• Fight for Your Rights

    December 23, 2014. Volunteer Alison Pleiman details her final week with CAC in Nepal after four weeks with us On-Field in India.

    Namaste from Nepal, where CAC and Childreach Nepal combine forces. Upon meeting our partners in Kathmandu, we embarked on a journey out of the city and into the mountains for a week of training up in the clouds. Together we bounced 5 hours up rocky, winding roads through quiet village life and slowly transitioned into a calmer reality. Cutting around cliffs and sliding along streams, we passed farmers with their crops, cows, goats, chickens, and smiling children. Mesmerized by the nature all around us, it seems every turn brought a new breathtaking view. Gradually rising to 2800m in the Langtang Valley region, we arrived at our destination: Yangrima Boarding School in Sindhupalchok. This school was started in 1986, bombed in 2006, and rebuilt/reopened in 2009. This establishment has huge potential to impact the community, with many teachers and students traveling hours each day to attend.

    It quickly became clear that we were a great match with Childreach. Their current project ‘My School, My Voice’ is working to create a Child Parliament that gives young leaders in schools the chance to come together and speak out, seeking solutions for the main challenges they face in their community; Childreach aspires to cultivate a population of child leaders by increasing education and spreading awareness for child rights. Many of their objectives fit nicely into CAC’s self-directed learning model, so we were excited to work together this week and add an extra level of help through futbol.

    The main social issues identified at the onset of training helped us zero in on their top priorities. When the participants were propositioned to vote privately for what they felt was the biggest issue in their community, child labor was the resounding response, closely followed by corporal punishment. (Gender discrimination trailed just behind, as did child marriage and child trafficking.) Given this feedback, our curriculum this week would be devoted to child rights, in addition to our usual mix of games covering life skills, conflict resolution, problem solving, and health.

    Specifically targeting child labor and corporal punishment, this focus enabled us to have strong discussion throughout the week about types of abuse and their negative effects. For example, with our Right to Fair Punishment game, the winning team gets to choose the punishment for the losing teams– so after observing punishments become harder and harder, more physically demanding, we were able to talk about ‘when is it ok to be punished?’ Some responses were ‘when you make a mistake.’ Others were ‘repeat mistake.’ One participant tried to explain that beating is ok if kids are lazy and need a push. This opened the floor up for some negotiation. Does beating have to be the only way to get the point across? Fortunately someone suggested maybe by doing work around the school or extra activities, the child can learn the same lesson without the abuse. ‘One problem, many solutions’ is a key CAC phrase that everyone was shouting out by the end of the week. Also, they were able to experience how CAC uses dancing as a fun form of punishment in our games, as long as it’s not humiliating the child, and this new idea was very appealing to several members of the group. Mainly, these discussions allowed us to closely examine how some punishments can harm a child mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

    Similarly, our Right to Play game opened up the floor to talk about why kids should have this right. When asked why, the group had difficulty answering beyond ‘physical strength,’ so again we were able to address the importance of mental and emotional development, and why boys AND girls need and deserve the right to play.

    These are just 2 games among the many that were successful in widening perspective and harnessing the encouragement to ‘fight for your rights’. We covered a lot of ground this week with the help of our dedicated partners from Childreach. They were engaged every step of the way, showing their passion not just for the program but also for life. They were eager to share bits of their culture with us, and it was such a joy to experience the great stories, meals, and music with our new friends. Nepal is truly a special place with people as beautiful as its countryside, and I can’t wait for the chance to come back.

    It’s been an incredible ride with CAC– working together across India and Nepal in pursuit of social change. This opportunity has been a privilege that’s brought so many amazing people and so much value into my life, all in just a matter of weeks. Thank you CAC for this life-altering experience.

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  • Leaving a Trail with CAC

    December 20, 2014. Coach Kelly Conheeney writes about her final week On-Field in 2014 with teachers from Dodoma, Tanzania. 

    4 months and a couple of weeks ago, I was flying over the Pacific Ocean on a 36-hour journey to Southeast Asia. I picked up my journal and began to write. “and so I’m off”, dated July 31, 2014. It took me several minutes of staring blankly at the title before I could get a single word down on the page. I couldn’t think of where to begin, so I started flipping through the pages of my travel journal and reading the quotes that were printed on the top of each page. I came across one that really stuck with me. “Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I left the page blank. This surely is not the usual path one takes after graduating college. But this is the path I have chosen for myself, and it is changing my life. Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania; slowly making my way around the world. I have reached the beginning of an end; the last program of my volunteering experience for the year, and in January I will begin working with CAC as a full time staff member. My last destination on this long journey, across 3 different continents and 5 different countries, to cities I have never before heard, and would certainly not have encountered in my lifetime if not for this endeavor. Last stop: Dodoma, Tanzania.

