• #BringBackOurGirls. Her and Me: Defining Chance

    CAC Senior Staff member, Nora Dooley, tells her story as it compares to the lives of the young women she meets in her CAC travels. 

    I am on a field. The best kind of field. I look around and see players warming up. The best kind of players. I close my eyes. I listen. I am thrown back into a time in my life on a different field, with different players. But the sounds are the same. The feeling is the same. Excitement, energy, passion, and hope.happy soccer When I open my eyes sadness pervades my thoughts. I remember where I am, and reality smashes through my nostalgia like a ball to the gut. The slick turf fields in my mind crumble into the rock­‐strewn dust pitch where I stand. Half-covered in the dust myself, I take in my surroundings. White and brown skin melts into deep black. Common shouts heard during practice jump from English to Créole. Fully‐matured young women run around quite obviously lacking an essential article of female athletic apparel. Goals are missing nets. Cleats are missing soles. But that feeling lingers. Excitement, energy, passion, and, now even more, hope.IMG_9783 The vast majority of my 24 years in this world have been devoted to the game of football – or soccer, thanks America. Before college I lived and breathed the sport. I’m convinced that the only reason I did well in school was because, yes, I have a decent brain thanks to my genes, but mainly I was so competitive in everything else, why not in school too? From the age of 5, it was on. Sports were me and I was sports. Basketball took the early lead, but soccer was gaining fast and soon emerged as the obvious choice – I was a little baller. IMG_7808 Being born and raised in America meant I had to keep up with the competitive nature of the country, which far surpasses my innate yearning for the win and bleeds into every aspect of the suburban sports scene. From equipment to training to multiple teams to travel, blind excess wreaks havoc on youngsters with dreams. A new pair of cleats every season? Par for the course. New warm-­ups so we can look better than the next team? Sure, why not? Beautifully manicured grass pitches? Brand-­new, top of the line field turf? Why? Because we can. This is America. And the best/worst part? My family was on the conservative end of the excess. My supportive parents never reached lunacy like so many others. They only wanted me to be happy, and had the means to do so. How lucky was I? Lucky. Since graduating from Columbia University where I played for the Women’s team for four years, I have jumped full‐throttle into a lifestyle that is drastically different from the first 22 of those oxygen/football guzzling years. I spend my time traveling week to week working for Coaches Across Continents, the best organization that ever claimed to be making a difference in this wildly unequal world. I spread the gospel of football, stifling my competitive urges in the name of social impact – educating underserved communities on how to think differently about the sport in order to empower their children to become self-directed learners. It is a true vocation.
    P1070842 Some of the places I stay would be unacceptable, shocking, in fact, to many of the people I grew up around in suburbia. Places where shitting in a hole with cockroaches exceeding fingers in numbers is the norm, getting malaria is a rite of passage, and iPhones might as well be UFOs. But standards of living are relative, just like pain, and love, and pretty much everything that elicits emotion. We react based on what we are accustomed to – whether I clearly love this man more than the last, or that story about the girl losing her mom hit home because I lost my dad, or man, shitting in a hole sucks, I never knew how high maintenance my ass was. We are the sum of our experiences, and my experiences, lucky as my circumstances were, led me to forgo the comforts of the lifestyle I was used to, and become a bona fide vagabond.But I’m not homeless. I have the most loving family and friends who never make me feel guilty for spending my days so far away. I have financial stability due to a great boss and supportive mother, and I know in an instant, I could return to the other side with the greener grass, and the timed sprinklers, and the fake smiles. But, really, I couldn’t. I can’t. I’m not homeless because my home is on the glass-­ridden, dust-­blown football pitches that furnish communities throughout the world. And, relative to my life, this is the only option. Bridging the absolute abyss that chance of birth creates – this is my ambition.
    IMG_0240 I am back on that field. I’m talking in broken French to a beautiful 20-year-­old Haitian girl. On the surface, sure, we’re different. Her skin is dark, mine is freckled white. Her eyes brown, mine blue. Her hair is in corn-­row braids, mine in one long, thick braid. And then I watch her play, and my metaphorical heart leaps to my throat. What can I say? She reminds me of me – different language, different culture, different people. But in that moment we are two girls with a fierce passion for a game, hoping that it will carry us into our futures, and nothing else is worth the loogie I just hocked.

    So, I ask you, what is the difference between her and me?
    Only chance.
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    Coaches Across Continents supports #BringBackOurGirls and last month ran our Female Empowerment program in Nigeria that impacted 7,500 young Nigerian women.
  • 7th Year in Kigoma

    May 5, 2014. CAC returns home to the birthplace of our organization – Kigoma, Tanzania. Markus Bensch writes about his experience in Kigoma as he continues his training with Staff member, Sophie Legros. 

