• ISF’s New Sport Court

    March 17th 2017. We are delighted to congratulate our long-term Cambodian partner Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) on their new Sport Court thanks to Connor Sport Court and Beyond Sport (with a recommendation from CAC)!

    The brand new futsal court was installed at their new football facility outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It will be used by ISF to continue to empower disadvantaged children in the community through sport and education. They celebrated the new court by hosting a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony and football competition with more than 600 children in the U-14 and U-10 age categories. They also included an inspiring demonstration with vision-impaired youth playing futsal with special “chirping” footballs.

    Coaches Across Continents has partnered with ISF to help them develop their capacity for educating youth through sport for 4 years including filming our documentary from there in 2015. It is always incredibly special to see our partners grow and better offer high quality programs for their community. We can’t wait to see the new court in person when we return to Phnom Penh in August this year.

    This is the second Connor Sport Court we have helped our partners receive and build following the court in Kigoma, Tanzania. Thanks to Connor Sport Court for their ongoing commitment to building the capacity of organizations involved in sport for social change.

    Thanks to Ryan Burke from Sport Court for the photos

     

  • Mintridge’s Week In Cambodia

    August 23rd 2016. We were delighted to have Mintridge Events‘ Alex Paske and ambassador Pamela Cookey join us for our first week this year in Phnom Penh with IndoChina Starfish Foundation. This was their experience.

    Monday 8th August 2016

    Following arrivals from the UK, Malawi and Thailand, there were some very tired travellers within the Coaches Across Continents and Mintridge teams yesterday and therefore early nights were in order ahead of a busy schedule this week.

    05:45 – BEEP BEEP of the alarm and the CAC and Mintridge teams are up and ready for the first coaching sessions of the programme. A light breakfast was in order before a tuk tuk journey to the IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF) training ground approximately an hour away from our hotel in Phnom Penh. (ISF are CAC’s local partner here). We were treated to the sights of a Cambodian rush hour throughout the journey to the theme tune of travellers beeping their horn – mopeds galore!

    Together with the two Community Impact Coaches that have travelled from Siem Riep, Rueben and Charlie delivered sessions to the eagerly awaiting footballers. For many, this is the fourth year of working with Coaches Across Continents and for others they were arriving for the very first time. Charlie opened the programme with a series of questions for everyone, for example:

    “Do you coach men and women?”

    “Do you coach youth and children?”

    “Do you believe men and women should have the same opportunities?”

    “Do you deliver sessions that incorporate the environment?”

    The “Circle of Friends” kick started the warm up with Rooney as the role model focus for the coaches followed by a health and wellness game to encourage creativity.

    As the morning progressed, the ISF coaches grew in confidence and were generating future ideas for the groups that they lead which represents the Self-Directed Learning process. For example, the proactive nature of moving to a cone to receive a ball rather than standing and waiting was used to echo a message of being proactive to getting a job – a subtle message for the coaches to take to their own communities and deliver.

    Other examples of game ideas with hidden social messages including caring for the environment followed. For example; bibs were used to represent rubbish and coaches were tasked with collecting bibs (rubbish) and delivering it to a coned area (representing rubbish tips). A simple yet very effective message for the coaches to take back to the groups that they coach – particularly for youth groups.

    The sessions ended and lunch was in order, not before a tuk tuk ride back into the city though for CAC and Mintridge to experience the sights of Phnom Penh once more.

    The afternoon was spent in the wonderful setting of Rabbit School, CAC watched the coaches that they have been working with for the past four years deliver a football session to contrasting disabilities. Here, CAC could see the progress that has been made within these particular ISF coaches and the impact that it was having on the youth groups.

    A great end to our first full day of the programme before returning to our hotel for a delicious local meal.

    Tuesday 9th August 2016

    Another early rise for the CAC and Mintridge teams today as we returned to the training ground to focus on areas that the coaches felt were issues in their own communities. They raised these issues at the end of the session yesterday and therefore the CAC team took these away to create an action plan for today’s session.

    Despite a minor hiccup and slight delay for Ruben and the CIC coaches in a broken down tuk tuk, the rest of the morning followed with no setbacks.

