• Conservation and Education

    July 21, 2017. CAC Global Citizen Nicole Slevin wrote about our first year with World Parks, World Cup in Bende-Mutale, South Africa.

    This week we partnered with World Parks, World Cup in Bende-Mutale located in the far NE corner of South Africa, bordering Zimbabwe & Mozambique. WPWC’s goal is to bring together the communities that surround the Great Limpopo National Park, in these neighboring countries, establishing open communication and support with groups that might not otherwise connect. They have the opportunity to build and share resources, with the Coaches Across Continents curriculum as a common link, between the coaches, teachers, community leaders and the children in these villages. It is a great vision and we were excited to be involved from the beginning!

    This was my first week being a Global Citizen with CAC, and my first week ever visiting South Africa! No one could have promised me or prepared me for such a rich experience. I don’t think I have ever learned so much in such a short window of time. Every day is filled with new learning opportunities, genuine unique human interactions, and little moments of gratitude and magic. Along with the beauty of the sunsets, the vastness of the trees in the bush & the varying animals that keep you company at night. It’s hard not to fall in love with South Africa and the remarkable experience of working with CAC. 

    I quickly learned this is a complex program, coaching in and of itself is hard! Being a good and effective coach takes practice and clear intentions. CAC’s curriculum does so much, by providing Self-Directed Learning techniques to the coaches, so that when the program is over the lessons and social impact topics still continue being discussed. It’s a mixture of teaching effective coaching practices, dependable football skills, setting up an environment for social impact discussions, and providing guidance on how coaches and leaders can use these in their own environments. With a few daily life lessons to go along in that mix. It’s a lot! But I’ll say it again  – I’ve never learned so much in just one week. 

    There were many memorable moments during the week – of course, watching the games implemented with kids running around barefoot and happy. I could be a part of that everyday! But there were also many moments with the coaches in the program, when good discussions were had after a game or when they provided positive feedback that the program was going to help change how they coached or taught at the schools. They were extremely grateful and without asking, it was clear that we had made a difference. That’s a feeling I want to always remember.  I felt lucky to work with such amazing, engaged people. 

    Elvis, the CIC traveling with us from the Democratic Republic of Congo said tonight – “I didn’t know what good volunteering could do for me, until I worked with CAC. Then I realized that doing something for someone else, without expecting something in return – it can bring peace, even in the mind.” 

    As we drive away in the early morning, headed to Zimbabwe, Charlie plays Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye”.  And we can leave smiling, knowing we did good work with the people of WPWC in Bende-Mutale.

  • Welcomed into the Warm Heart of Africa

    July 5th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about working with the Banda Bola Foundation in Chituka Village, Malawi.

    In case you have ever asked yourself what the world would look like if people just be nice to each other, I got an answer: it would look a lot like Malawi.  With a nickname of The Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi is a tiny country located in Southern Africa.  Living up to its “notorious” nickname, Malawians are so friendly and loving they are known for always being willing to help family, friends, and even a stranger.  In fact, the welcomes, the meals, and the human interactions that I got here were so warm and earthy, and I certainly have been spoiled by them.  I mean I was going to do my laundry at the community well for the first time in a month.  And then a neighborhood guy on a bicycle sees me, stops on the road, throws his bicycle off, and starts helping me like my house just caught  fire.  It’s just another lovely day in Chituka village in Malawi.

    Chituka village is the hometown of CAC’s Malawi partner, Keni Banda and the Banda Bola Foundation.  Keni moved to the States from Malawi when he was 14.  And, he played and coached soccer professionally.  After decades of a successful coaching career in U.S. NCAA women’s soccer teams, Keni founded  Banda Bola Foundation in 2010 and launched Chituka Village Project to bring social changes in his hometown area in Malawi.  As much as he has an inspiring and passionate personality, breaking into chants of “Solve Your Problem!” and “Let’s Figure It Out!” multiple times a day, he is also a funny and kind guy like your typical favorite uncle.  His family in Malawi are all deeply involved in social impact as well.  His sister, Sekani, is a board member of Banda Bola Foundation and an aspiring social worker.  Her two sons, Manyanda and Patici are also passionate about social entrepreneurship.  I thought it was very interesting that Manyanda is a social impact music producer going into rural villages with artists, listening to the village people’s issues, and turning them into beautiful songs (Check out Amplified Movement – Bring Them Back on YouTube).  The Banda family provided incredible cooperation, food, accommodation, and friendship during the two-week schedule in Malawi.

