• Online Education Program connects Coaches Across Continents

    February 24th, 2017. Online Education Strategist, Markus Bensch recaps last years OEP.

    In football there is a saying that when a team gets promoted to a higher league, the 2nd year is the toughest one. You must prove the quality of your team once the wave of excitement has faded.

    We faced a similar challenge as we entered into the 2nd edition of our Online Education Program (OEP). We started with a new group of participants in March 2016! There were 12 coaches from 4 different continents (Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe) that graduated in the 2015 class.

    We’ve introduced new technology tools such as hosting quarterly webinars and using an interactive feedback sheet. During the 9‑month program the coaches invested 200 hours on-field and off-field. The coaches implemented games with their teams, participated in 4 webinars throughout the course, shared their monthly feedback online, and entered games on Sport Session Planner (SSP).

    It is exciting to read that the coaches witness behavior change in their players when implementing Sport for Social Impact games! One story was shared with us by Paula, from Brazil, about the youth she works with: “In the group of teenager after playing human rights game, they began to speak more properly about the right to education and for the first time began to remind people in the community who have had their lives changed because of it as an example.”

    The participants went through three Self-Directed Learning (SDL) stages “Educate”, “Adapt” and “Create”, each lasting for 3 months. During the Educate stage the coaches receive a monthly curriculum to implement in their communities. During the Adapt and Create stage each of our 12 graduates developed and implemented 8 new games. In these 6 months each participant also implemented 8 games from other coaches and gave individual feedback.

    Lin from Kenya, now living and studying in the UK, reflected on her adapted game by stating: “Empathy grew as the players began to stop stigmatizing each other. They became less embarrassed and began speaking up about HIV/AIDS and how it is affecting their families and communities. They also understood that silence plays a BIG part in the spread of it.”

    We are very delighted that we now have almost 100 newly designed games available on our online platform SSP, ready to be implemented by coaches around the world. We have also included some of these games in the new CAC curriculum that will begin implementing during our on-field programs. The OEP is becoming a highly interactive program where coaches from different continents and cultures share knowledge, games, and experiences. The coaches have cultivated the skill of developing and designing FSI games, which are fun and educational. Reading the participants’ feedback you can see that they are very excited about their newly gained skills!

    Ryan, from GOALS Armenia commented: “I wanted to make games that that both teach soccer skills and life skills, which is really difficult. After researching and remembering different soccer exercises I was able to apply new rules and create social impact meaning behind that exercise’s technical objective!”

    There are certain challenges to the Online Education Program. Limited access to internet and technology has been the major reason for people not to be able to graduate. Although there are factors in place that make completion difficult for our participants, there are so many incredible success stories that rise from the program! Many participants go on to further schooling, rise to a new level of coaching, or have new found confidence in their ability to teach others. This is what OEP is all about!

  • So Many Dreams Swinging out of the Blue – Oh Let Them Come True

    August 9th 2016. CAC returning volunteer Frederick Schwarzmaier wrote about his time in Malawi with the Banda Bola Foundation.

    “We lack messages that reach the households for active participation in matters like early marriage, school drop-outs, Tuberculosis and Malaria deaths, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and sanitation issues” proclaimed Judith Manda, the chairperson of Malengamzoma Women Empowerment Forum, on the first day of our ‘ASK for Choice’ program that focuses on gender equality and female empowerment. We quickly found that it would be vital to address the topics of child rights, women’s rights and health & wellness with fun, far-reaching and universally applicable games throughout our programs in Chituka Village. During the program we thoroughly enjoyed the support and advice of our local partner Keni Banda, co-founder of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Division, a persistent fighter of inequality in his homeland.

    It aches hearing stories about children, especially girls, dropping out of school because of early marriage or pregnancy – often suppressed by their male counterparts. Commonly uttered statements like “Mothers desperately wishing for grandchildren” or “We need our children as working power” are entirely egotistical  and short-sighted. It comes as no surprise that Malawi has a female literacy rate of only 58.6% compared to the global average of 82.7%. Denying children the right to education forces them down an alley of broken dreams and uncertainty. Affected children will likely never have the chance to make up for their lost years in school – particularly in countries like Malawi where opportunity is a scarce commodity. People focus too much on the short-term benefits while also lacking foresight. This may seem rational to many as benefits can be realized promptly. However, sustainable success will fail to happen when people act for their own benefit and interest –  admittedly this is a subliminal process as fear and uncertainty are driving factors when making those decisions. Nonetheless, as Barack Obama said before he was inaugurated, “We must ask not just ‘Is it profitable?’ but ‘Is it right?’”. I don’t claim this pointing at Malawian grown-ups but to every adult in the world. We have reached the point where when something does not make money, it is not a priority. Too often we tend to undermine and neglect long-term as well as indirect benefits. We need to restructure our society, how it is set up and re-prioritize what values are important. Profit of the individual should never be more important than education and human life. The fact that it is, is a problem.

