• Knowledge and Gratitude

    August 10th, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Elvis Nshimba, writes about the experience Coaches Across Continents gave him to work on-field with CAC partner training4changeS

    Our two weeks in northern South Africa, in a village called Bennde Mutale which bordered Zimbabwe and Mozambique, were spent working with and creating impacts alongside community members and leaders. From there, we spent two wonderful weeks in Cape Town. The first week we played games with coaches, teachers and community members and through those games educated them on how to use sport for social impact. At the end of this week, the participants were able to coach and adapt games on their own!

    My last week was the most beautiful! We worked with students in different schools, which allowed me as a teacher, to acquire another experience learning from others. We worked with the local coaches of training4changeS to strengthen their capacities to educate and create social change for their pupils through sport.

    Because of this trip with Coaches Across Continents, I was able to see the ocean for the first time! It was a great pleasure! I enjoyed my stay in this part of the country, although it was extremely cold. Because of this opportunity to travel with CAC I was able to learn a lot, including realizing the differences between people. I would like to express my gratitude to Coaches Across Continents (CAC) for aligning me on this trip, and to my organization the Malaika Foundation (MALAIKA) for supporting me during my time working away.

  • Creating Positive Impact in a Conflict Zone

    August 7th, 2017. Salim Blanden, CAC Community Impact Coach and Founder of CAC partner Mbarara Sports Academy in Uganda, writes about his experience working for Coaches Across Continents on-field with Horn Of Africa Development Initiative (HODI), in Kenya. 

    Migori, Rusinga Island, Mogotio, Nairobi – our next destination would be Marsabit with HODI (Horn Of Africa Development Initiative) for our fifth and last program in Kenya. Our ten hour trip to Marsabit started at 7:00 AM in Nairobi with everyone looking forward to working with HODI, an amazing program near the Somalia border which is ran by Fatuma Adan, a recent graduate of law.

    Fatuma established HODI as a community-based organization in 2003 to address the inadequacy of access to legal services for the poor people of Marsabit. She shunned salaried employment at the judiciary to, instead provide a small legal aid desk for people who needed, but could not afford legal representation in court cases. The organization has since grown to be the voice of championing peace and development in Marsabit through advocacy, education, community cohesion and livelihood support programs – all through using football. Today, HODI serves close to seven thousand people with offices in Marsabit and Moyale. For me, I was looking forward to a great week working with an organization that has a lot of meaning to the people of Marsabit.

    As usual, we would start the training on Monday morning. But before we began we held a meeting with Noor Abduqadri, a worker with HODI, and other staff who talked to us about their expectations and what they wanted to learn from Coaches Across Continents. They also wanted to tell us about things to talk about and what not to talk about. Since Marsabit is purely a Muslim majority region, most female participants would wear long dresses commonly known as ‘the Hijab’ and also cover their heads at all times during the training sessions. Noor expressed his fear that the female participants would not be open to us since we were all male. Knowing that Mumina, a staff from HODI and one of the female participants, would be training with us, I knew everything was going to be possible.

    As this was going to be our second week conducting a program as Community Impact Coaches (CIC), I did not want to ask a lot from Mark Gabriel – our leader from CAC. But, I did want to find our own way of running a better week with my friend Nicolas Achimpota, a CIC from Tanzania.

    Our first day on Monday was a great one and very exciting, especially when we started to play. There were no religious issues, the girls felt free to play with boys and were comfortable with us which was not what we thought. This program was unique because we had more female participants compared to males, which was rare to me. All of the past four programs we did in Kenya had more male partcipants than females. For HODI, it was different, proof of how this organization has empowered women in Marsabit. Majority of the girls were very active throughout the program and during our school visit to one of the primary schools in the area, it was the girls that coached games.

