• Oh The Things To Do In Juarez

    April 18, 2017. Process Consultant Emily Kruger reflects on the week with CAC partner Fundación PDN in Juarez, Mexico.

    Exploring the modern children’s museum, check.
    Exquisite breakfast with Board Members, check!
    Meeting with the local men’s professional club, check!!
    On camera interview, check!!!
    20-minute presentation at the “Impact Hub” in front of a live audience…check?!
    Tasting tequila in the bar where the “margarita” first got its name…check?!?

    Did I mention that we worked with 40 participants, introducing them to CAC’s sport for social impact curriculum and Self-Directed Learning methodology?

    What an incredible whirlwind of a week! Luckily our hosts were logistical wizards, calmly whisking us from place to place with laughter in between. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of these highlights.

    La Rodadora, children’s museum, (let’s be real, this is play time for adults too!) in the center of Juarez, was built in 2004 as a space for families and communities to gather, play, and learn together. I had never thought of a museum as a place CAC would find such similarities, but of course it is: “Education Outside the Classroom”…obviously! A few leaders from the museum attended our training, and they were excited to bring CAC games and Self-Directed Learning into their work with youth and families at the museum.

    FC Bravos is the newest iteration of a men’s professional soccer club in Juarez and so far they have seen huge success in terms of community support. From the get-go, the club has prioritized the community over results. Their primary goal has been to bring something beautiful to Ciudad Juarez, something the city can be proud of and rally behind together. From the Chief Exec to the Marketing Director to the coaching staff and players, the organization is committed to being a staple of the city, not just a professional sports team looking for more money and fame. After having dinner with two representatives from the club, they brought a handful of the players to our “Hub Talk” as they wanted to learn more about CAC and how they might be able to get involved with the teachers and schools who we worked with!

    Which brings me to my final highlight of the week, the Hub Talk. When Fundacion first asked Mark and I to speak at a TED Talk-esque event, we were excited and jumped at the opportunity. Then, as the day drew near, we realized what we had gotten ourselves into and became much more nervous than excited, especially because we thought we might have to deliver it in Spanish! When they assured us that we could speak in English, some of our nerves were calmed but still, neither one of us had ever had an experience quite like that. We spent hours planning what we would say and how we would deliver it so it would not be standard and boring. We agreed that the best way to make it interesting (and make ourselves feel way more comfortable) was to do what we do best, lead an example of a CAC game! In the end, we felt prepared and absolutely loved speaking to the crowd (and the live video feed). What an honor to to be given such a platform to share our stories from CAC! Thanks again to everyone we met in Juarez for showing us such a lovely week!

  • Crossing Borders, Finding Home

    April 13, 2017. Emily Kruger continues on working with FESAC in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico after time in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico (Part 1).

    PART 2: Home

    We found ourselves in Nogales after a full day’s bus journey north, from one end of the Mexican state of Sonora to another. We traveled so far north, in fact, that we were basically in the United States. Within moments of arriving, our host Alma was describing the unique nature of a city on the U.S-Mexican border. She told us how in the morning we would notice the difference between the homes on the hillside of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. Our historic hotel sat on the main strip of downtown, imagine Old Town in classic “Westerns”, with a view of this hill and the jarring wall that splits the hill into two sides. We spent some of Sunday just watching the flow of traffic through border patrol, people’s cars being searched inside and out, some with search dogs. The line to go across into the U.S. was backed up quite long and seemed like it would take hours to get through.

    On the way to the field on Monday morning, Alma mentioned that many of the kids in the local public schools are in families that are transient, as they are either hoping to cross into the U.S. after traveling many miles through all of Mexico or they have just recently “returned” to Mexico from the U.S. I thought of the difficulty of feeling at home when your life is always being re-located. Once we were on-field with the new group of 50 enthusiastic and creative P.E. teachers, we learned more and more about the unique issues to Nogales that differed from those in Hermosillo and Obregon: drug trafficking, lack of economic opportunity, and the ever-changing make up of schools with children from transient families due to migration and deportation. They told us stories of kids coming to class without having had breakfast, of parents involved in drug trafficking because it is a lucrative job option, and of Mexican-American kids who do not speak Spanish being isolated and excluded at school.

    Through conversations provoked by CAC games we dug deeper into these issues: why these issues exist, is this the reality that must be, and what they can do as teaches to best support their students. Notably, “Muro de Trump” brought up a discussion about misconceptions their students and the parents might have and how lack of information hurts them. There was a resounding sentiment that people in Mexico believe in the “American Dream”, that they will make money, be safe, and create opportunities for the future of their families in the U.S. The teachers were keen to adapt the game to discuss the reality of the difficulty of obtaining a visa (expensive and exclusive), and the likelihood of deportation and/or incarceration after crossing the border without one. They wanted to open their students’ eyes to the possibility of a better life in Mexico than in the U.S. because of the negative consequences of immigrating with or without a visa. They seemed to be excited about the prospect of playing the game with their students as a way to think about home and place.

