Back To Where It All Began
October 2nd 2017. Self-Directed Learning coach Mark Gabriel reflects on a return to Cambodia after a year with CAC.
Heading to Cambodia’s capital for my next On-Field assignment was different than previous assignments. Right about the same time last year, I was heading to Phnom Penh for my first ever CAC assignment with Indochina Starfish. My first time returning to a place and starting the week with, “Good to see you again!” rather than, “Nice to meet you.” My first time leading with an inside joke, or a hug, or a familiar smile. My first time returning to my favorite juice stand, or ordering my favorite local cuisine (in this case, tarantulas). You get the idea — and let me tell you, it felt good. More so than any of that, it felt good because it was my first chance to personally see the change that accumulates over a year during a CAC partnership. Throughout the first two weeks, I was not disappointed. Not only did I immediately see stark differences between this year and last amongst returning participants, but I witnessed immense growth from day-to-day. I looked forward to the opportunity to work alongside three of these coaches for our final week to go even deeper.
I knew Panha, Ranya, and Nara from before, as all three were Community Impact Coaches the previous year. As coaches, they had grown tremendously. Now, it was Emily and I’s challenge to continue their development. We chose to have them run the program. Part of this was because we saw it as a great opportunity to take the “next step”… and part of it because the participants did not speak English and we had no translator…
Thanks to their previous experiences through the CIC Initiative, they were well prepared to lead a program on their own. Their ability to build a message throughout the week, to lead discussions after the trainings, to foresee problems and plan to avoid them, and to smoothly co-exist and run a training as a team was sublime. Each day, Emily and I were proud but yet relentless. We gave them daily challenges, constant feedback, questioning the why behind their decisions, and they always rose to the occasion. They began to do the same to themselves and began to not only visualize the game unfolding, but the message unfolding — seeing both its impact in that moment and in five years’ time.
My highlight of the week was seeing each M’lop Tapang staff member, at different times, have an “Aha!” moment. The moment that it all comes together, that Football for Social Impact and Self-Directed Learning begin to mean something. To see that moment passed from Cambodians to Cambodians… now that is a beautiful thing.