    Areas of focus for the coaches included:

    • Traffic Accidents
    • Power & Corruption
    • Robbery
    • Saving money
    • Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

    These five areas were conveyed in the following ways:

    • Traffic Accidents

    The warm up was presented in a circle with players following a role model (Hope Solo) as a command task. Ten players ran through the circle at a time following the completion of their task representing a sense of chaos like the roads of Phnom Penh.

    • Power & Corruption

    The mirror game was used to demonstrate the government. One player would come forward and their opposition would have to follow the exact movements that they do. A progression could be that if a bad example is given by the “leader”, the other person does not have to follow and this and the next person steps in and takes on the task.

    • Robbery

    Goals were set by the individual teams in their own area, they wanted to get a certain number of bibs / balls / cones from the middle against the other teams playing. Some teams met their goals but others did not achieve theirs and therefore an element of cheating was brought in – and players could steal from other teams. This is clearly not the end message that is wanted and therefore groups felt they should bring in a sharing element so that all teams could achieve their goal.

    • Saving Money

    For this game, there were two teams that competed against each other. Once seven passes had been completed by a team, they received money which represented money which they would save.

    • Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

    Players that represented bad influences held a ball on the outside of the playing area. The remaining players attempted to run from end to end without being hit, if they were hit, they joined the bad influences to try and hit others. Progressions were introduced to include protection against the bad influences.

    We travelled to Stung Meanchey to be greeted by waiters and waitresses in the English class at ISF, they had created a restaurant for us to enjoy and speak to them in English, putting what they had learnt in lessons into practice.

    Following this, we were delighted to accept a tour of the local community by ISF where the majority of students that attend the school live with their families. A particular highlight was meeting the Community Librarian Mr Tong who took great pride in his work and had such passion when explaining to his visitors about his duties. CAC and Mintridge could have stopped and chatted to him all afternoon, however a certain netball session was in order.

    Pamela Cookey, Mintridge’s netball ambassador and Ex England Netball Captain led a session for ISF students that started with video footage of Pamela’s career highlights. Netball has never been seen by the majority of the group so this was able to give them an insight into what was in order for the next hour.

    Pamela started with the very basic skills; passing, pass & move skills and an introduction to defending. It was incredible to see the hunger for learning the new game and the ease with which they picked it up. The session ended with medals awarded to some of the students that showed great potential as well as Pamela’s autograph cards for each player!

    Pamela was extremely grateful for the Coaches Across Continents CIC coaches who had also never experienced netball but eased into aiding her with translation and coaching as well.

    A great way to round off a fantastic day as the team returned to the hotel for the evening to prepare for the day ahead tomorrow.

    Wednesday 10th August 2016

    The CAC and Mintridge teams returned to the ISF training group for another morning’s programme. An increased number of coaches arrived today following the end of some school exams.

    Today’s session was to focus on “ASK For Choice” which will help the coaches create games focused around gender equality within their communities:

    • The warm up centred around the coaches coming up with safe places for women in their communities. Hospitals, schools, homes were some of the places that were considered and these became commands for their first circle task.
    • “Jump Like A Girl” followed which gave an insight into both female and male visions of the different ways men and women play sport. For example, when tasked to “Throw Like A Man”, the group demonstrated strong, able throws which was a stark contrast to the “Throw Like A Girl” which largely showed gentle, weak examples. The group gathered at the end of the task to discuss this with the CAC coaches to find out the reasons why these stereotypes appear and how this makes women feel.
    • The coaches told CAC that they felt woman should have the right to education, sport, laughing and life and these four words became different cones in the zoned area. The group was tasked to run to the cone that was called out to cause repetition of women’s rights within their sessions.
    • Healthy and unhealthy gates were created for the fourth game of the morning. CAC coaches called out different words and individuals had to make a choice as to whether it was healthy or unhealthy and run to that particular gate. For example; smoking, fruit, unprotected sex were called.
    • Mintridge’s Pamela Cookey led the next session which focussed on careers that women can aspire to. Individuals came up with different careers such as teachers, doctors, football coaches and if their career was called out by Pamela then they were able to race their opposition for the ball and attempt to score a goal.
    • The final game had two teams played a normal game of football except one team had more ways of scoring points – this game represents inequality within communities and the group gathered at the end to discuss ways in which inequality can reduce as well as the perception around it.