    Team Malawi was comprised of two amazing veteran coaches, Charlie C. and  Ashlyn, and two Global Citizens including Charlie O. and me.  Besides me, they all were collegiate soccer players.  After their athletic careers, they joined CAC to contribute to making the world a better place, using soccer as a messenger.  Although they sometimes made a fun of my soccer skill, I loved the team very much for making such good balance and harmonious vibes.  Charlie O. even suffered from Malaria in the first week, but he completed the schedule with a smile on his face the whole time.  When we arrived at Malawi, it didn’t take us more than two days to find out that corruption and power abuse are the major social issues that Malawi had been facing.  Radio and newspapers constantly reported about corrupted politicians and nonsensical policies.  People gave a sigh of resignation about losing precious natural resources to foreign corporations as well as jobs to those who got power and connections.  Limited access to education coming from poverty also seemed to be a serious and urgent issue.  The CAC team and Banda Bola Foundation agreed to focus on addressing those issues during the training sessions, with openness to listen to participants own social concerns.

    We spent the first week getting familiar with Chituka village and trying to get accepted by the people.  Chituka village is located right by the beautiful Lake Malawi, surrounded by majestic, evergreen mountains.  The area is very underdeveloped, and most of the people there walk around barefoot and live without electric power.  First, we met a grand chief lady who oversees about 60 local chiefs’ daily responsibilities.  The “zenness” emitted by her was truly amazing.  She warmly welcomed us, and it was one of the coolest moments of my life.  After that, we visited one of the primary schools where Chituka Village Project originated from.  We hung out with the current students who would be benefiting from our program for the next 3 years and got inspired by their innocence and simplicity.  Finally, we had a meeting with about 20 local chiefs to discuss what CAC and Banda Bola were trying to bring to the community.  It was interesting that some of the chiefs were having a hard time understanding the significance of adopting sustainable solutions.  They wanted an immediate help with food, clothes, and money rather than long-term solutions such as implementing Self-Directed Learning skill.  It was like we were trying to teach how to catch fish, dried them to save, and sell the rest at the market, but they just wanted fish.  After a long discussion, the meeting ended well, and the chiefs officially welcomed us.  I will never forget the moment when a prince said, “Now, you are one of us.  Don’t be afraid of exploring our village.  You are one of us, and we will take care of you.”

    The training week was fantastic.  We had 64 participants from 33 organizations, which was considerably more than I had expected.  Not only that, it was remarkable that 19 of them were female, marking about 30% of the total participants.  The participant mix consisted of local teachers, sports coaches, social workers, and volunteers.  We delivered lots of games related to gender equity as well as child rights and democratic conflict resolution style (anti-corruption).  The participants quickly understood the program and started using their voices to express their own colorful opinions.  Keni supported the participants not only by providing an amazing training venue, great snacks, and transportation money but also inspirational speeches.  At the end of the training week, I observed participants embracing the importance of Self-Directed Learning and looking to incorporate it into their teaching practices.  We estimated a total of 4346 children (2129 girls and 2217 boys) would benefit from the program immediately.  Moreover, we anticipated a lot of these girls and boys would become Bonda Bola Foundation volunteers after graduation and transfer the impact to younger children, multiplying our impact radically in future years.

    One of the random facts that I came across when I did research on Malawi was that, out of Madonna’s 6 children, four of them are adopted, and all of the singer’s adopted kids were from Malawi.  She also has put on many concerts and events to raise global awareness towards Malawi’s social issues.  After experiencing Malawi for 2 weeks, I now could understand why the singer has been so married to this tiny country: Malawians are incredibly loving and warm-hearted.  The capacity of their love is so big that I want to have them around me all the time.  Well, although I’m not a superstar singer, I now have a Malawian family in Chituka village.  Hoping to come back to this beautiful place some day, I said goodbye to the warm heart for now and departed for Kenya.