    Why are these decisions made so often? Intellectual and material poverty triggers these decisions. If one fights for survival every day it comes natural to put oneself first. In order to make healthy decisions on somebody’s behalf, one needs to act unselfishly to a certain degree. But how to act unselfishly if you don’t possess anything? The question itself seems absurd and contradictory. When you only give but not receive, it needs a lot of love and greatness to act selflessly.

    Over the past week, we were talking a lot about our future which is the children. Sadly, they have no voice, they are not given any choices and they are restricted by culture and customs. To change these unhealthy patterns, culture and custom norms need to be reconsidered and education needs to be made a priority. Reconsideration of norms and particularly education are investments in the future. The more educated we become, the more opportunities will arise. Moreover, education can prevent cases such as child trafficking, alcohol and drug abuse, and other social issues. The term ‘education’ must not be limited to an antiquated view of going to school but to a broader one that also conveys children their rights. Education in this sense can make dreams come true again.

    To disrupt this vicious cycle of unhealthy choices at the expense of others we need local superheroes of any gender and age. We need people with courage, persistence, the vision for a better tomorrow and the drive to lead change in their communities. However, in recent years we have made leadership about changing the world. But there is no world, there are only seven billion and counting understandings of it and we must respect every single one. If we can change the people’s understanding of it, understanding of what they are capable of and understanding of how much people care about them, we might change the circumstances. This is where the local coaches come in – our superheros. Small actions that come in numbers can make a big difference.

    Although our team in Chitkua Village comes from three different continents, our common understanding is equality. Coaches Across Continents will not retreat from standing up for equal rights and opportunity, neither will I or should you.

    Our participants in Chituka Village proved that change for the better is possible. While the children were sent away from the sessions at the beginning of the week; at the end they were included. We had a great time in Chituka Village and time flew by as swiftly as in a good movie. I sometimes felt like I was in a movie when driving in those overcrowded mini-buses or walking across the fields on paths landlocked by head-high crops and miles of car-suitable roads. However, the movie is not over yet and people are still writing their script. For that purpose, we imparted fact-based knowledge, fresh insights and alternative approaches to help them make healthy choices for a better communal living. I hope they are writing towards a happy ending but only the future will tell.

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  • Brazil for Attitudes, aka Always #LikeAGirl

    2nd time Coaches Across Continents volunteer Marie Margolius blogs from our recent Mexican program with the Rafa Marquez Foundation.

    February 2nd 2015. The second week of our Mexico trip brought Anna, Nick, Markus and I to Guadalajara to work with the Rafa Marquez Foundation. The Foundation was built with three cornerstones of children’s rights in mind: Nutrition, Education, and Sport. The Foundation aims to allow the children of Mexico access to each of the three. Each day, the 700+ children that are enrolled in the program make their way to one of the two Rafa Marquez sites, where they receive lunch, attend classes including computer science, reading and writing, and are provided with a BEAUTIFUL space to play the sport of their choice. And in the midst of the run-down, poverty and violence-stricken neighborhoods where the Foundation sites are situated, using the word “beautiful” to describe the sites seems to be an understatement. RFM provides it’s kids with a safe haven; a clean place that doesn’t match their dirtied clothes and faces. A place where dozens of volunteers and employees shower the kids with caring affection that they might not receive at home. A place where they can run, laugh and play freely without any trace of the violent life that Mexico’s streets contain. It is a beautiful place both for it’s stunning grounds and also for all of the things it offers and represents for the children who attend.

    While the Foundation encourages kids to play sports as a part of their effort to keep them safe and productive, it doesn’t use sport for social impact, so the room for RFM to grow into that space using CACs games was very exciting for us. Most of the adults we worked with were not actually athletic coaches, and in fact many had no athletic experience at all. They were teachers, parents, psychologists, social workers and volunteers, who were simply excited to learn and improve the already amazing Rafa Marquez Foundation. This made the dynamic of the week unique and exciting, presenting us with the challenge of putting together a curriculum of games that could be played in almost any setting — not just on a soccer field. As of right now, RFM has physical education-like classes for ages 4-15, and allows the kids to use the facilities as they please. By the end of the three years of the CAC Hat-Trick Initiative, we hope that the fields of RFM will be alive with the CAC social impact games, providing even more value to the “Sport” aspect of the RFM.

