• From Cambridge to Port-au-Prince

    January 23rd 2017. CAC Global Citizen Jessica Li writes about her experience with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This partnership is supported by USAID.

    Sitting back in my dorm room in Cambridge, I can’t quite believe that I’ve just come off an absolute whirlwind of a week in Port-au-Prince. Last week marked the fourth year CAC has worked with the Haitian Initiative (HI), a program that uses soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty for Haitian children. In the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, children face a high risk of gang violence, hunger, and HIV/AIDS. Children must consistently attend school and have passing grades to participate in the program. The program includes six days a week of practice or games as well as English class and a hot meal. For the majority of the children, that meal is the only one they get each day.

    While CAC has partnered with HI coaches for four years, this year’s program included 150 new participants, including students, national team players, and coaches of all ages. Luckily, the HI coaches were familiar with many of our games and could help us manage such a big group! Our sessions were conducted at the Haitian National Stadium, a real treat for both us and many of the participants. During our drives to the stadium in the morning, we’d see people carrying objects of all shapes and sizes on their heads, pigs and other live animals roaming the streets, and all types of street art. The other thing we noted was that music was playing everywhere, whether from buildings, cars, or random speakers on the street (this fact made for some interesting moments during the week when we’d be hanging out with Titanic music playing in the background). The stadium itself is located near the foot of a mountain range, providing a bit of a respite from the chaotic streets and making for incredible background views. Upon arriving on the first day, many participants were already waiting for us, several of whom excitedly greeted Emily, who had worked with them last year. Jordan, Taylor (another Global Citizen), and I smiled when we saw this and eagerly anticipated forming our own connections with the participants.

    Throughout the week, I was struck by the incredible energy the Haitian participants brought to each session. They never hesitated to break out a dance move, and many a time I found myself suddenly engulfed in crowds of cheering and chanting coaches. They also never failed to make us laugh; once, when asked to find creative ways to cross the Circle of Friends while touching a partner, we not only saw coaches carry each other in all sorts of ways but also holding each other’s noses and ears. However, the coaches were also able to combine fun with serious conversations about ways in which they hoped to change their communities. They envisioned a Haiti with increased opportunity, equality, and hope. A particularly powerful conversation occurred after playing India for Knowledge, a game where teams label each cone as a women’s right and then race to the corresponding cone when the coach yells out that right. Although the group consisted predominantly of men, they came up with women’s rights such as the right to a voice, an abortion, equality, and respect. When asked whether women in Haiti currently have these rights, they all said no but that this fact should change. They genuinely wanted women to be their equals and saw them as integral members of society. Later, we used this list to start a conversation with just the women about creating and implementing a women’s rights policy. It filled us with hope to see the women creating a WhatsApp group, a network of support among strong and intelligent women who didn’t know each other prior to the program. We hoped they would continue to discuss ideas and inspire one another moving forward.

    This week has given me an incredible glimpse into the power of sport to transform communities. The HI coaches could discuss ideas for their own games or how to adapt our games with us, and we loved that they could help lead their fellow Haitian coaches. This week we were able to include 150 more coaches into the movement and know that many of them will also become leaders in enacting change.

     

     

  • 2016 Volunteer Application Released

    September 7, 2015.  Coaches Across Continents has just released our 2016 Volunteer Application.  By applying you have a chance to volunteer using sport for social impact in developing communities, and to travel the world in a life-changing experience!  It’s simple:

    1. Read our Volunteer Application Guide 2016
    2. Complete the 2016 Volunteer Application

    That’s it!  Once received, we will set up a Skype interview with a CAC senior staff member, and you can begin planning your trip.  Volunteer opportunities are limited and given on a first-come, first-serve basis.  You are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as you know you are interested, in fact we already have some summer 2016 commitments!

  • The World Away from Home

    September 1st, 2015.  CAC intern and first-time traveler Emily Zwierzchowski blogs about her two weeks in Cambodia.

    My first, and by no means last, adventure abroad has officially come to an end, and  although I may physically be leaving the country of Cambodia and the city of Phnom Penh, I will forever be changed by the people I met and the things that I saw.  I learned that you can bookend the beginning of your trip, but never the end, because although you may have left you only continue to grow and be impacted by what you saw and did.  It was sobering to realize that there is a “real world” with real problems once you leave your home, and the safety of your small New Hampshire town. A part of the world that many try to sweep under the rug and pretend doesn’t exist. A part of the world where people still live in unimaginable poverty.  A part of the world where a roof over your head isn’t guaranteed, and quite often not there. A part of the world where electricity is too expensive for a vast majority of the population and families live in the dark. A part of the world where clean water and food isn’t always available.  And a part of the world where child and sex trafficking is a massive business.  Its sobering to see that the problems we, as U.S. Citizens, have worked so hard to eradicate are thriving right outside the safety of our countries borders.  But, perhaps what is most sobering is that this is a part of the world where humans are still people, and a smile and a laugh have the power to overcome language barriers, and this is a part of the world where football has the power to change lives.