  • Webale Nnyo, Kampala!

    June 30th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Kimaya Cole blogged about our partnership with Watoto Wasoka in Kampala, Uganda.

    Traveling away from the roosters and fresh fruit in Ndejje, we found our way in the roaring streets of Kampala. Very quickly we learned that once the thick, gray cloud moves overhead and drops a few raindrops, it’s time to run for cover to escape the heavy down pour that will soon be upon us. Fortunately, the storm only lasts about twenty minutes, and despite the newly formed mini mud rivers in the streets, the town resumes their hustle and bustle.

    Our partnership with Watoto Wasoka would kick off the first year program in Kampala, Uganda and I was excited and ready to start coaching games on my own. But, I was not prepared for how much of an impact the participants would have on me. While hearing their answers and explanations to one another, I found myself being challenged as well. One woman in particular was very tiny, but her voice was powerful. She was not afraid to stand up for herself and the other few women there, reinforcing that women are just as strong and capable as men. Without even knowing it, she inspired me to have more confidence in my voice and abilities as a woman and encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities I have as a global citizen to try and make a difference – whether that is in the world or just impacting one person in my community.

    I had an amazing, unforgettable time in Uganda as a first time CAC global citizen. Since it was my first time traveling outside of the United States, and especially to a low income economy country, I had no idea what to expect, nothing to compare my experience to. And even after having time to digest my weeks in Uganda, I still cannot fully describe all of my emotions. Besides the periods of no running water and unreliable electricity in our hotel, most importantly, I will miss the people – how they are the real life “energizer bunnies,” never getting tired, always ready for the next task, how they fed me food until I couldn’t possibly take another bite and then proceeded to look at me as if I barely ate anything, and how they welcomed me into their home and country with open arms. I am leaving Uganda with opened eyes, a full stomach, and a happy heart. All I have left to say is: “Webale Nnyo” (Thank you very much)!

  • From Nshima and Dance Parties to Burning Trash and Bumpy Roads

    June 26th 2017. Global Citizen Charlie Overton wrote about CAC’s partnership with Zanimuone Black Stars in Lusaka, Zambia. 

    From eating Nshima (pronounced shima) and having dance parties to burning landfills of trash and very bumpy roads, my time in Lusaka Zambia will be with me for a lifetime. It was life changing as well as memorable. Furthermore, it was humbling and gratifying. Living in Lusaka was unlike any experience I’ve had in my life up until now.

    Ashlyn and I stayed with our organizer, Betty, her husband of five years, Felix, and eight children ranging from ages 1 to 18. Now, if you think that Betty had all these children herself in some kind of “octomom” fashion, as well as working as a secretary, taxi driver, and starting a not for profit organization, then you would be wrong. She does work as all those things, but not all the children are directly hers. Three of them are her own, and the others she has welcomed into her home and they come from all different paths. Chikondi, who is around thirteen, is from Betty’s sister who passed away. Miriam, whom I apologize I do not know her exact age, but I believe is around seven or eight, came from Betty’s brother. He kept dropping Miriam off with Betty and then at different times coming back to pick her up. Betty saw this as very disruptive to Miriam’s growth as she kept being pulled out of school, so eventually she said enough was enough and that Miriam was going to stay with her. Then there are Moses, who I believe is around nine or ten, Chard, who we called Chadrick, eighteen, and his sister Jessica, seventeen. They all came from the surrounding area. Moses from one of Betty’s friends who she saw was unable to feed him. Chadrick came to Betty looking for work and Jessica came a little later when Chadrick told Betty that their parents did not want Jessica to go to school anymore. They all work very hard cleaning and cooking around the house in exchange for money, accommodation, and education. The three that are Betty’s own are named Bright, one, and Felix Jr., four, they do not do much but waddle around and ask for the football. Betty’s oldest, Alisha, aged ten, loved Indian soap operas when she was not at school, I am sure working hard! This was the setting we lived in for one week, and it taught me a lot about the value of hard work and working for everything you have. That is what these kids are learning in Betty’s household, because as she said, “they need to work hard, because life won’t be easy,” that is a very valuable lesson. It is one I can remember my parents trying to get me to understand, but I was not very receptive to it. I suppose I had to travel to Zanimuone West in Lusaka, Zambia for it to really hit home.