    After our three hour training session each day, Anna, Markus, Nick and I hung around the Foundation, eating lunch with the kids and watching their on and off field classes. One day a four year old boy and his sister came up to Anna and I and made a startling confession. Attempting to translate his Spanish, Anna and I heard the boy talk about being hit by his father who didn’t live with him anymore. Another day, a social worker told us stories of the all too common sexual and physical child abuse in various homes. Nick and I drove through the neighborhood to see closed and run-down shops, houses with plastic tarps as roofs, no running or clean water, and one or two twin sized mattresses as beds for three times as many bodies. As we learned more and more about the context that the RFM exists in, we grew more impressed and moved by the Foundation’s impact. They have started by providing children with some of their most basic rights: food, education and safety. We hope that in years to come, the CAC curriculum can add to this base and help provide these kids with skills they can use outside the four walls of the RFM classrooms and off of the soccer pitch, too.

    During the course of our week long program, Nick, Markus Anna and I focused on the problems that the RFM helped us identify: drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, child abuse and gender inequality. With such an intelligent group, most of whom were women, I was excited to learn about the culture of gender in Guadalajara. On the last day, we played a game called Brazil for Attitude. The game is simple: the coach asks the players to do a number of different things, first “like a girl” and then “like a boy.” Invariably, when told to run like a girl, the participants trotted around slowly with their arms and wrists flicked out to the side in unathletic form, in contrast to the hard and fast sprints they offered when told to run like a boy. When asked to punch or kick like a girl, dozens of yelps and whimpers accompanied half-hearted flailing arms and wimpy kicks. When providing examples of boy-like kicks and punches each participant concentrated and delivered hard, vicious blows.** The responses from the participants, which we expected to see, were not unique to Guadalajara, and provided a small indication of gender situation and interpretation in Mexico. The exercise exemplified how much room for improvement there is in the realm of gender equality, even among this group of supremely educated and kind people. We cannot wait to see this improvement in the Rafa Marquez Foundation over the next three years.

    **CAC has a Female Empowerment game called Brazil for Attitudes and we were delighted to see an independent version highlighted by the brand Always in their “Like A Girl” campaign, shown during the Super Bowl and attached here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs We are grateful to Always for bringing this universal problem to an international audience as we at CAC see this issue every day.

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  • Football for HIV Education in South Africa

    November 10, 2014. Markus Bensch – Senior Staff – returns to his old home in Durban, South Africa to run the CAC program with long-time partners Whizzkids United.

    From October 2012 till December 2013 I volunteered for Whizzkids United (WKU) in Durban, South Africa. Back then WKU had two workplaces, the office in Durban and the Health Academy (HA) in the Edendale Township 70 km away from Durban. The administrative office was in Durban and at the HA children and youth of Edendale can access health services and participate in different programs after school. The focus of WKU’s work is HIV/AIDS prevention through football. WKU is running year-round Life-Skill sessions at local schools that use football to educate students on HIV and raise awareness for the services and programs at the HA.

    Ten months after I left WKU I was lucky to be able to come back, see some of my old colleagues and friends and conduct a one-week CAC program together with my current colleague Kelly Conheeney. I’m happy that I can say colleague, because Kelly just decided to be on board full time with CAC for 2015. Welcome Kelly!!!

    For CAC it is the 5th year that we’ve trained the coaches from WKU and Edendale Township with the difference that the Football for Hope (FFH) Center that WKU has been rewarded with is finally finished and the previous two workplaces are now united at the Center. We were lucky that we could train with the coaches on the brand new artificial pitch and make use of the multifunctional room in the new building.

    Kelly and I welcomed 19 coaches on Monday morning. But first I received a very warm welcome from my old colleagues. It felt for me like I never left and I realized how much the WKU staff had taken me into their hearts. I was very happy to work with some of my old colleagues during our program.

    We started with a general introduction into Football for social impact and into the work of CAC, because it was most of the participants first time attending a CAC training. When we got on the pitch and introduced “Circle of Friends” and “Messi Skills for Life” we realized they enjoyed those games and were capable of identifying the social impact messages of the games very quickly. Circle of Friends is CAC’s most played game, because every session starts with this warm up. Players stand in a circle and one person starts to show an exercise while moving through the circle and finding a person on the outside for an exchange that includes a move (i.e. high five) and the use of voice (i.e. shouting your name or favorite football club). Now different players start to move through the circle doing the exercise that was shown to them and finally finding a person on the outside for the exchange before this person starts to do the same. This game is so much fun and often encourages people to introduce silly as well as challenging moves which creates an exciting atmosphere. This group was so enthusiastic and it was so much fun that from the 2nd day we let them lead the circle and introduce their own exercises. This game works brilliantly to warm up our bodies, but also to warm up and make use of our voice. Another social impact is to communicate with other people in the circle, concentrate to do the exercise correctly and to remember the exchange on the outside.