    After we finished with our programs in Uganda Sophie and I had one week time to complete the 850 km from Entebbe, Uganda to Kigoma, Tanzania. After we reached Bukoba on Tuesday we went on a 12 hour bus ride to Kigoma on Friday at 6am. It was one of the roughest bus rides for me due to bumpy, gravel roads which even left a bruise on my coccyx as a memory for the following week.

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    But the very warm welcome by Mr. Peter Kilalo, the Sports officer, and Mr. Sombwe, the Cultural officer, of the Kigoma Municipality at the bus stop made me quickly forget about it. On Saturday we went to meet all the district school officials and introduce our program to them. Everybody was very excited about our program and a lot of people recognized us as CAC due to our 6 years of lasting cooperation with Kigoma.

    After we had time to rest over the weekend we started on Monday afternoon with 28 coaches and teachers for our first session. The training conditions were very good, because we could use the new pitch which was built in 2011 initiated by CAC. We had a good mix of returning coaches and newcomers. Some of the returning coaches remembered games they learned in the previous years like “Mingle Mingle” or “Ronaldo Skills”.

    Due to the fact that it was our 7th year in Kigoma we could teach them any game from our three year Hat-Trick curriculum. Games like “Tim Howard for Gender Equity” and “Know Your Rights” they enjoyed the most and got very competitive. The first one is a handball game of two teams where they are only allowed to run with the ball at most three steps and the players can score by throwing the ball into the goal. It turned out to be a brilliant problem solving game where the players set up new rules to make the game more enjoyable. The 2nd game is a child rights game where you need fast thinking and quick feet, because the coach is yelling out different child rights which are associated to different corners of the pitch and two team members of each team have to run to the child right that is yelled out first or second respectively. The participants got again very competitive and had a lot of fun and the game caused a lot of confusion which gave us the opportunity to engage them to discuss strategies to solve their problems.

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    We were positively surprised by the coach-backs on Friday. During the week we weren’t sure if they always understood the games and the social impact of them. During the coach-backs we could see that they really did understand and they even choose the more difficult games like “Can Adebayor see HIV” or “Know your rights” to practice coaching.

    Over all it was a successful week although we faced quite a big fluctuation in the numbers of participants, due to the fact that the teachers had an important meeting on Tuesday afternoon and on Thursday they celebrated the 1st May (Workers’ Day) which caused a reduced numbers of participants on both days. In total we welcomed 39 coaches during the week and we’re looking forward to hear from them about their successes in implementing and adapting the games in their weekly sports classes and football trainings. As mentioned earlier we saw in the coach-backs some very promising examples which make us excited about the future of the partnership with the coaches and teachers in Kigoma.

    By the way the bruise is healed and tomorrow Sophie and I fly from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam, so there should be no risk for bumpy roads and a bruised coccyx.

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates

  • Nigerian Experience


    April 26, 2014. Community Impact Coach Natasha Bredekamp from The Football Foundation of South Africa joined CAC Senior Staff member Sophie Legros for a week in Nigeria – she tells us about her experience.

     

    It’s Sunday morning and the long journey towards Nigeria waits, filled with excitement and ready to coach again after 3 years, I ensure I have all the necessary documents. Board the plane in Cape Town and there are no hassles, phase one of my travels completed successfully, off the plane in Johannesburg and now for the dash across the airport to make it to the International Departure Gate to Nigeria in time. I make it through passport control and as I’m about to board the plane, I am asked for my Yellow Fever Card (OH NO!!!). I don’t have one of those and everyone said I wouldn’t need one but no stress, there is a clinic on Johannesburg airport and I can have the vaccination done there and then board the next plane.P1080873

    Monday morning, vaccine shot received and about to check in for the 2nd attempt to get to Nigeria. Success at last and I’m off, in a double seat all to myself with in-flight entertainment. Arrive in Lagos and the temperature is 35 degrees at 21:00pm (WELCOME TO NIGERIA). I get through passport control and as I’m looking for the assigned driver, I see a mob of people outside and I know there is no way I’m going to find him without any help, so I get an airport attendant to assist me in calling him and have him meet me inside the airport. Finally, we are in Lagos and on our way to the hotel, with buzzing roads and crazy traffic, you are left to wonder; “when does this town sleep?”.

    Tuesday morning, time to meet the Coaches Across Continents Team Mate – Sophie – and off to the training field. Today we are doing the Be Empowered module, with games like Seles Attack and Sawa’s Rights it was destined to be a good day, and so it was, with the enthusiastic students which were compiled of teachers, coaches and players all visibly enjoying every game and taking an interest in the message it delivered. P1080888

    Wednesday and Thursday was the same as Tuesday, same energy, same students but different games. Be Healthy and Be Money Savvy were two modules that grabbed some extra interest as the students couldn’t wait for reviews, so they could make some personal notes about what they learnt.