    The final part of the morning enabled the men and women to split. The men focussed on Child Rights policies while women gathered in a safe place to discuss women’s rights. The area gave them a chance to open up and delve into the issues that they face within their communities such as sexual abuse through technology. “How can we protect against this?” “What rights should women have?” The session is hopefully the start of women opening up and taking the thoughts discussed outside of the sporting environment and into communities.

    This afternoon was incredibly exciting for Mintridge as ISF kindly invited them to their second school in Chbar Ampov. After touring the school and local community where the students live, Pamela Cookey led a presentation with a powerful message. She spoke about the lessons that sport has given her and the challenges that she has learnt to overcome through it. Through photos and video footage, the students and staff were able to capture Pamela’s key messages as well as have an insight into a brand new sport…netball!

    Following wonderful gifts, Pamela took to the courts and led a short netball session with some of the students. Enthusiasm was definitely not missing as they grasped the various passes, footwork and of course, Pamela brought in some shooting! It was a great way to round of the day! Thank you the Indochina Starfish Foundation for such incredible hospitality.

    Thursday 11th August 2016

    Our penultimate day of the programme today saw a focus on child rights and protection. As soon as the CAC and Mintridge teams arrived at the ground, the ISF coaches were raring to go with some of the games that they had created themselves.

    Firstly though, Pamela led a warm up to focus on leadership skills. The group was split into fives and numbered one to five in a line. Number one began and led their group in different directions commanding different tasks such as high knees, squats, star jumps and so on. If your number was called, you left your group to go and lead another and create your own tasks. As Pamela gathered the group at the end of the programme they explained that as they became leader, they grew in confidence and it enabled creativity; something that can be taken back to different communities.

    The first session created and led by some of the ISF coaches alone for today followed and this helped raise questions such as:

    “Is there anything that is preventing these rights?”

    “Who can help us practice these rights?”

    The game centred around 4 gates which represented different rights:

    • Participation in sports
    • Life
    • Protection
    • Development

    Once a type of right was called, your team had to race to the gate and pick up an item that would be returned to base. Different limits were put on the game which the group explained aided teamwork and intelligence. The limitations could also be used to represent disabilities for example.

    Following the feedback from CAC, ISF coaches moved onto the following game which focussed on different types of child abuse such as:

    • Trafficking
    • Drugs
    • Parents prohibiting their child from going to school.
    • Sexual
    • Mental
    • Child Labour
    • Physical

    The idea is for players to represent types of abuse and stand on the outside of the circle with balls. These balls are thrown into the remaining members of the group; if a player is hit they are knocked down which represents being abused. As the game progresses, players in bibs come in and tag those that have been abused and those still aiming to avoid it. The bibbed players represent types of protection such as organisations, teachers, religious leaders, coaches and family. A progression on from this could be one you have been tagged by the bibbed player following on from being hit, you can also collect a bib and help protect. This represents being able to avoid continued abuse and being able to help others. The third game followed a similar theme except it was centred around the game of tag / stuck in the mud.

    One question posed by the group was “How can you stop people using their rights to abuse other people’s?”

    The fourth game followed a similar theme and idea to the first game of the day. Teams raced to a particular zone when a child’s right was called. This enabled the group to pose the question, “What happens if a child can only access one right?”

    CAC ended the games with a circuits session which emphasise the point of support systems. Firstly, teams went around the circuit where each member had to complete each station. However, on the second time around the circuit, only one member had to complete each challenge which helped complete it much more quickly. The group shared that they felt this represented a support system such as a family or football community proving teamwork. This could also be used for an ASK For Choice game with each challenge representing a stereotypical gender career choice or other types of social inclusion.

    To finish the morning’s session, teams worked together to create games to lead in the final day tomorrow focussing on areas that they felt were important to their communities and the teams that they coach.