    Chaos like I have never seen it before. 80 children flooded the schoolyard celebrating the event of new coaches that were about to play football with them. Screams of joy and screams just to scream because everyone else was doing it. As soon as we stepped near the field, the children flocked towards Markus, Nico, Frederick and I. They latched onto us and started asking us questions in perfect English. The school was an international school where English was a predominant language. It was nice to understand the children and to be understood, rather than the usual conversations I have with kids in the couple of words I know in Swahili. Before the session began we got the children together and introduced ourselves. I also felt it was necessary to show off my new favorite dance move I learned in Tanzania they call the “Kaduku”. I called it the “koo-koo dance” inspired by Nora, a CAC staff member who introduced me to the dance move back in Cambodia a couple of months ago. They quickly caught on. After a short “koo-koo dance off” we split the group up into two, and took the field for a solid hour; teaching them Ronaldo Skills and ending with a game of “Mingle Mingle”. It was a difficult session to coach because the children weren’t very disciplined, but the one thing that never changed throughout the session was the smiles on their faces. It was the first school we coached at in Tanzania where I felt like the kids were free to be kids. It was a refreshing session to be a part of; even when the kids were difficult to tolerate I had to look around and appreciate the safe space the teachers created for the children to learn and express their energy and enthusiasm to play.

    Every afternoon we went back to the international school and were welcomed by beaming smiles and koo-koo dances performed by all. Prior to the afternoon session with the kids, we held a clinic for our coaches every morning from 8 to 11. The value of working with the children in the afternoon is that the coaches we train have the opportunity to coach the games they learned in the morning to the children they work with in the afternoon. It is also a chance for us to give the coaches feedback on the areas where they excelled and areas that need improvement. Since we faced some difficulties with numbers in the session we held the day before, we found that splitting up the children from their classmates was the most efficient way to train. Each coach set up an area in the schoolyard to coach a CAC game they learned earlier that day. The kids rotated every 20 minutes to a new group, which gave every teacher a chance to coach the game three times. It was fulfilling to watch the coaches adapt their games, create their own games and integrate their own creativity into each session as the week progressed. By the last afternoon session of the week the coaches were punctual, prepared at their stations and extremely encouraging towards the children. This week we worked with a wonderful group of teachers. The day before the end of our program, one of the women came up to me and asked if CAC could stay and train in Dodoma for the whole month. She said that on Tuesday morning she woke up with a sore body after our long day of training on Monday, and questioned how she would make it through the week, but by Thursday she had felt better than ever. She raved to me about how she has proved to herself through our training that she is capable of being a strong healthy woman. A realization she came to through the week of training with Coaches Across Continents.

    I am flying over the Atlantic, back to my home in New Jersey right now, a very different person than I was when I embarked on this journey. I flip back to the page in my journal that I left blank on July 31, 2014 and I begin to write under the quote written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 4 months and a couple of weeks ago I did not know what kind of trail I would leave, or what paths I would go down that would alter my worldview. But today I can’t stop writing. Whether my trail in Dodoma was left through the koo-koo dance, or the games we played that inspired women to believe in their ability to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, I think this is my mission in the world. Something I aspire to do everyday on this job, leave a trail. 2015 brings new countries, new cultures, new challenges, new experiences, and new communities to impact through the beautiful game!

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  • A Marriage in Social Impact

    December 17, 2014. Week 2 with Slum Soccer Nagpur brought to us by volunteer, Billy Hawkey.

    The setting was the same for our second week in Nagpur with Slum Soccer. Our participants for the week had already been through at least one CAC training. Some had participated in the training a year ago, others were a part of the training just one week prior. We had Community Impact Coaches and Slum Soccer senior staff members. The group knew what football for social impact meant, and they were familiar with the CAC methodology and values.

    This week Sophie and I had a goal to introduce new role models and as many new games as possible. To achieve this we had two separate on-field sessions every day, in addition to our classroom sessions. We were asking a lot of the group, we were going to challenge them, but they were ready.

    On day one we covered our Suarez and Hope Solo games. Day two was financial literacy and Perpetua games and the third day we played new child right’s games.  The games were new to the experienced coaches, which kept them engaged and having a blast. They were able to identify the social messages with ease, and so we challenged them frequently by asking how they would adapt the games to fit different social issues.