    According to Alma and the teachers, if better job opportunities (outside of the drug-trafficking industry) existed in Mexico, then fewer of these families would leave their homes. I wonder if less Mexican families left to the U.S. if they might be able to organize to make change in their home. It’s obviously much more complicated than that, but it brings me back to my belief that I am best served affecting change in the communities I come from. We all know that the consumer dollars, federal and state policies, and attitudes towards immigration, borders, immigrants (humans) that belong to people born in the U.S. affect all of those things belonging to people born in other countries, especially in Mexico.

    Perhaps I’ll play “Muro de Trump” with some PE teachers in the U.S. I wonder what we would learn about ourselves, borders, and home?

     Part 1: Borders

    We arrived in Ciudad Obregón after an incredible 4 days with the Physical Education teachers in Hermosillo, who set the bar very high for the three locations in our partnership with FESAC and SEC in Mexico. Within just a few minutes of Monday morning’s Circle of Friends, it was obvious that these 50 PE teachers would bring the same enthusiasm and creative thinking that enriched the week before. This meant another week with a special flare for a Year 2 program, where CAC could confidently share ownership of the week with the participants. When asked about creating and leading their own games, participants made it clear they wanted more responsibility than they took on last year.

    By Tuesday they were already working together to prepare the session for Wednesday. There were seven groups of 4-5 coaches, each one huddled around big sheets of paper on make-shift tables with markers in hand. We walked around and listened in as they collaborated: pointing, moving, deliberating, drawing, and re-drawing. Within 30 minutes, each group had a full sheet of paper with a diagram up top, description of how to play, and potential questions to ask while leading it. They were even checking the criteria: Are the games you created universally accessible? Is there space for problem solving and critical thinking by the students? Is there a social impact message integrated into the game? We asked if they would be ready to coach them the next day and there was a resounding “sí!” from everyone.

    My favorite game was called “Muro de Trump” or “Trump’s Wall”. They split the groups into four teams and asked each one to pick a Mexican city that borders the U.S. When the coaches called out a city, that team tried to “cross the border” without being tagged by the border control officers. They added ways to get through border control legally, like obtaining a visa i.e. a ball. This was such a creative, locally-relevant iteration of what I called “sharks and minnows” growing up. Considering it was a new idea, the coaches agreed that there was more to the metaphor that they are going to work out because they really want to use this game to talk with their students about the realities and dangers of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. For example, what are the consequences of being caught by border police without a visa? What might happen when you get to the other side? Why do people in Mexico want/need to live in the U.S.? There is so much here to dig into! Not only is it a dynamic game, but it also creates a space for some very important conversations between teachers and students here in Mexico.

    This game made me see immigration through the lens of people in Mexico. It will be an important conversation and reflection to continue as we travel to Nogales for our final week working with the Physical Education teachers of Sonora, Mexico!

  • Emulating Self-Directed Learning

    February 20th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and FESAC in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

    The Coaches Across Continents team landed in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico at 11:30pm after four two-hour flights. While a bit exhausted we were greeted by a bubbly character by the name of Andrea from the local partner, Fundación del Empresario Sonorense (FESAC). She hit us with a burst of energy that quickly permeated our sleepiness. This is an energy that we would continue to experience with the participants throughout the week! Hermosillo reminded me a lot of home in Southern California. Paved roads with some street vendors selling delicious tamales, tacos, and fresh fruits.

    The first day the partner took us to Náinari Lake. It was the place to be! Everyone was there. Vendors were selling food and drinks, there was a stage with live music, people were on pedal boats across the lake, zip lines longer than a football field were hanging above the lake, we saw birds being fed, trampolines being used, and countless children in battery operated cars driving around in front of their parents while they walked the perimeter of the lake. It was stunning. We were able to walk around and watch the sun set over the lake until it became too chilly. Then the partner took us back to our hotel. It was a nice break before getting the week started.

    This week we worked with Physical Education teachers and students in the Hermosillo area. The teachers were eager to learn and get started. A lot of them remembered a couple of the games from last year and mentioned they used them throughout the year. We were told that one of the teachers even took the CAC curriculum they learned from last year to nearby after-school programs outside of Hermosillo. What an impact! It was so great to hear about the CAC curriculum making it’s way around Sonora, Mexico after teachers had gone through the training last year. This group was ready and engaged. As new games were being presented they had plenty of questions, conversations and creative solutions to current challenges facing their schools today. This group was so involved that they were able to adapt games on the spot when asked how they would change the game to make it even more relevant to what they face as Physical Education in schools in Sonora, Mexico.