    Following lunch at one of Leo’s favourites, the team headed to Krousar Thmey Deaf Mute Blind School Children School to see another ISF coaching session take place. As well as football, we were treated to a spot of hop scotch and time in the playground. We are still children at heart! The football session proves that sport really has no barriers; non verbal communicational skills were just as powerful and successful in achieving goals and it would be great for more to see this.

    An early night for CAC and Mintridge was in order ahead of the final day tomorrow, bring it on!

    Friday 12th August 2016

    We don’t want the programme to end! However today, we had our final day with the ISF coaches before they take what they have learnt into their own communities.

    The Mintridge team worked with the women for the first hour of the day revisiting areas from Wednesday’s ASK For Choice session and delving further into the issues raised. Later in the morning, the women would present the rights and policies to the men.

    “How do we tell the men about our rights if they aren’t willing to listen?” was a key question posed by some members of the discussion. Ideas included creating an environment that they feel comfortable in, for example, a football match with equal teams or karaoke party to deliver the messages.

    “How do we educate parents that are not happy with female coaches or rights in general?” followed and solutions to this posing question included taking photographs, showing trophies and medals to demonstrate the enjoyment and pride that marries their achievements.

    Coaches were soon given a short amount of time to prepare for their coach backs which were prepared yesterday. Areas chosen to focus on were:

    • The protection of forests
    • Discrimination
    • Theft
    • Eradicating temptation
    • Drug Abuse
    • Women’s Violation

    The games followed patterns and themes that CAC had demonstrated earlier in the week. However, the coaches had created their own progressions and ideas to each one. Following feedback to each other, the six groups gathered and were presented with certificates for their participation in the week. Obligatory selfies and team photographs were taken before CAC and Mintridge left for the final time.

    A particular thank you to some of the group that helped us with translation throughout the week, without which it would have been impossible. We have thoroughly enjoyed such a wonderful insight into the ISF Football community which largely falls down to Leo Brogan who has looked after us no end this week, thank you.

    As Mintridge head home tomorrow, Pamela and Alex enjoyed the Russian Market to get their must have souvenirs! The Royal Palace was next on the agenda this afternoon which was beautiful and our Tour Guide gave us a real insight into life as a Cambodian King. The farewell meal was a fantastic way to end a great week.

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  • 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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  • 3 Weeks, 3 Goals – Coaches Across Continents Scores a Hat-Trick in Cambodia

    CAC Board Member, Judith Gates, writes about her three weeks on-field with CAC in Cambodia, highlighting the third with Globalteer in Siem Reap.

    August 30th, 2014. As a board member I have been involved with the thinking and planning behind CAC from day 1 and now take part on-field in one program each year. It is this on-field involvement that colors my perceptions, changing them from monochrome to startling technicolor. This year has been no different.

    Cambodia offers the Western visitor a taste of the exotic. The temples of Angkor Wat remind one of the grandeurs of the past. As a symbol of purity, lotus flowers bloom everywhere, whilst Cambodian smiles and graciousness dominate every exchange. But what also flourishes amid the exotic is grinding poverty, learned helplessness and scarcity of hope.

    In the last three weeks in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, CAC has worked with two extraordinary not for profit organisations, Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) and Globalteer, and through them been linked with local partners, including Stepping Stones and ABC’s and Rice. Overall I am humbled by their efforts to help children and young people secure an education and combat poverty. It is a privilege for CAC to bring our program of ‘sport for social impact’ to support their sterling work.

    And what positive responses we have had! Maybe the final session with Globalteer best captures the contribution CAC has made. Despite the relentless mid-day sun, despite the tired bodies drenched in sweat, no one wanted to leave the pitch. Certificates were distributed, words of appreciation and thanks were exchanged, innumerable photos were taken, and still the conversations continued, punctuated by laughter, permeated by hope.

    Founder Nick Gates often asks his coaches to name their hat-trick of the day, their three outstanding memories. Let me take this concept and apply it to my time on-field in Cambodia.