    Throughout the week the group had been planning games that they were going to invent and coach on the fourth and final day. The creativity and ideas they had were great. The topics included the dowry system, organic farming, rape, conflict resolution, the rights of children with disabilities, and child labor. They coached the games exceptionally; they were confident, well organized, and clear. They facilitated fluid discussions of the social impact related to their games. It was very fun to sit back and watch them at work. Slum Soccer is continuing to invent new games including math education games dealing with profit and loss (Did you even think it was possible to teach that through football?).

    An impactful game from the week was Suarez for Gender Equity. In this game two teams play a scrimmage with three goals to defend, and three goals to attack. Each goal represents a different way to empower women. The goals represented education, sports, and support. To begin, all players must walk. When an individual scores a goal, they must yell the empowering message and then they have the freedom to run. It took a few minutes for the first team to break even, but then we quickly had two running players, then three, four, and before you knew it everyone on the field was running. The quick increase in running players was due to the running players helping their teammates by giving good support, or dribbling fast around walking defenders and laying it off for a teammate to finish right in front of goal. This game represented the impact that empowering women has on a community. It has been shown that when empowered, women will give back and help their community more than men, just as in the game the empowered individuals helped their team reach its full potential.

    Slum Soccer was an extremely fun group to work with and the relationship between CAC and Slum Soccer is special. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them. We joked on several occasions that Slum Soccer and CAC are like a married couple; sharing the same thoughts and often pronouncing a great idea just seconds before the other intended to say the same thing. Slum soccer is adding programs of Edu-Kick, Shakti Girls Program, Slum Soccer on the Road, and Youth Leaders Training. They currently have centers in Nagpur and Chennai and are expanding to Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for the CAC and Slum Soccer partnership.

    In the evenings I played in friendly matches with the coaches, some of the participants, and the u14 Slum Soccer team. However one game in particular stood out. The Chai Game.

    I was feeling a little tired after a long day on the field, and was leaning towards calling it a day and hitting the bucket shower early. That’s when I was told “It’s chai game!” I needed no further persuading. I was up off the bench and on the field within seconds.

    Winning team gets chai; losing team serves. Throughout the game there was a sense of urgency in everyone’s voice. I couldn’t understand the exact content of what was being said, but the word “chai” was always in there. I would sporadically just scream out “chai!” to fit in. The game is up there for one of the most intense games I’ve been apart of, right next to games vs. Amherst. I am proud to say that I was victorious in my first career Chai match; however no chai was drank that night… we were all out of milk.

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  • He for She with Isha Vidhya

    December 15, 2014. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, shares her thoughts on our last program in India for 2014 with the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, India.

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “Can men cook and clean?” – “YES!”

    “Can men stay at home while women work?” – Another, resounding, “YES!”

    Thirty men and boys in perfect unison; they chant, “YES” for gender equality. And three women sigh and shake their heads.

    For my final program of 2014, I return to Coimbatore for the third year of our partnership with the Isha Foundation. This year sees some familiar faces from years past, but the majority of the participants are new to CAC. We have a nice mélange of teachers and students, adding depth and energy to every game and discussion.

    We do not have a nice mélange of gender.

    An easy choice by both parties – CAC and Isha – gender equity quickly became this year’s priority. Such a nice term, ‘gender equity’. Equity. Equality. But what does it mean? To you? To me?

    Many cheer for equality, but few take the time to find their personal motive for why we need to empower women and girls.

    So we play. And play and play. Marta Skills for Life. Mia Hamm Skills for Life. Who is Marta? Who is Mia Hamm?

    Powerful. Female. Role Models.

    Marta for Gender Equity: How can we get more girls on the pitch? If you score a goal, use your voice to empower your teammates – “You can do it!”, they shout. Rapinoe for Gender Equity: Four words for the ideal man: “Strong!” “Legend!” “Noble!” “Superior!” The four teams stand in four corners on the pitch, one for each word. When I call two words the groups standing in the corresponding boxes switch places as fast as possible – running, skipping, dancing, like animals, with a ball. Now four words for your ideal woman: “Beautiful!” “Gentle!” “Smart-look!” “Colorful!” We play again.

    Falcao for Gender Equity: One team has three goals to score on; the other team only has one. We play. “Is this game fair?” “No!” Suarez for Gender Equity: Three goals at each end that represent words that empower girls. The participants call out, “education!”, “employment!”, and “choice!”. Everybody must walk and if they score a goal and shout the empowering word, they can run. Perpetua for Gender Equity: What are some traditional roles for men in your community? – Driver, builder, farmer, fisherman, businessman, army, shoemaker, barber. And women? – Beauty parlor, housewife, baby-care, cooking, cleaning, nurse, stitching. When I call out a job – the players assigned that role run onto the field and play 2v2, 4v4, etc. We play.