    Seeing this group take to the CAC curriculum so wholeheartedly, the CAC team decided they were ready for the challenge to create their own games in the realm of health and wellness, bullying, and inclusion issues. These issues were the main conversation points throughout the week. The teachers created teams of three to four people to collaborate, create, and deliver a new game that addressed the three main points above. The CAC curriculum “students” were now becoming the creators! The resources CAC supplied them with in regards to games, social messaging, and questions allowed this group to continue in their learning, challenging of concepts, and adapting to make them relevant to their area. It was phenomenal to see how well the games addressed certain issues and how well the teachers emulated Self-Directed Learning within their sessions. One of the Physical Education university students absorbed CAC so much that she wanted to know more about the philosophy and volunteer opportunities. Below is her story:

    “My name is Dayanna Enriquez from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I attended the training sessions this past week. I currently study physical education and as a student, the sessions Mark, Taylor and Emily provided taught me so many things when it comes to teaching children. How simple games can impact the lives of so many kids and the way we as teachers can help them grow and accomplish many goals in life.

    The week was very productive with a lot of fun games and lessons learned. We had lots of fun and they actually inspired me to find out more about the organization Coaches Across Continents to see if there is any way for me to volunteer and try and help others make the world a better place.

    I want to thank Mark, Taylor and Emily for providing me with the opportunity to take part in the weekly sessions. Also I want to congratulate them for their enthusiasm and their great outgoing personalities that made this course lots of fun and a great atmosphere for us to learn while enjoying ourselves.

    Hopefully one day I can get a chance to become part of this great experience!”

    Coaches Across Continents has created a space for teachers at different schools to come together and start a conversation around how they can overcome the biggest issues facing their kids today. The CAC curriculum has already sparked action within the teaching community in Hermosillo.  After successfully taking on the challenge of creating their own games with social messaging attached, the teachers are motivated and determined to continue the work and adaptation of the CAC curriculum to address relevant issues in their communities. I look forward to seeing the growth of this group in the next few months! Great job CAC!

  • Setting New G.O.A.L.S

    February  13th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and G.O.A.L.S. Haiti in Léogâne Haiti.

    Passing through Port-au-Prince into Léogâne took us from a concrete city to the tropical countryside. Just beyond the street borders to the west was the ocean and to the east was flat land full of sugar cane stalks reaching about four feet to six feet tall surrounded by palm trees bearing green coconuts. In the harvested areas animals roamed such as cows, pigs, chickens, goats, and horses. The air was cooler and lighter from the ocean breeze than the middle of the capital city, also not as many people or cars on the road. When we arrived to the apartment the entrance was secured by a giant metal blue sliding gate that covered the driveway at the curb. Once the security guard pushed it open we saw the entire driveway made of smooth oval black and gray rocks that crunched underneath the tires. There were bright white buildings embellished with blue and green accents from the color of the doors, window shutters, and staircase railings. In the middle of the driveway stood an enormous lush mango tree with green mangos dangling from the branches.

     

    The program consisted of around twenty five coaches from G.O.A.L.S. Haiti – a sport-for-development nonprofit organization helping children and teens in Haiti through the love of soccer. Many of the coaches met us at the G.O.A.L.S. office; the apartment we stayed in sits just above it. The G.O.A.L.S. Haiti staff share a white pick-up truck and every morning there would be around ten coaches in the bed of the truck ready to hitch a ride to the field for training. Being welcomed by that type of energy every morning was uplifting to say the least! We would open our door to come downstairs and around five to ten coaches would greet us once we were down by the mango tree. The field we got to play on was a grass field enclosed by a chain link fence with several openings that would later allow for chickens, goats and stray dogs to find themselves roaming around our trainings. At one point, a goat found herself in the middle of the goal when we were about to do a shooting game. Other fields were right next to sugar cane areas with cows, pigs, and horses within a couple yards of the field. The background was a scenic view of green mountains with the sun setting just over the horizon. It was a stunning view with the green mountains, tall palm trees with coconuts, lush sugar cane fields, and animals roaming around filling the landscape.