    One of the focuses of the training was HIV/AIDS education, because the battle against this disease is one of the biggest challenges for South Africa as a whole and the community of Edendale. So we played all our five Adebayor games that teach through football how everybody can protect him/herself from getting infected with HIV and take care of his/her sexual health. In the afternoon different participants were responsible to coach the CAC games they learned to the students that came to the HA. One of the female coaches just adapted our “Can Adebayor see HIV?” into a conflict resolution game and asked “Can you see who stole your pen?”. In the original version two lines of players with their hands in the back are facing each other and alternately have to guess who on the other team has the bottler cap or small stone in his/her hands which represents HIV. The social impact of the game is that you can’t know just by looking at the other person if he/she has HIV or not. The only way to know is to get tested. The young woman changed the social impact of the game and taught the youth that you can’t know who stole you pen just by looking at the other person and she discussed with them different peaceful ways the resolve conflicts. We were very happy to see that participants were so quickly capable of adapting games and make them their own.

    Two of the challenges for WKU over the past few years were to secure that participants from past years would come back for further training and to implement CAC games into their curriculum and trainings. The lack of implementation was also due to the fact that the construction of the FFH Center didn’t start for years and once it started it took more then a year to finish it and during that time WKU had to run their services next to a construction site. Together with the management we set some goals for the next year and we very much look forward to see our games being regularly played at the FFH Center and implemented in the schools in Edendale.

    We want to say “Thank you!” to WKU for being again such great hosts for our training. A very special “Thank you!” goes to our two host families in the Edendale Township who spoiled us with warm African cordiality, which includes delicious local food! To stay with locals always adds a very special flavor to our unique programs of letting us experience the local vibe and give us a better understanding of the local conditions.

     

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  • Self-Directed Surfing and Learning in Lima

    October 22, 2014. Volunteer coach, Billy Hawkey, writes about his first week on-field with CAC in Lima, Peru. 

    This past week I began my journey with CAC in Lima, Peru, eager to see how this world operates, and how futbol can be used for social impact. On the Sunday before the program began Nora, Tomas, Mauro, and myself met with the coordinator at UNICEF, Seppe Verbist, over a delicious lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant where I tried my first chicha morado, leche de tigre, and enjoyed multiple family style platters of fried fish, sweet potatoes, ceviche, and more. Business talk was limited during the meal, but with the nature of our work being such an integral part of our lives, and with a Serie A game playing in the background, it was only natural that some of the discussion surrounded futbol for social impact, sport for development, and the manner in which CAC aims to convey their social messages and develop leaders into self-directed learners so they can breed future generations of intuitive, progressive thinkers in their respective communities. Hearing all this was exciting, but as I have heard many times until that point, I needed to see it, and be a part of it to fully understand how CAC works. We met back at the UNICEF office following lunch to discuss the plan for the week, and what both sides of the partnership were hoping to achieve.

    On Monday, Nora, Tomas, Mauro, Seppe and I were driven to San Juan de Lurigancho, a district of Lima located about 45 minutes north of our hostel where we would hold the trainings for the week. We were stationed in a massive park with tons of courts, fields, a boxing gym, swimming pool, and a BMX track. On the drive in I got my first glimpse of a more realisitc side of Lima. We are staying in Mira Flores, a fairly wealthy and touristy area of Lima, sheltered away from the disproportionate distribution of wealth that looms over this region making it one the most unequal cities in the world in terms of socioeconomic status. I observed mountainsides packed with small houses, stacked one on top of another, that looked as if they were constructed out of the earth. I learned that very few of these homes have running water or electricity, and those that did were not receiving those luxuries on a consistent basis.

    When we arrived at the park we met the program participants for the first time. The group had representation from ten different groups, spanning from Lima to the Amazon. We were very grateful to have representation from implementing partner CARD-PSB, a USAID funded NGO located in the Amazon. There were futbol coaches, basketball coaches, volleyball, boxing, and a chess teacher. There were professors and representatives from the Olympic Committee. It was a diverse group, and overall fairly futbol oriented, but we enjoyed discussing and having volunteers demonstrate adaptions to the games we played to fit their respective sports. Throughout the course of the week the message was stressed that as a coach, you also can perform the role as an educator. What I am learning is that CAC uses the field as a place to learn not only about futbol, but about life, and the coaches have the power to educate their children about much more than the game . We covered a wide range of topics throughout the week inlcuding gender equity and female empowerment, violence, sexual health and good decision making, conflict resolution, communication, teamwork and child protection. After each game, and sometimes before and during, a discussion was held in which the participants had the liberty to say what messages they took away from the game. The messages derived from the games were unique for each person which made it extremely important to create a safe space for discussion where all voices could be heard. As the week progressed, everyone was seeing more and more the parallels between the actual games and the greater social impact that they have.