    I ask:

    “Can men be beautiful?” – “YES!”

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “I see you shaking your head, Lakshmi (a participant for all three years of CAC programs), why?”

    “Because I do not see.”

    And therein lies the rub.

    There is too often an abyss between policy and practice. Between awareness and behavior. I know unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV, and yet? I know I am not legally allowed to hit this child with a stick when she misbehaves, and yet?

    I know I’m supposed to jump on the #femaleempowerment / #genderequality / #heforshe bandwagon… and?

    How do we bridge this daunting gap? With a ball, perhaps?

    We think so. By the end of the program it felt more like the male-dominated group actually believed in what they were saying, and the women were standing up for themselves. It is a slow, uphill trek, but probably the most important climb in the world.

    So, can men take care of babies? Can women play football?

    YES! … if that is their choice. What is yours?

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  • The Great Chamwino

    December 12, 2014. Volunteer Coach from Germany, Frederick Schwarzmaier, joins fellow countryman Markus Bensch as well as Kelly Conheeney in Tanzania. He writes about his first experience On-Field with CAC in Chamwino. 

    Before any coaching session could start on Monday morning, we visited the District Executive Director of Chamwino, a highly respected woman. After introducing ourselves, Markus took a few minutes to talk about Coaches Across Continents as an organization and our approach in this community. As expected, she gave her consent for the program and we headed towards the local soccer pitch on motorbike-taxis with great anticipation and a box of new footballs. At arrival, reality quickly tempered us as only eight coaches showed up. Nico, the Community Impact Coach of Chamwino and an amazing go-to person, confirmed that eight would be our total number for the day. Given the low number of participants, we decided to play a fun game of soccer and start with the program on Tuesday. Afterwards, we went to meet the Chairman of Chamwino in order to introduce ourselves and explain what we are going to do in the next few days in his district. For us, this meeting was very worthwhile because the Chairman introduced us to the history of Chamwino as well as Tanzania, including a proudly presented story about the nation’s first president, Julius Nyerere, who visited Chamwino on several occasions. In order to make it a successful day over all, we coached over 40 girls from a local secondary school several CAC games including Ronaldo Skills for Life, Mingle Mingle and Pairs Soccer. The girls were visibly proud that their male fellow pupils were all along gazing at them while practicing their new soccer skills.

    Gratefully, on Tuesday twelve coaches showed up, hence, we decided to begin the program. Although, the number of participants was low, we had a very intense but fun week. As there were some returning coaches from previous years, they occasionally stepped in to teach their new peers certain games or moves on their own. This also showed us the impact of our program in this community on former participants. Besides, we set the focus on Child Rights and Gender Equality as this was requested by the community and regarded as one of their biggest current challenges. This issue especially arose when we were having a discussion about the rights of a child, as this is done within every CAC program and every community. Nearly half of the participants justified hitting their pupils or other children if they weren’t paying attention in class. An additional issue was the local coaches’ cheating manner. It took several attempts to announce fairly played winners in many of the conflict games, as it seemed that they cheat out of instinct. I felt as though this challenge was successfully tackled by us in a fun learning environment. Especially for me as a newbie at CAC, these circumstances made me contemplate the local culture. I tried to slip into the coaches’ shoes in the hope that I would find the root cause to their behavior. My explanation – you could also name it presumption as I do not have a scientific proof of it – for it is that they treat their children the same way as they were treated when they were young. Having this in mind while during our program in Chamwino, I was putting myself under too much pressure in order to transform the whole community into a better place and flood it with my ideas for improvement. I quickly realized that this approach is not working out and I should rather ask questions instead of giving possible answers as the CAC curriculum suggests. This method simply proofed to me the power and sustainability of the CAC approach. Combined with the uniting power of football, this program is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined before experiencing it myself. Besides, it is not only the local coaches but also me who are learning a lot.

    On Thursday, the local coaches taught the children the CAC games they learned this week. This was a great success as one could witness the drive and joy the coaches spread during their short and individual sessions with the kids. Their attitude created a setting where children could learn, laugh, play and fail without being afraid of consequences, no matter if girl or boy. Solely, one could criticize their urge to solve little problems for the children instead of letting them gain some problem solving experience themselves, e.g. fixing the human circle when playing Circle of Friends. Overall, it was fantastic seeing them teaching the kids.

