so easy though because they already understood the social issues but just needed our assistance in showing how to apply the social issues through sport. It also helped that they were talented soccer players themselves so it made the training sessions run very smoothly. Overall, it was a very good week because we were able to get Parikrma to understand the CAC curriculum and I was able to further better my coaching through the feedback I got from the players, the Michael Johnson Young Leaders, and CAC staff.

    During the week there was an exact moment where the participants realized that they could use the curriculum not only to raise awareness about social issues to their kids but to also produce a good football training session. It was on Wednesday during the Child Rights game. It is a keep away game with two teams but there is a box in each corner of the grid that you play the game in. Each corner represents any different right that children should have. Examples are right to education, right to healthcare, right to security, right to health and wellness, and many more. When your team passes to a recipient in one of the boxes they must yell a right that children should have. When you enter each square your team gets a point. When we played the game it started very slow. When we made the soccer points of spreading out, using the whole field, and switching the point of attack quickly, that is when the game started to flow and the ball was zipping around. Now each team was hitting each square a couple of times and yelling a right that children should have. They were having fun and when we brought them in to talk about the social learning you could see that they now understood the CAC curriculum. They were answering the Self-Directed Learning questions about child rights with ease and understood what they needed to do to convey this to their own children. We know that this is the moment they got the message because when we had a participant coach it back to us they hit each and every point they needed to while having the game flow. They now understood that soccer is just the vehicle in which to make their own players understand the social issues that surround them in their communities.

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  • PILLARS OF SOCIAL CHANGE

    September  7th 2016. Community Impact Coach Paul Lwanga blogged about working with CAC and FHPU Enterprise in Kigali, Rwanda.

    Coaches Across Continents, in conjunction with Football For Hope and Unity [FHPU], conducted a wonderful training program for community coaches in Kigali. 23 coaches from Kigali turned up for training from the 22nd to the 26th of August 2016. Coach Markus Bensch was in charge of the training. He was assisted by Coach Nico Achimpota, CIC from Tanzania, and Lwanga Paul, a CIC based in Rwanda.

    It was exciting to work as a CIC in a new community and the games implemented increased my understanding and that of all the participants. The social messages covered a wide range of issues namely; Child Rights, Health and Wellness, Gender Equality, Life Skills, Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Problem-Solving, team-building, Environmental Awareness, and Social Inclusion, while pointing out role models like Neymar and Mia Hamm,

    The training also offered opportunities to all participants to observe other coaches coaching. What inspired me the most was how coach Markus create fun education through play and added more playing time with less talking. He also made the players feel the challenge and social message as they played different games.

    The fun and energy from all the participants was exceptional to me. I am indeed privileged to have worked with all of the coaches in Kigali. They were so innovative and creative especially when they coached CAC games or their own adopted games. The CAC team offered guidance and feedback which will help spread the CAC message across different communities here in Kigali.

    Many community coaches were whispering to me that IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE and all CAC games can offer new energy and will to coach social change through football.

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  • The Importance of Social Inclusion – On-Field and Off-Field

    August 17th 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Evariste Habimana wrote about working in Rubavu, Rwanda with Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

    Rubavu is the nursery for football in Rwanda. I enjoyed working with the coaches from this district. They are professional and are zealous about coaching.

    As I was working with them I learned many things about coaching styles. But most important to me was watching them enthusiastically learn the CAC games.  Before I joined CAC I thought coaching football was to create professional players.  But now I realize that coaching can be a lot more.

    All football teams around the world play games for technique, tactics, and endurance. With CAC we play these same games, but combine them with messages for social impact. These messages are about gender equity, female empowerment, conflict prevention, child rights, HIV prevention and more.

    My favorite game in Rubavu was “Child Rights: Social Inclusion”. Some groups of children are excluded, such as females, disabled, or for religious reasons. Our coaches will begin to change this. Here is how the game is played.

    It is like regular football, there are two teams. The only difference is that players have to stay in their own zone. The pitch is divided into three equal zones. The forwards must stay in the attacking zones, midfielders stay in the middle zone, and defenders stay in the back zone – in front of their goal.

    Not allowed to leave your zone is like being excluded. In football a defender often scores a goal. Midfielders are expected to score goals and defend their goal besides controlling the midfield. Forwards often have to help defend their goal too.

    Just to give coaches the feeling of being excluded compared to being free to play we make a change to the game. One team is allowed to move wherever they want and the other team is restricted to their zones. At the end, we ask, “How does that feel?” The team that was restricted was not very happy and complained that the game was not fair. We knew: they understood the message of the game.

    Just like footballers must be allowed to play the whole pitch, all who want to play football must be allowed to play. It does not matter if they are old or female or disabled. This applies to all activities, not just sports.

    I expect that our CAC trained coaches will use our curriculum in their regular program. And that it will make a positive social impact for their communities.

    Through my time as a CIC in Rubavu I got to meet new coaches and share with them my knowledge and experience. I feel encouraged by the CAC coaches to now even approach and educate coaches in my home community in Nyanza who never participated in CAC training nor use Sport for Social Impact. I now feel confident to create games myself and implement them at the school I teach.

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