    Thursday afternoon was extra special as it included a certificate handover ceremony which acknowledges all the participants for their involvement and hard work during the week. An Absa Bank Representative was also available for the ceremony, which was nice as they had sponsored the training and supported the foundation in making it possible that Sophie and I could be there to deliver this amazing training session.

    With a heavy heart my week has come to an end and I am to leave Nigeria Friday night but not without taking a quick trip around Lagos to try and find some local markets. But the universe had other plans for me as it started storming and all the markets were closed, so I spent a few hours at the local mall before departing Nigeria. P1080897

    This trip has reminded me why I love what I do, as making a difference using sports brings so many different cultures, races, gender and nationalities all together in one venue with one GOAL!!

    Thank You to Sophie, Nick, Iwa, Preye, Lean and everyone who made this experience possible – Coaches Across Continents, Ovie Brume Foundation, Women Win, Youth Empowerment Foundation.

  • CAC wins Google Ad Words Award

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    Coaches Across Continents in Kigoma, Tanzania

    April 25, 2014. Coaches Across Continents is delighted to announce that we have won the prestigious Google Ad Grants award from Sports and Social Change.  The competition was open to all sport for social change bodies. Following a competitive application process, they chose Coaches Across Continents as the winner in the sport for social change community. CAC was selected because of the scope of our work internationally and our innovative monitoring and evaluation model. Monitoring and evaluation is a key aspect of all our football for social impact partnerships.  Reporting impact, learning from prior programs and adapting the model are all integral to the continued success of CAC.

    As the winner of this award, CAC have been partnered with online search engine marketing agency Elite SEM. Elite SEM work with major companies such as Hugo Boss, USA Today and Clarks and will be working closely with CAC over the coming months.

    This link provides more information on the award.

    We appreciate Sports and Social Change for giving us this opportunity and Elite SEM for their influential partnership over the coming months.

    CAC have now won nine global awards since 2008!

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    Coaches Across Continents working with The Sanneh Foundation in Haiti

  • Buwaya: By Foot, Matatu, Boda-Boda, and a Boat

    April 22, 2014. Our third week in Uganda brings us back for a third year to a remote community on the shores of Lake Victoria. CAC staff members Nora Dooley and Markus Bensch join long-time CAC partner and friend, Godfrey Mugisha (Moogy) for a week-long training in Buwaya.

    P1030476Every morning our coaches embarked on the journey across the lake from Entebbe, which involved walking, chasing down a matatu (large group taxi), clambering into a wooden motor-boat, and hopping on a boda-boda (motorbike taxi). Upon finally reaching their destination, our team was met by a bumpy, yet beautiful grass pitch set above a sprawling green backcountry. As the program participants trickled in from all directions, One World Futbols were scattered about, completing the perfect CAC picture.

    The coaches who joined the training this week are not of the typical CAC breed, but represent everything that CAC stands for – the desire to make an impact in your community. They are not from an existing NGO, they do not have a formal football academy, they are not government or municipal workers, but they are people, passionate people who love a game and want to learn. We cannot possibly ask for more.

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    We had previously visited this community for two years and a few of this year’s participants were part of those trainings as well. Once we got a feel for the dynamic of the group – knowledge, experience, social issues, and the realities of the resources in Buwaya – we were able to steer the focus of the curriculum in the direction of maximum social impact for this particular group, during this particular week, in this particular community.

    Aside from the usual, worldwide favorites like Mingle Mingle and Condom Tag, this group learned tons of football skills during Ronaldo, Wilshere, Xavi, and Wambach Skills for Life, and had an absolute blast with Touré for Health & Wellness and Falcao for Fun. Touré for Health & Wellness is one of our new games that is quickly becoming a CAC fixture. During this game there are two teams lined up in front of identical grids. The grids are made up of four or five cones – in Buwaya we used four bricks (solve your problem!) – and each cone is assigned a number. The coach yells out a sequence of numbers, maybe starting with two and increasing to four or even five at once, and one player from each team has to touch the cones in that exact order as fast as possible, racing the other player to either an additional cone on the other side of the grid or to one football that they race to shoot. This is a brilliant game for agility and quickness of body and mind – a perfect union of football and social impact, not to mention it’s incredibly fun to play as well as to coach.