    I first started volunteering for CAC Off-Field nearly one year ago, and when I asked Brian if I could dive into On-Field work and got the “a-okay” I was thrilled.  The computer screen was no longer going to be my classroom but the football field instead.  When I first arrived in Cambodia I was in a bit of shell shock, the sounds, smells, and sights were all new to me. I didn’t recognize the writing on the billboards, and I had never smelled such smells; sweet smells of street food wafted past me one second, then the scent of garbage the next.  Everything was a whirlwind until I stepped foot on the football field.  I was instantly greeted with hugs and smiles as coaches embraced me and in no time the country that I felt so estranged from was my home.  Few coaches could speak English, but thanks to our translator and the work ethic of the coaches, trainings went brilliantly.  Everyday new games with different themes were translated from English, to Khmer, and then signed to our deaf participants.  Coaches learned valuable lessons on the importance of having a voice, being able to solve problems they faced everyday, and how to protect themselves and ultimately their players from things such as sexual, physical, and mental violence. Days were wrapped up by discussing what we had learned that day; posters scrawled with Khmer and sketches were hung up for coaches to take notes or photographs of.  And with each passing day I felt more, and more privileged to be educating these coaches.

    However, the real reward was when we got to attend these coaches trainings and be first hand witnesses to the impact we were making.  The coaches of Indochina Starfish (ISF) were beautifully implementing the games we taught them to their players who, just like them, were eager to play, learn and most importantly have fun.  One practice in particular that I got to attend was led by a coach who went by Strey Mau.  She was coaching a u14 boys team, and despite my previous encounters with 14 year old boys, they were extremely eager and well behaved.  They were all at practice promptly at 5 pm, and out laughing and kicking the ball around before practice even began.  But, when Strey Mau was ready to start practice they were ready as well.  We started off with a game of “Circle of Friends”, we darted in and out of the circle alternating between dances and high fives we were soon all in stitches smiling from ear to ear. We were just getting a drink when the rain came, and when I say rain I mean a torrential downpour.  Everyone was rushed under the small roof covering some picnic tables where a teacher was waiting to give them a lesson on religion.  I was shocked in the most amazing way that not only did these students work hard on the field, but off the field as well, and that the messages theses games we were using on field were directly correlating to their lives and educations off field.

    My experience in Cambodia will be a mile marker in my life for years and years to come.  The people and places and experiences I had made me see the world in a different light.  No longer is it just the safe small New Hampshire town that I call home, but it’s a massive place full of a million different people with a million different stories, and ultimately, a million different problems.  I feel incredibly lucky that I got the chance to travel with Coaches Across Continents, and make an impact on those problems in the heart of Cambodia and in the minds of it’s people.

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  • Homegrown Impact

    August 31st, 2015. SDL Coach, Nora Dooley, reflects on running her first program in the United States.

    I’ve been working for CAC for almost exactly two years. I have run trainings in dozens of countries and scores of communities – all foreign to the country in which I was born and raised: the USA.

    August presented a new frontier for my work with CAC. Although I know the States well when it comes to my personal lens, my professional lens had yet to glimpse our work on my home turf.

    Our first US partnership began in 2014 when Chevrolet built a portable field for Beyond the Ball in Chicago, Illinois as part of their #WhatDoYouPlayFor campaign. We have been involved in this initiative in many countries now, training local leaders in our curriculum in order to provide the communities that receive Chevrolet’s fields with resources capable of making the most of the new space.

    I recently returned to Little Village, Chicago to pay a visit to Beyond the Ball (BTB), work closely with their coaching staff, and further their training in sport for social impact. That portable field that Chevrolet built? A community treasure. It was amazing to see proof that this gift of sport was received by an organization fit to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them.

    During my week with BTB I learned a great deal about their organization, the people who work there, and the community they work in. With all of our programs there is a portion of training dedicated to discussing what it means to create a safe space for children to play and learn regardless of any differences they might have. Often, due to the poor conditions of the physical spaces our partners are tasked with using, the bulk of these discussions centers on the role of the coach in nurturing emotional safety. Beyond the Ball, however, opened my mind to the potential of a physical space to have incredible positive impact on an entire community.