    My most powerful memory is of two words, simple in construct, profound in meaning; the words ” I promise!” For two years CAC has been linked with UNICEF in a project designed to further child rights and child protection in and through sport. CAC was determined to avoid a “filing cabinet approach”. We wanted to create a model which avoided systemised signing of forms, subsequently filed, quickly forgotten. Instead CAC sets out to engage the hearts and minds of local coaches so that their commitment to child protection is both heartfelt and sincere. Following a discussion on forms of abuse, coaches are asked to consider what they must ALWAYS do and NEVER do to protect the rights of children in their care. The discussions were personal and, at times, painful, but the outcomes were powerful. As each session closed, each and every coach shook hands and signed the flipchart to formalise their promise to protect. Their commitment was obvious. They want to improve their community and their country. Throughout the days following this powerful session coaches frequently came up to me to say only two words. ” I promise!” I heard their words, I saw their faces, I respect their determination to be role models for the future.

    My second memory is of empowerment. On the first morning of each program CAC was confronted by compliant individuals, culturally conditioned to acquiescence, victims of learned helplessness. By day four, as a result of carefully structured curriculum games, these ‘coaches in the making’ had found their ‘voice’, practised collaborative problem solving skills and were able to take a leadership role in “coach-backs”, namely coaching their peers in the games they had learned. From ‘silence’ to ‘voice’, from ‘compliance’ to ‘problem solving’, personal development was evident.

    My third memory is of the power of “self-directed learning”. CAC works with local partners to create “Community Impact Coaches”. These partner coaches complete our program within their community and then take their emerging ‘sport for social impact’ skills and widen their coaching experience by working with CAC coaches in another community. Five Community Impact Coaches were chosen from ISF in Phnom Penh to travel to Siem Reap to work with CAC and Globalteer. There they identified local problems and created and coached football games for social impact. Within the space of a very short time these Community Impact Coaches had grasped the concept of football for social impact, along with the capacity to create and coach games to address local problems. Now that is progress!

    Three weeks in Cambodia, three goals achieved. Truly a hat-trick of successes for Coaches Across Continents. When we work with our partner coaches to create self-directed learners, local coaches capable of making thoughtful choices, when they in turn work in their communities to create empowered youth, ‘learned helplessness’ is diminished and the cycle of poverty is interrupted. When disempowered people find hope, their language becomes a language of possibility. And who knows where a sense of possibility may lead.

     

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  • 90 Trained Social Impact Coaches in Cambodia’s Capital

    August 26th, 2014. Coaches Across Continents has concluded its second week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, working in partnership with IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF).  ISF is primarily an educational program which runs two schools in the capital serving to accelerate the education of children from nearby slums to a stage where they can be assimilated into the state education system.  It has evolved, however, to provide a more holistic social development role including health and welfare services, outreach work and income/employment enterprise for the children and their families. The organization is funded primarily from Australian benefactors and sponsors, and promotes football for boys and girls as one of the many strands of its education program.
    Coaches Nick, Nora, Francis, Kelly and Graham continued into the second week of the program with around 90 young coaches from ISF and other NGOs based around the capital.  The age of the coaches ranges from 14 to over 40.  Included in the mix of young men and women are a group of 13 coaches from the Deaf Development Program of Cambodia.  These coaches have brought with them an extra and enriching dimension of fun, enjoyment and challenge to the week’s activities.  Focus of the week’s football for social development program has been on gender equality, health and wellness and conflict resolution.  These have been delivered in extremely hot and humid conditions but where the energy of all involved has been high and laughter and play has pervaded right across the field.
    Cambodia is a desperately poor country, with significant numbers of people living in slum communities, particularly in the urban areas.  CAC visited one of the ISF schools and met many of the children in lessons who were fascinated to see on world maps where we had travelled from to be with them.  In turn we were greeted by eager demonstrations of their English language skills and beautiful artwork.   On leaving the school we visited the slums which were home to the children which had only just presented us with drawings and paper flowers.  Most of us had ‘experienced’ slum conditions across other continents, but the conditions in Phnom Penh were as distressing as those we’d seen in Africa and India.  In one community tiny, timber and tin shacks on stilts (to raise above the invested pools of stagnant water and trash below) were built within an abandoned cemetery with tombs all remaining in place.  It was humbling to recall that the great young coaches we have been working with on the field day after day returned to these or similar conditions day after day.
    One particularly inspirational example of the success of ISF has been the development of coach Srey Mau, who began her career as a cleaner at the school but through boundless energy, personality and selflessness has become a key coach in the organization and has embraced the CAC program with great energy and enthusiasm.  In doing so she has stood out as a shining example of the positive work and opportunities ISF and CAC are delivering together.