     

    This week we were accompanied by Community Impact Coaches (CIC’s) from the Haitian Initiative Program. These particular Haitian Initiative coaches have been a several year partner with Coaches Across Continents and have been noticeably impactful in their communities by using CAC curriculum. The CIC’s are there to support CAC in delivering the curriculum side-by-side to other partners, with the hope of Haitian Initiative and G.O.A.L.S. Haiti to join forces and continue to build onto each others’ positive impacts in communities throughout Haiti beyond the borders of their own cities. It was great to see other programs with similar missions coming together and discussing how they can join forces to create an even bigger ripple in their communities.

     

    One of my favorite moments from the week in Léogâne happened after the first day. A young woman who speaks English, and is an English teacher, came up to me and told me she learned two things that day. I was excited she opened up to me after the first day to share! I hadn’t experienced that in the three weeks in Haiti. She continued to tell me about her two favorite games from the day. She loved Mingle-Mingle and the Financial Literacy game. In Mingle-Mingle one of the questions asked was to get together with people of the same faith or religion. There were about five groups, and this woman, was actually standing alone. She mentioned she was Mormon, and not a lot of people in her community were Mormon, and for that moment on the field, she realized religion doesn’t have to be a conflict point. She learned that no matter what religion another person is they can still get along, they can still bond and work together on the soccer field, and they can still bond and work together off the field. I thought that was really neat to hear! In the Financial Literacy game she mentioned how she learned about taking ownership of her income, educating herself about options, and becoming empowered to make her own decision about whether to save, spend, or even invest. She never thought about investing or making investment purchases to move closer to her goals. Both comments really solidified positive outcomes and impacts the CAC curriculum can have on people that participate in these programs. It’s often difficult to see any sort of impact made in a week with people who speak another language, so it was reassuring for a participant to share these lessons with me.

     

    From the tropical setting, plus three organizations joining forces, in addition a woman opening up about lessons learned after day one – needless to say, this was an incredible experience. Coaches Across Continents is creating a safe space for their partners to have conversations around forward thinking and challenging harmful societal traditions in their communities all driven by the participants themselves. CAC is empowering individuals to think creatively, to challenge harmful mindsets, and to envision a better future; all through sport! The Self-Directed Learning model (SDL) is giving opportunities to people who want to see a change in their communities for the better. They are equipping participants with curriculum that can open up the conversation around improvements within themselves, their teams, their communities, and ultimately turn them into action plans. I am proud to be a part of an organization so driven to create a better world, one partner and community at a time. Keep up the great work CAC!

  • “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!

  • What Does Your Puzzle Look Like?

    January 25th 2016. CAC Volunteer Emily Kruger, goalkeeper for the NWSL Portland Thorns, blogs about our first On-Field Training of 2016 with the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince. 

    CJ explained the second game of day one in Port-au-Prince to the group of 45 Haitian coaches who are in their third year with CAC. He asked them to get into groups of three and spread out around the field, well, actually Denni our incredible translator asked them. As a first timer, I was just participating in the game myself. I got with two others but as I looked around, I saw some pairs standing together. I thought to myself, “how do we solve this problem?” I decided that I could abstain and my two friends could each join a pair. So with few words and lots of gesturing, I made the groups of three happen. I looked to see if Nora, our lead CAC coach, noticed what I’d done, wondering if she would take note of what a good problem solver I was i.e. good coach, right?! Then, during this game of tag where the chase-ee can save themselves by stopping at the side of any trio thereby sending the opposite-outside player of the three to become the chase-ee, the chaser had been chasing all these rotating chase-ees for a long time. It was so hot and I felt for her so I thought to myself again, “how can we (I) solve this problem?” On an impulse I ran towards her to relieve her of her duty, when CJ stopped the activity (I awkwardly just kept running like I was minding my own business). He asked the group, “does anyone see a problem?” Through Denni, the coaches explained that yes, she had been running forever. He then asked, “what can we as coaches do to fix it?” One coach suggested switching her out, as I had thought, and another coach offered adding another chaser to help her. And then it struck me, CAC is all about Self-Directed Learning…being a good coach means supporting others as they create their own solutions, not telling them what you think the solution is. Woah! It was staring me in the face. This was an awesome moment to say the least, and it kept me thinking for the rest of the day.

    We are so wired to tell others what to do and to do what others tell us to do, as well. Parents, teachers, politicians, bosses, coaches, the media…it is rare that we are encouraged to think for ourselves, to be creative, to challenge all of the spoon-fed ideas. And isn’t that the root of so many of our problems: mass groupthink and brainwashing so that we struggle to break the mold? Or maybe it’s human nature to obey, to try to fit the mold. I don’t know. However, I do believe that Self-Directed Learning is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle! For me, the puzzle is the creation of more just and more equal societies where unnecessary human excess and unnecessary human suffering are not commonplace. Hmmm. What does your puzzle look like? And what do you think some solutions could be?

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