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    Falcao for Fun is another terrific new game that we ended up playing for an hour with this group… and our CAC staff jumped in – we couldn’t let the participants have that much fun without us! In this game there are two teams lined up by the “posts” or bricks of two goals that are close together. This was a smaller group so we played 2 v. 2 but it can be played 3 v. 3 or 4 v. 4. If one of the teams scores or if the ball crosses the other team’s end-line, then the shooting team stays and two new players come on with the ball from the side that was shot on. This game is FAST and rewards shooting and quick decisions, as the next two players have to be ready with a ball pending a shot from the opposing team. And the group in Buwaya absolutely ate it up – maybe it’s the answer to African football… stop passing/dancing and SHOOT. Who knows?

    After the program our team stayed the night in tents across the lake instead of returning to Entebbe. A fun experience for our staff, but moreover it was a gesture of friendship and gratitude that was deeply appreciated by the entire community. Although this is a third-year program, CAC will be returning to Uganda and will hopefully be able to fit in a quick matatu/boat/boda-boda adventure to pay a visit to our friends in Buwaya.

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  • Kampala: Intercultural Understanding

    April 15, 2014. In our 2nd week in Uganda Nora and I [Markus] faced totally different circumstances than in Mbarara, on-field and off-field. We arrived in Kampala on Sunday afternoon and got accommodated in a hotel right next to the US embassy, so we felt safe 🙂 The hotel was simple, but very nice. After one week without running water and a “western” toilet the shower we both took immediately after we arrived felt like a Christmas gift.P1030270

    In Kampala we cooperate with “Soccer Without Borders” (SWB), an organization that is serving and educating the refugees who live in Kampala and come from all different countries surrounding Uganda. Uganda functions very much like a melting pot for all the people who try to start a new life far away from their war torn home countries. So we worked with coaches from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and faced a multicultural setting on the field. Due to these circumstances we needed to translate our games always into a French-Swahili mixture to make them understandable to everybody. But differences in ethnicity don’t cause social exclusion. We experienced a very inclusive atmosphere where people are practicing intercultural understanding day by day.

    The coaches responded very well to the Skills for Life games and were excited to practice Ronaldo, Marta and Balotelli skills every day. These activities improve the football skills of the players as well as encourage them to concentrate, communicate and raise awareness for their surroundings. During our sessions we worked also on HIV/AIDS awareness and played “Condom tag”. It’s a simple tag game where the player with the cone represents the HIV-Virus and everybody he/she tags is “infected” with HIV. During the game the rules get adapted and some players represent condoms where the others can rescue themselves from the taggers by standing next to them. That is one of our games that help to start a conversation about good decisions that help us to stay healthy and protect ourselves from getting HIV. After we played some HIV/AIDS education games the participants mentioned the importance of this topic and we had a very fruitful conversation.

    P1030282I coached this week for the first time 95% football. It went very well and the coaches understood my explanation very quickly. This game doesn’t need a ball. The ball is represented by the player who has his/her hand on their head. The ball can be passed on by shouting the name of a teammate and removing the hand off the head. The other player puts his hand on the head and can score by running through the goal. The ball can be taken away from the possessing team by tagging the player with the ball. The coaches enjoyed this game very much and I was impressed by the fairness of the two teams. Usually the rules have to be adapted, because one or both teams are either positioning their strikers or defenders rights in front of the goal line which makes scoring impossible. Not so much with these teams. 95% football is a brilliant tool to make the players understand that football is 95% smart thinking, quick decision making and constant readiness and only 5% skill on the ball.

    On Thursday we had our Child Protection Policy session which caused some very good discussions about different forms of child abuse that are present in this community. For us this time of the week is very important, because children are suffering abuse from their coaches all over the world and children are the most vulnerable members of our society. The awareness of the coaches about the importance of protecting the children rights impressed us. We spoke about one case in particular where one coach asked if it is the girls fault when she got raped after she was dressed up in a mini skirt and sitting with opened legs. In the following discussions we pointed out in the group very clearly that it is never the girl’s fault and that it is the duty of us adults to educate our youth about potential risks and consequences of our behavior.P1030337

    Friday is usually our coach back day. We didn’t have one last week in Mbarara, because we only had four days due to weather. So it was my first time experiencing how coaches that we worked with for a week adapt and teach CAC games. At the same time it gives us coaches the opportunity to slip into the role of a participant. We get the coaches together in groups of two or three and started with a very creative adaption of “Circle of friends”. We experienced some very advanced versions of Skills for Life games as well as a brilliant adaption of “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. We hope that all the coaches keep up their good work and be as creative in their daily work as they have been when they were adapting CAC games. We thank SWB for their wonderful hospitality and cooperation and wish them all the best for their future work that their devoted service may help many refugees in Nsambya to find hope and develop their future in a foreign country far away from home.

     

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