    BTB has been running free programs in the Little Village community of Chicago for nearly 20 years. Their mission is community empowerment. They have created a niche where all members of the community are welcome, involved, and valued as part of a growing family. The results that they have seen over time and with great sacrifice are impressive. Like a business, they identified a gap in the market, filled it with passion, and are humbly plodding on, aware of their homegrown success and ever eager to do more.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know this small organization with big ideas and the people capable of bringing them to life. Crossing the threshold from the known (foreign countries) to the unknown (the US) I was, honestly, more weary than I’d like to admit. I wasn’t confident in my ability to adapt to this seemingly alien culture in which I was once a part. A week with Beyond the Ball and my insecurities vanished. People are people no matter where you are. We all love to play, to learn, to love, and to laugh – especially at ourselves.

    B2B's field, courtesy of Chevrolet FC

    B2B’s field, courtesy of Chevrolet FC

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  • Returning to Likoni

    June 2, 2015.  CAC Founder Nick Gates blogs about our work with the Likoni Community Football League (LCFL).

    In 2014, Coaches Across Continents had to postpone our program in Likoni (near Mombasa), Kenya due to ongoing terrorist threats in the region.  We were delighted to return in 2015 to one of Kenya’s most pro-active football for social development groups.

    We arrived on the first morning and cones had been set up to start Circle of Friends.   We soon found out that these fabulous coaches were playing CAC games from 2012 and 2013 every week in Likoni.  The Likoni coaches were all talented players, so the sessions were even more fun.

    We chose role models like Tim Howard, Yaya Toure and Abby Wambach and went through the full set of games to include life skills, conflict resolution, health and wellness, female empowerment, child rights, and fun. The ‘light bulb’ moment of the week came during our Brazil for Attitudes game, when we asked the group to run like man and run like a woman, to kick like a man and kick like a woman.  It was during this game that the coaches started discussing that it was their own stereotypical thoughts and actions that were preventing more girls from having the chance and choice to play.  And true to our Self-Directed Learning model, they soon discussed solutions to solve the problem.

    Easily the most fun game of the week was Wambach for Conflict Resolution, that resulted in some of the greatest celebrations seen in Likoni and some of the funniest laughs. The game summed up the incredible group of coaches who played every single game with joy, laughter and passion. The children of Likoni are incredibly lucky to have these educators running their soccer program.

    The Likoni partnership is supported by the Taiji Group.

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    LCFL has been using CAC games since 2012

     

     

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    Coach Kelly Con makes two new friends in Likoni

  • Protecting Street Children in Penha (Rio)

    May 29th, 2015.  Penha is a favela in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, located in the north zone.  It is a favela which has tremendous social problems including drug trafficking and seemingly weekly shootings often involving the ever-present police.  We are here with Street Child United which dedicates itself to improving the lives of street children and ensuring that they have access to the same rights as all other children.  You may also recognize them as the hosts of the Street Child World Cup, their flagship event where they bring teams of street children from dozens of countries together to compete every four years.

    However the impact that they have on the street children occurs daily, as they run training sessions with children in Penha.  Our award-winning partnership with Chevrolet FC and their #PlayItForward campaign has allowed our two groups to work together for the past two weeks, collaborating as we implement a training plan that highlights specific aspects of our curriculum – most notably Child Rights and Conflict Resolution.  It is easy to state that children should have certain rights, such as the right to education, the right to safe sport, and the right to a protected home – but if adults are not fighting to ensure those rights, how could they be ensured?

    Our curriculum specifically teaches both coaches and children about the rights afforded them under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Most important is that they are fun, extremely soccer-specific, and create a safe space for children to learn while they are playing (UN Child Right #31).  Street Child United will take our curriculum and implement it into their training to ensure that their goal to create a world in which street children are protected, supported and given opportunities to realize their potential is reached.

    Also joining the training this week were coaches from Favella Street and PlayLife, and our staff was joined by Camila, a Community Impact Coach from our São Paulo partner ACER.  These coaches (all women) and girls who participated in training made this one of the most gender-balanced training sessions CAC have had.  These powerful female role models are helping to ensure the rights of young boys and girls in Brazil and through Street Child, around the world.

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    The coaches of Street Child United, Favella Street, and CAC

    We enjoyed a weekend beach training session on the Copacabana!

    We enjoyed a weekend beach training session on the Copacabana!