    As in any place there are always not as nice things that go along with the nice ones, and Lusaka was no different. These things included that near the field we did our training at there was a massive landfill that was constantly burning their trash in order to make room for the even more massive amounts of trash coming in. On one of the days the wind shifted and caused the smoke to come and hang right over our field, this caused breathing to be very difficult. Furthermore, Zanimuone West, the district of Lusaka we were staying in, was an up and coming area, therefore, the roads had not been paved so it was very rocky and bumpy and in many places. However, this also created some funny moments, such as pushing Betty’s car off of a huge bump that it got beached on. With the good and the bad, Lusaka proved to be extremely life changing, and I am very thankful to Betty and her family for housing us and feeding us. The experience will stay with me forever.

     

  • When a Participant Breaks his Gender Role in Front of the Whole Group

    June 23rd 2017. What’s Not Said Founder Sarah Sedlack joined our recent program with Ndejje University in Ndejje, Uganda to deliver additional sessions to some of the group.

    Neck deep in a class discussion around male victims of rape and a participant raises his hand to speak.
    When it’s his turn, he begins to reveal an incredibly personal story about sexual issues in his own marriage.
    “My wife rapes me.” Certain members of the class, both women and men, giggle, some of them in
    disbelief. I then address the entire class, “we need to all be respectful and listen quietly. He is trusting us
    with something very personal and showing a lot of courage right now.” Then, talking directly to him I say,
    “if you feel comfortable, please continue.” He explains that his wife not only ignores him when he
    communicates that he doesn’t want to have sex, but laughs at him and proceeds to mount him anyway.

    Here we have a Ugandan man, showing emotion and expressing pain in front of other men and women in
    the community. Specifically, this community was a product from our partnerships, with Ndejje University
    hosting the event, Coaches Across Continents (CAC) implementing their programs with Mark as the
    primary coordinator and coach, and What’s Not Said (WNS) with getting to hop on for a few days and
    provide supplementary training. The participants were passionate about playing soccer, coaching it, and promoting
    community leadership. Mark and I piggybacked on each other by referencing each other’s skill building
    exercises during our respective training sessions. For example, I facilitated discussion around consent and
    he created a game to illustrate how understanding is impaired without consent. For the sake of adding
    value and meaning to our discussion, this Ugandan man risked social rejection for the remainder of the
    training sessions on the field. Showing emotion not only goes against his gender norm as a man
    (expressing and communicating feelings and victim-hood in public), but it could be interpreted as a sign of
    weakness. I felt honored to witness this level of empowerment. Both as a sex educator of What’s Not Said
    and as a person in the world, I see the positive impacts being vulnerable can have in our relationships and
    communities, especially as a man in a society where men hold overt, systemic privilege and power.

    Showing vulnerability happened both on the field and off the field. Off the field, trainees showed humility
    and emotions and on the field trainees enthusiastically participated in games designed for children, which at
    times meant acting like a frog and chanting silly sounds in front of everyone. Off the field, the
    vulnerability allowed the conversation to organically move in directions I would have only dreamed of
    going. For the first time in What’s Not Said history, we were discussing the importance of sexual
    negotiation in relationships and marriages and the need for teaching about pleasure in conversations around
    consent and sexual assault prevention. And let me remind you, this all happened at a University in Uganda.

    I was warned by everyone, from Kenyans to westerners, to be careful and perhaps censor what I talked about, in Uganda. Uganda is known for being a bit more closed when it comes to sexuality, much of these attitudes being based on current laws (for example, homosexuality is illegal). And I have to admit that made me a bit nervous. But through my vulnerability and the vulnerability of our partners, remaining shame free about my work, active listening and keeping the discussions participant-focused, Uganda surprised me for the better.