     

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  • A Different World in Phnom Penh

    August 15, 2014.  Coach Kelly Conheeny is with us in Cambodia for the start of her CAC experience.  Everyday in Phnom Penh my heart grows a little bigger, beats a little faster, and sometimes I feel as though it stops completely. It grows when the intellectually disabled child wraps his arms around me at the end of the futbol session; or when the deaf 40 year old futbol coach tells me in sign language with a beaming smile on her face that she is happy to see me. It beats faster when I see a 5 year old disabled child with powder on his face and utter joy in his eyes as he slaps my hands and runs off to share his enthusiasm with the world. And although every bit of this experience has brought me extraordinary joy, there are also the days I lay awake at night thinking about the children that walk around the streets at night collecting cans and money for their families.

    Two weeks ago today I was packing my backpack to set off on a new adventure, working with Coaches Across Continents; unsure of what exactly the future would hold for me. Little did I know how much different life would be for me seven days later…

    We have done a lot of on the field work and off the field work this past week with one of our partner programs called the IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF). 31 coaches and an incredible staff of people lead by Leo, the Chairman of the ISF football committee; whom all of the kids adore. From the education system at the two ISF schools to the quality of coaches and leaders I have interacted with over the past week, I have been thoroughly impressed with the opportunity ISF has created for these young men and women. One of the recruiters at the school gave us a tour of the children’s communities after we paid a visit to each classroom in the ISF school system. It’s difficult to describe how I felt walking past the homes that these children come home to everyday. One community is built in a graveyard, surrounded by trash and leaning wooden homes, held together with rope, scraps of metal and tin roofs. The other community, was infested with flies and rotten food; Little children walked naked in filth, digging through the garbage and wandering aimlessly through the wasteland that surrounded them. Visiting the surrounding communities that many of the ISF kids live, gave me an even further appreciation for the work Leo and his team has done over the years.

    On the field this week we played all different games of futbol for social impact. We focused mostly on gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and using our voice. Circle of friends was a great way for the coaches to get used to using their voices and every morning when we play it, laughter fills the air. It was especially entertaining when Nick asked me to show the coaches how Americans dance, the shimmy is now my defining dance move for CAC. An extremely memorable session for me was when we travelled to Leo’s Soccer Roos under 10 team on a field with a tree in the dead center of the pitch, outside the school yard….Plan B…. After a couple of warm up games, we played a game called Ballotelli for Gender Equity, a game that questions traditional male and female stereotypes in your community. 80 boys and girls stood in front of us and stereotyped both boys and girls. After the game we separated the boys and girls and asked them each to run in place, like a girl would run. The boys impersonated a “girly” run by flailing their arms while giggling and exaggerated a slow, clumsy strut. When it was the girls turn to “run like a girl” they ran like themselves. When we asked both groups to run like boys, the boys picked up their knees faster and higher and looked more intense while the girls’ run didn’t change at all. The game opened up a powerful discussion about gender inequality in Cambodia. The girls all left the session with smiles on their faces after hearing Nora and Nick go to bat for them. One of my other favorite sessions this past week was our session with the deaf and disabled. The field was silent aside from a couple of chuckles every so often, and the smiles were beaming with joy. We went around the circle to introduce ourselves in sign and played a couple of games focusing on communication through eye contact and hand signals, as well as an energetic game of handball at the end of the session.

    My first week with CAC was an incredible success.  I am learning from my incredible staff members Nick, Nora, Graham and Francis who all have a gift for coaching and are incredibly passionate about making a difference in communities around the world. It seems that everyday here is more rewarding than the next. It is in experiences like these that you plan on teaching young kids how futbol can change a community, and they end up teaching you more about life than you anticipated.

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    students at ISF often come from this neighborhood

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    Kelly smiling with her new friends

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