• 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.

     

     

  • A Unique Opportunity for Local Sustainability

    February 3rd 2016. Second-time volunteer, Marissa Segala, writes about our second week in Port-au-Prince with the Haitian Initiative (HI). 

    My second year in the dirt with CAC was equally sunny, warm and enthusing as the first. This time, we spent the first two weeks in city center Cite Soleil working with our third year partner program called The Haitian Initiative. The CAC model involves closely teaching local partners for three years and then allowing the community to take each program as their own; in accordance with the wants and needs of a community with which they are familiar. After an intimate first week with only the Haitian Initiative (HI) and other returning coaches, CAC was given the opportunity to observe as the HI hosted their very own week long clinic working with about 100 coaches from several surrounding community programs.

    It was a thrilling experience to watch the HI coaches as they took the learning, adaptations and creations to the pitch with their own pointed agenda. The CAC skills remained, but the interactive teaching and playing was uniquely HI. One of the coaches was quoted with confidence halfway through the week saying, “We’re so excited, because it really feels like we can do the work just as well as you [CAC coaches]” This may not sound like a compliment, but this is exactly what CAC loves to hear. Confusing, I know. Who wants to be told that someone else can do your job as well or possibly even better than you? Upon further reflection, I realized the underlying implications of this comment.

    The purpose of a CAC coach is not to be the best one on the pitch or the most knowledgeable relative to those around you, but it is to help create and foster an environment that promotes the growth and development of a multitude of great coaches and thinkers. The HI coaches demonstrated clear command of their own specific agenda, and they executed it flawlessly. It only makes sense that a program could run more smoothly when run by locals who understand the culture, language, people and the issues on a much more intricate level than any visitor could attempt.

    The CAC model has been executed perfectly by the CAC staff. They are able to provide an opportunity for coaches to engage with and showcase their skills. It indicates a special kind of success that is far more rewarding and complimentary of not just CAC, but all parties involved. I look forward to continuing to work for CAC as well as staying involved with the growth and success of the Haitian Initiative over the next several years. Until next time.

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  • 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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  • Localizing Solutions with The Sanneh Foundation

    September 9th 2015. SDL Coach Nora Dooley shares her thoughts on our growing partnership with The Sanneh Foundation and our recent training in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

    The United States and Haiti have a delicate relationship. From suspect political maneuvers to the post-disaster onslaught of NGOs ‘doing good’, I am often more convinced of the harm we have caused than the progress we have helped.

    This is a bit glass-half-empty, yes. But it comes from a place of concern. I am from the US (Boston, MA), and Haiti was the first ‘developing’ country I ever visited. I was there in 2012 and have been back twice with CAC in 2014 and 2015. I have been exposed to groups wanting so badly to ‘do good’ and actually causing harm, as well as organizations committed to long-term, locally sustainable, and the-US-does-not-know-best type of initiatives. One of the latter is led by The Sanneh Foundation (TSF).

    TSF is a non-profit based in the United States. They have programs running locally in Minnesota communities and internationally in Haiti with their Haitian Initiative (HI). CAC first began partnering with TSF in Haiti, running trainings for their HI coaches and supporting their work year-round from January 2014. We hit it off, so to speak, identifying early on that our passions and values lined up, laying the foundation for a great partnership. Later in 2014 we launched our On-Field relationship with the team in Minnesota, training TSF Dreamline leaders in CAC Self-Directed Learning methodology. Since its inception, the relationship has matured, exploring new ways to support TSF programs at home and abroad.

    Having personally led the Haiti trainings with HI for the past two years, I was excited to visit Minnesota (for the first time), learn more about TSF’s base, and work with this year’s batch of Dreamline coaches.

    The week was brilliant. I could not have asked for a better group of young leaders to teach and learn from; they were enthusiastic about life and education, they were intelligent and thirsty for new ideas, they were welcoming to an outsider (who kept championing the Patriots), and they were open and creative when asked to rise to various challenges.

    One of said challenges was particularly inspiring. Although we only had three days of training, the first two went so swimmingly that I decided to change the plan for the third and final day. Rather than continuing to teach new games to this group of coaches that was so sharp and quick in the uptake, I had them form small groups and come up with brand new games to teach each other about any social issue they chose. The outcome was – as we say where I’m from – wicked awesome. A couple groups chose to invent a game about the economic divide in the US and understanding privilege, others taught about bullying and discrimination, and still others about trust, leadership, and communicating to solve problems.