    My name is Sarah Sedlack and I am founder of a culturally adaptive, comprehensive sex education program
    called What’s Not Said (www.whatsnotsaid.org). I discovered CAC through networking in Kenya and
    immediately developed both a mentoring and professional relationship with the organization. That relationship brought me to a CAC partnership in Uganda, where I facilitated discussions on Ugandan current events and taboo topics with community leaders from all over Uganda. The intentions of the forums were to empower more responsible community leadership, teaching skills in developing self awareness and empathy. These very skills were practiced in sport as part of CAC on-field games and reviews.

    This class goes down as one of the most memorable sessions because the participants were willing to explore
    openly together, which made it easier for all of us to learn from each other. A 39 year old male participant
    reveals what he thought was most meaningful about the forum, “WNS gave us the confidence to be free to
    be who we are and create new friendships among other participants.” As for myself, I feel thankful I got
    this opportunity to explore Uganda in such an intimate way, both on and off the field. I deeply respect the
    conversations shared and look forward to more to come.

    Until next time!
    ~Sarah

  • Michael Johnson Convenes Young Leaders in Dallas Summit

    June 21st 2017. Thanks to Beyond Sport for the following press release.

    Olympic legend Michael Johnson brings young leaders from 10 different countries together for a week-long summit at his cutting-edge performance center in Texas, furthering his support of young people working, leading and improving their community through sport around the world through the Michael Johnson Foundation.

    Now in the second year of the program, the Michael Johnson Young Leaders – all of whom have overcome adversity in their lives in some way – are given the confidence, skills and resources to use sport to make a positive impact on their future. The program focuses on world class sports training, leadership development and community engagement.

    Following the success of the inaugural program in 2016, the newest cohort of Young Leaders will travel to the Michael Johnson Performance Center, Dallas, from all over the world – Jamaica, Australia, Zambia, USA, UK, India, Philippines, Lebanon, Singapore and South Africa.

    The first phase of the program will involve the Young Leaders going through an intensive one week course of activities focusing on leadership development, community engagement and sports coaching and performance. They will be supported by a team of experts from around the world who specialize in sport for development, community coaching and youth leadership. This includes support from the Michael Johnson Performance team of cutting edge performance coaches, nutrition educators and sports administrators.

    Following the course in Dallas, the Young Leaders will go through a personalized twelve-month plan to support a key project they have developed that will use sport to engage and improve their community, as well as their own personal development. This support includes state-of-the-art virtual sports coaching sessions designed by Michael Johnson Performance Center, ongoing mentoring to continue their leadership development, and tangible support for their own goals and projects aimed at using sport to help their community. This includes funding, kit, and connections into to an extensive global network of leading organizations in sports, government, education, business and development.

    Following the year-long engagement, the Young Leaders will continue to be supported as alumni of the program, providing them with network, profile, and tangible education and employment opportunities.

    Michael Johnson said of the launch of the second year of the program: “These young people are already doing incredible things in their communities. We have a participant who is dodging bullets in order to provide sports training for young girls. We have a participant who is campaigning to the UK government for better access to disability sport. They are truly inspiring and have shown me the incredible plans they have to transform their communities, but which they need help to implement. We will be here to give them that help and we can’t wait to see what they will achieve.”

    Regarding the desired outcomes for the young people on the programme, Michael said: “It’s not about finding the next Gold Medallist – although if someone has the potential then Michael Johnson Performance will identify and nurture that talent. It is our hope that successful alumni of Young Leaders will become community leaders by starting their own sports charity or clubs, or become an influential coach to young people. Success here means that every single young person who has gone through Young Leaders will have the skills and opportunity to be a positive influence in their community.”

    Jamie Tomkinson ,22, a Young Leader from Class of 2016 , used the skills learnt and networks built to increase the role he plays in his community in Edinburgh: “As a result of the support from the MJYL program and the partner organizations, I have received support to deliver sport-based youth clubs for children and young people from disadvantaged areas”.

    Another MJYL alumnus, Simon, 17, from Uganda said, “As a result of the skills I learned and the ongoing support from the team at MJP, I was able to organize sporting events that coincided with World Peace Day.”

    The participants for the Class of 2017 were selected by Michael and a carefully curated panel of experts in youth leadership, sport, and social change. The selection process was carried out in partnership with Coaches Across Continents, the award-winning global charity that trains up local community leaders in using sport as a tool for social change.