The World That Our Hearts Tell Us Is Possible
Three time CAC volunteer Anna Rodenbough writes about her experiences with Street Soccer Mexico last week.
January 23rd 2015. Although I have previously volunteered with CAC in East Africa in 2010 and Jamaica in 2013, this past week was the first time I had worked with a partner program in their second year of the Hat-Trick Initiative. I am incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to work with Street Soccer Mexico (SSM), a wonderful organization based in Mexico City that coordinates soccer-for-social-impact trainings and tournaments across the country of Mexico. Though we only spent a few days working with SSM in Mexico City, my time spent there galvanized my belief that CAC can help to inspire a better world.
While that may seem like a bold belief, I am supported by the measurable changes that have occurred at SSM since they began their partnership with CAC one year ago. At the start of each program, CAC performs a baseline questionnaire to determine the level of sport-for-social-impact knowledge and skills from which the participating partners are starting. With SSM, about half the coaches were returning after taking part in the first year of the on-field training with CAC. Because of this, the group’s baseline knowledge was quite high – much higher than any other group with which I had previously worked. This presented a unique opportunity for us to build upon an already strong foundation during our time with SSM. It also gave the SSM coaches the opportunity to begin adapting the CAC games to their communities. In addition, the returning coaches shaped a positive learning environment for the coaches who had not previously had exposure to the CAC games.
It became clear to me on the first day of our training with SSM that the coaches were staunchly committed to generating positive change in their communities. They were constantly engaged in training and were eager to share their own ideas and experiences. They worked hard, both physically and mentally. And they were passionate about using football to improve the lives of the children in Mexico. Over the next couple of days, the SSM coaches continued to astound me with their creativity, intelligence, and work ethic. On the final day of our program, we asked the coaches to create their own games to teach to us. Normally, CAC reserves this activity for programs in their third year of the Hat-Trick Initiative, as they work on the “Create” aspect of the “Educate Adapt Create” curriculum. However, we felt that the coaches at SSM were ready to showcase their abilities, and we were right! Working in groups, the coaches taught us a litany of well-developed and innovative games that addressed the dangers and obstacles faced regularly by the children in their communities. In addition, the coaches emphasized the importance of giving those children a voice with which to make positive choices in their lives.
The strength of the coaches that I witnessed firsthand on the field was supported by the endline questionnaire that we performed after completing the trainings. All of the coaches in attendance, whether young or old, male or female, proudly raised their hands to acknowledge their familiarity with football games that teach about gender equality and women’s rights, conflict resolution, health and wellness, children’s rights, skills for life, and fun. I was impressed by the gains made in just a few days with a group of coaches that was quite accomplished at baseline.
During our time in Mexico City, we asked several of the SSM coaches to share with us their dreams for the future. One of the coaches, Ruben, gave an incredibly moving answer:
“When I grow up, I would like to see individuals and collectives acknowledging freedom and power, and creating from that space, living from that space. Because I think that, if we do that, we could create a world that our hearts tell us is possible.”
After working with SSM last week, I am more confident than ever that CAC can help to make that world a reality.