    One game in particular that was very successful with this group was Child Rights: Right to Education a game focused around the power and importance of education. The format of the game was simple. Two teams played a regular game of futbol to goals. When a team scored a goal, they were granted the oppurtunity to construct a smaller goal anywhere along the outside of the field that they could score on. Each team could set up a total of four smaller goals around the field, resulting in a total of five goals to score on. Only after all four additional goals were set up could the teams begin to count their points. Before the game began we asked the participants what each goal would represent with regards to education. They said that each additional goal would represent a new level of schooling: initial, primary school, secondary school, and universities. The game was fun and dynamic, and lots of goals were scored. In our discussion following the game we asked the participants how this relates to life. They said that with greater levels of education, the more oppurtinuties you have in life. When each team was limited to only one goal, it was much harder to succeed on the field; similarly with only a very low level of education, or with no education at all, your oppurtunities are limitied. It was pointed out that for some children, school is not an option for a variety of reasons. However, what arose from the discussion was that as coaches, we can educate children on the field. We can motivate children to stay in school and help open their eyes to the value of an education.

    By the end of the week myself and the participants grasped what it means to coach sport to have social impact. I believe also that they and I learned a great deal about what it means to be a self-directed learner. The participants heard many times throughout the course of the week “resolver sus problemas”, “solve your problems.” The participants did not need the CAC coaches to hold their hand and show them the answer. It was up to them to find the solution on their own or as a team. Children do not need coaches or teachers to spell out every little detail for them and simply asking for the answer is taking the easy way out. By providing individuals with the freedom to explore all options, and to come to the solution on a path that they devise themselves, they are learning so much more than being told a finite solution. This approach challenges people to solve their problems on their own, taking personal acountablilty and learning through their actions, experiences and listening to others. It was clear that many of the coaches embodied this style of leading by the end of the week when they coached games on their own as part of our Coach-Back process.

    It was a fantastic week and the group was extremely appreciative of our work and similarly we were extremely thankful of their great energy, passion, and desire to learn. They will now take the lessons they learned and the games we played to their respective courts, fields, and communities to educate and lead Peru’s youth.

    Side note: On our day off I went surfing for the first time. Lima, and Peru in general, is home to a rich tradition and culture of surfing so I figured it was about time I gave it a go! No lesson, just put on my wetsuit, grabbed the board and dove in. I guess you could say it was self-directed surfing.

     

     

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  • CAC in Portuguese Creole!

    IMG_1079December 23, 2013. Last week Coaches Across Continents finished our final programs of 2013. While one team worked the 2nd week on the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean we ran another program in Cape Verde, a collection of islands off West Africa. This program was ran with Delta Cultura, an award winning organisation who run educational after school programs for children and young people in the small village of Tarrafal on the island of Santiago. Delta Cultura, run by Florian Wegenstein, have an incredible facility in this disadvantaged area located in a picture perfect area. Their 8 buildings consist of classrooms, computer rooms, a musical area and even a carpentry workshop which local children visit to improve their educational attainment.

    They were awarded one of the 20 Football for Hope Centres donated by FIFA in conjunction with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This turf pitch has been a major change for Delta Cultura who previously relied on a dirt field with regular interruptions from cows and pigs alike. Thankfully Coaches Across Continents were able to use the FIFA turf field which provided a perfect setting to deliver our first year curriculum. Despite the language difference the strength of the curriculum was able to overcome any problems while local Delta Cultura coach Gilson Costa was integral in explaining games and writing the games for coaches in Portuguese. As ever the conflict resolution games were well received with coaches getting fully involved in the outcome of each game. Games such as the lines game and Marta for Conflict Resolution created many arguments which led to some great discussion about dissolving conflict peacefully.

    IMG_1097The program has allowed local coaches to understand that football can explain many social issues as well as improving players abilities depending on the sessions focus. With the clear passion and knowledge displayed by the coaches the potential for meaningful impact in Cape Verde is great. They specifically noted the games’ abilities to teach children to take responsibility for their actions and believed they could help discourage violence. Many coaches were also quick to point out there is no training of this kind available in the area therefore it is incredibly important. As we plan for the partnership between Delta Cultura and CAC in years 2 and 3 we are confident there will be no shortage of interest and impact by the local coaches.