    Our third day was a short one, because of the anticipated President’s visit for a political campaign in Marsabit. The President of Kenya was campaigning in Marsabit with a few days remaining to the country’s general elections, and people all over Marsabit wanted to attend this campaign. With little time to the end of the program, one of the participants told us the town would not be a safe place to pass when the president arrives. We decided to stop the training and go back to the hotel, which was the best choice for us. As soon as we reached the hotel, the president arrived and had a peaceful campaign that lasted about one hour with a lot of security personnel on all the streets of Marsabit.

    After the president left however, conflict broke out between tribes that supported different county candidates, and the police intervened. We decided to lock ourselves in the rooms until we were sure of safety outside. After the situation normalized in the evening, I knocked on Mark’s door for a long time but he never responded… Later told me he would not risk opening for anyone, even if he knew them. We laughed about it!

    At the end of the week, we decided to go back to the field to do the last training and give out certificates, we also wanted to hear their experiences regarding the violence and what they thought ahead of elections.

    The coaches held a meeting and talked about how they could keep safe as community leaders during the election period. They all believed that what they had learned from CAC throughout the week and the messages they had learned from the games, especially those about peace and conflict prevention, were necessary for them to practice.

    For me this was a clear sign that we had created positive impact at the right time through games.

     

     

     

  • Clouds and Humans

    August 3rd, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, reflects on week in Vancouver, B.C. working with partners Hope and Health

    In my mind, the best thing about humans is that they are all different. Unfortunately, in my mind, the worst thing about the world is that it makes being different something to be punishable by ridicule, physical abuse, public shaming, inequality, ect. But why? If everything were beautiful, nothing would be. If everyone were smart, no one would be. If everything and everyone were the exact same, none of the qualities we love about ourselves and our loved ones (the qualities that make them/us unique or special in our minds) would mean anything. If everyone is everything then we are all just the same. Does that make us all nothing? In that world, none of us are special, or smart, or kind, or bold. We all can be all of these things in our own way. But if we are all just the exact same… in that world we are one of many, and in my mind that would be a shame.

    I think the best thing about my job is that it constantly has me thinking about who I am, what I believe, and what I know. What I know for sure is that people interpret the world and express themselves differently. We all have a story, and none of them are the same. Those stories derive from where we came from, who raised us, what bad luck we caught, which chemical levels are in our brains, and what we are drawn to in the world.

    For me a smile means happiness, light, joy, or fearlessness. For others, smiling is a mask, a physical escape, a Band-Aid over a wound, or a self-defense mechanism. When I see someone’s smile, I look to see if it is also in his or her eyes. That is how I interpret a really happy smile, where as for others, if you were not frowning they might assume you are happy. The way one person expresses himself or herself may mean something completely different if another does the same.

    If every person at CAC were magically on the same continent, at the same time, near the same place and we were all staring at the exact same cloud… we may all see something different. But, when we all start calling out what animal, vehicle, thing of the planet, whatever it is that we see – instead of telling one another that is crazy, or wrong, or silly – we would look at that cloud, tilt our heads, open our minds and try to see what they are seeing too.

    What is so interesting to me, and sometimes very sad, is that we can do this when it is something that doesn’t matter. “We”, meaning the people of the world. Something as insignificant as what a cloud looks like warrants an open mind and accepting ear. But when it comes to politics, religion, philosophy, business strategy, gender issues, race, child raising, favorite sports teams…  YOU NAME IT (all of the important stuff), if people do not say or do what we (the people of the planet) believe, or what we want to hear, or what we are comfortable with – we (this is me unfairly lumping the human race all into one) judge them, we put them down, shut them up, argue our point, and so on. When this happens, THAT is what makes being different a bad thing. But, when we are talking about clouds and our minds are open, being different is something that brings us closer together. When we are talking about clouds, perspective is something that makes us smile together and appreciate each other. Perspective otherwise is something that we sometimes fear because it disrupts the world we know.

