• 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.

     

     

  • 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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  • Self-Directed Surfing and Learning in Lima

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

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