    On Friday, after the last session of the program, we handed over the certificates to each participant that turned out to be more like a closing ceremony than a simple duty. Before we handed out the certificates, a representative of the local Education Office was the guest of honor and delivered a speech about the importance of implementing the CAC games in the learning curriculum of each school. After the ceremony, the participants surprised each of us with a shirt of Tanzania’s national soccer team – a great ending of a tiring but joyful week. Shortly afterwards, under pouring rain, we headed to Dodoma City to prepare for the upcoming program.

    To put it in a nutshell, although struggling at the beginning of the week to get a sufficient number of local coaches for this year’s program in Chamwino, the week turned out to be a great success for all of us. We are confident we have made a sustainable impact on Chamwino’s community.

     

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  • Go, Slum Soccer, Go

    December 10, 2014. Volunteer, Billy Hawkey, writes about the first of two weeks back in Nagpur, India with long-time partner, Slum Soccer.


    We landed in Nagpur a little after 9 pm on Sunday night. I had heard about Slum Soccer mostly through the 2014 CAC documentary, but still knew very little about who they really were. Sophie told me that we are in the fourth year of our partnership, they have completed the Hat-Trick Initiative and are in many ways a model program. But what did that mean? I needed to see it for myself.

    As we sat in the kitchen of our guest house, 100 yards away from the all dirt pitch, like normal we discussed a plan for the week with our partner. However, this meeting was different than all the previous meetings I had been a part of over the past two and a half months.  “Ronaldo?” we asked.

    “Did it.”

    “Marta?”

    “Yep.”

    “The new Marta for Gender Equity?”

    “Yes, we played it.”

    “Wam-”

    “Bach. Yes.”

    I thought to myself, “what are we going to do this week? They know everything!” The participants for the week had just been through a two-day training conducted by the Slum Soccer coaches in which they played all the games from our Ronaldo, Marta, and Wambach role models; they played Old Trafford Tag, Scary Soccer, and more. “So they know how to coach our games?” I asked Sophie; “Oh yes” she said in a very assuring voice, “they’re creating games.”

    I was quickly starting to get a picture of the cumulative impact that CAC has on its partners. As the week progressed I would see just how self-sustaining Slum Soccer is and how deeply ingrained CAC is in their organization. But for now, as we sat in the kitchen, we needed to come up with a fresh plan for day one. We would begin with Mia Hamm day.

    As I sat in the Slum Soccer classroom on Monday morning, as participants were filing in, I looked around the room and admired the graffiti art on the wall of Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Messi and Abby Wambach; all CAC role models.

    The participants were Slum Soccer’s second batch of first year youth leaders. They were a cohesive group, who were just as passionate in the classroom discussions and activities as they were on the field. Our child rights training/discussion during the middle of the week was quite interesting. The various forms of abuse that children in Nagpur suffer from and the extreme imbalance of power between the child-adult relationship was the early focus of the conversation. For the most part, children in Nagpur do not receive respect or support from adults, and are fearful to approach them. Sexual abuse was noted to be a major issue for women in Nagpur, which shifted our discussion to the topic of rape. One man said that if a girl is wearing provocative clothing than it is her fault if she is raped. This fired up the group, both men and women, who argued otherwise, and many voices in the room weighed in on this issue, eventually reaching the consensus that it is never the victims’ fault.

    On the field the next day we played Know Your Rights, as a follow up to the strong discussion we had the day before. Players are divided into two teams, with a large circle separating the two. Five cones are evenly spread out around the outside of the circle.  Each cone represents a different child right. The group designated them as: the right to decide, the right to play sports, the right to an education, the right to information, and the right to have a voice. Two players from each team enter the circle and jog around. When the coach yells out a right, the players must run as fast as they can to the correct cone. The first team with both players to reach the cone gets a point. We played many rounds, adding more players in the circle, more complex rules, and of course, some dance moves to replace the jogging. The game was full of energy and it continued our message of child rights and why those rights are important.

    Throughout the week I enjoyed observing the Slum Soccer coaches and staff display their knowledge and understanding of the CAC methodology. From time to time the young Slum Soccer coaches would step in and help us coach, and play some of the new games that they invented including games related to voting, traffic, and keeping the environment clean.  I was impressed by the work Slum Soccer is doing, and how they have assimilated the CAC games and values for using sport for social impact into their organization. The work they are doing with local slum children is amazing, and everyone involved with Slum Soccer has bought in to the strong culture they have created.

    On Sunday we visited a farm with some Slum Soccer friends, picked sweet limes and guava fruit from the trees, hiked to a damn, and had a great home cooked chicken lunch. Throughout the day there were cries of “Marta 1!”, “Wambach 2!”, “Solve your problem!” and lots of laughter.

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