    My eager hope for this team of educators, a hope I share with the leaders of TSF, is that they continue to build off of this amazing creativity, sharing ideas with one another, inventing new games, and striving to find new solutions to the problems they see in their communities every day.

    My half-empty glass overflows when I get the chance to work with people like these Dreamline coaches. The Sanneh Foundation operates in the United States, and they have a project in Haiti. Their work sets a new standard for the relationship between the two countries; a standard centered on local people, with local knowledge, and local solutions. With a more complete picture of TSF, my excitement waxes for the future of our partnership, the promise of their projects, and the progress of the role our country is playing on fields foreign and domestic.

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  • “Rezoud Konfli”

    IMG_4510January 30, 2014. The first thing I realized when I landed in Haiti was that for some reason Haitian kids always wanted to fight me. At first I thought a Japanese man like me was probably not welcome in Haiti, but then soon I realized that they thought I was Jackie Chan and always thus expected a display of martial arts skill. For that reason, I was kind of popular in Haiti and it was easy to be friendly with Haitian people.

    And like that, my life in Haiti started. After the amazing first week we had with GOALS Haiti in Léogâne, we moved to Port-au-Prince, where we worked with Tony Sanneh of The Sanneh Foundation and their Haitian Initiative for a full week. Tony is a former professional soccer player who played for the US in the 2002 World Cup and had an assist against Portugal. He founded The Sanneh Foundation when he was still playing as a pro in order to help the urban kids learn life skills through playing soccer, and decided to extend the program to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

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    The week with the Haitian Initiative was very overwhelming but also fun. In the mornings from 9:00 to 12:00, we taught our drills to about sixty of the local coaches, and in the afternoon from 2:00 to 5:30 we observed the coaches using our drills to train the kids. The sessions were really long and because I was under the sun for a long time every day, I got the coolest T-shirt tan lines ever, which people actually have been telling me are the worst. However, it was totally worth working with the local coaches for that long period of time because I was able to learn three big lessons about life.

    One lesson is the importance of conflict resolution. From the first day of the week, we let them play games that were designed to simulate conflict. At first, I always wanted to get in the middle of the argument and re-explain the rules and offer a solution. However, Nora always pulled me aside and told me “let them solve their own problems” and just yelled out, “rezoud konfli!” which means to solve conflicts in Créole. By the end of the week I started to observe more leadership within the group and efforts to solve problems independently. It was a huge step forward for them, especially because the ability to think critically and solve problems is crucial for developing countries like Haiti, and until that point I never knew there was such an educating method as stepping back and observing without interfering, which had a pretty impressive effect.IMG_9488

    The second lesson I learned was that, yes, soccer is a language of the world and you can easily make tons of friends by just playing soccer, but knowing some of their language and culture gets you much closer to them. For example, I literally knew only four sentences in Créole, which were “bon travay” (good job), “san balon” (without the ball), “bay non” (give me your name) and “ou pare? on ale” (you ready? Let’s go). However, with only these four sentences, I was able to make them laugh, smile, and happy. In addition, we learned one of the Haitian traditional dance moves in the first week, and we showed it to the coaches in Port-au-Prince, and they absolutely loved that we did it. Looking back at my own life, I was always happy when random people talked to me saying “konnichiwa,” or even when they were big fans of Pokémon. I thought that when I got a chance to go abroad next, I should learn some fun sentences and dances from the country before visiting, and now I know that will definitely help me make friends.

    IMG_9867Finally, working with the Haitian Initiative made me realize that I could influence so many other lives. After working with the coaches for a week, it was obvious to my eyes that they not only had become better coaches, but also had become better educators. In the afternoon sessions where we got to observe the coaches training the kids, I could tell the way they interacted with the kids had started to change. They were encouraging kids to be more vocal, have respect for others, treat everyone equally regardless of gender, and have more fun. The funny thing is when they would shout out “rezoud konfli!” to kids when they were arguing. It was amazing to see that what we teach is directly reflected in what they teach. Because each coach had about twenty kids, that’s more than a thousand kids we had impacted. To think that we had influenced more than a thousand kids in just a week, and that we had potentially helped create a positive outlet for Haiti’s next generation of leaders is simply mind-blowing.

    Going to Haiti and working with CAC and Haitian Initiative has definitely become a life changing experience to me. This trip gave me a chance to reassess my values in life along with my future goals. These past two weeks I was always asking myself questions, but did not know answers to most of them. This trip made me really want to go back to school, and study to become a better critical thinker so that I can be better at rezoud konfli. So now I am happy that I am back at Harvard to start a new semester, but man, it is freaking cold here. I already miss Haiti and mangos.

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