    How does all of this apply to my trip to Vancouver? Working with Hope and Health? Talking about First Nations/ Reservations struggles? Well – these kids are bullied, judged, looked down on for no reason better than the fact that they are of First Nations descent. A story that we all know, and are fully aware, that the First Nations people were not the bad guys. Worse, the intergenerational trauma these kids have passed down to them and the hardships they see everyday (substance abuse, alcohol abuse, young pregnancy, child abuse, gender inequality, poverty, bullying, discrimination) are all reasons the people in the world around them, shut these kids out. Instead of understanding them, accepting them, appreciating their difference, helping them, learning from them… these kids, their families, are treated like outsiders in their own homes. The most beautiful thing I realized about the coaches that are going to be working on the reservations with the First Nations kids, is that they want those kids to accept them. Their biggest concern was learning how to help those kids trust them as coaches, take them in, open their hearts to them. Because these kids have spent their life being shut out for their difference, that is the only way they know to express themselves. The remarkable thing about these coaches, is that they are so willing to see past those surfaced expressions and are looking to find a way to break through and make sure they express themselves in a way that those kids will understand and interpret to know they are valued and important, and worthy – Because THEY ARE.

    I would like to challenge anyone who reads this:

    Dare to be different. Work to be THE difference you want to see. Strive to accept others difference.

    Be your happiness. Be proud. Be one of one.

    And love yourself – just because you are you.

  • Having No Plan, Is Planning

    August 2, 2017. Global Citizen Nicole writes about her experience coaching and camping in Zimbabwe as CAC worked with World Parks, World Cup.

    In South Africa, a common phrase you hear is, “We’ll make a plan”. Typically meaning the current situation isn’t going as originally planned and there is no clear solution at the moment. In the States, it’s relatable to creating a “plan B” or trying our very best to “go with the flow”.

    The saying makes me laugh every time I hear it and I hope that I continue to use it when I get home. It makes everything seem OK and less urgent or threatening. In the grand scheme of things, that is true, things will probably work out.

    Our trip to Zimbabwe from Bennde-Mutale, South Africa was definitely one of these situations. While it only takes about 3 hours to walk from SA to the village we were staying in Zim, it was an 8 to 9 hour journey by car, inclusive of a large dried up river bed where your tires easily get stuck in the sand, intense border patrol on both sides & bumpy unmarked roads where the memory of various trees – that all look identical to me – were our compass. Yet, it was never of any concern, we were in good hands with World Parks, World Cup – and well, we made a plan.

    We arrived in Chishinya, Zimbabwe a little before dark, where the Moyo family welcomed us after our long journey. Chishinya isn’t on any map, at least that I’ve seen. And I wasn’t originally expecting to go to Zimbabwe when volunteering – or to be sleeping in a tent, camping under the Milky Way, building a fire each night to cook and stay warm, serving as a space to discuss religion, politics, relationships and all of the joys of life with my travel companions and the Moyo’s.

    In the end, Zim was one of the more rewarding weeks of my time volunteering with CAC. It had the perfect mix of the “expected” pieces of the program – coaching, connecting with people and fun with the kid’s. With the unexpected elements of magic that come along with a true adventure. I live for a good adventure! We experienced elements of life in Zim that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Mr. Moyo and his family were special; they were kind to us, naturally warm and loving, treating us like family from the moment we arrived. It’s a comfort you feel around certain people, an aura or energy they exude that can’t be faked. They were happy, loving people who opened their homes, for which I will be forever grateful.

    One of my favorite memories is the hat that Mr. Moyo wore every day with “Nicole” stitched into the front. Maybe it was fate that we were to meet. And as he said when we hugged goodbye, “we will all meet one day in heaven”. Whether heaven exists for you, it’s a nice thought and the most realistic setting for our next meeting.

    It is hard to say goodbye to people after you have become part of their everyday lives, even for only a week. And more so when knowing you won’t be following their Instagram account or sending iMessage photos of your daily life to them. It is unlikely that your worlds will cross again. Regardless, you still hope that they do and the reality is that you will think of them often for some time.

    Most importantly, it felt that we made lasting connections in Zimbabwe, with coaches, teachers and community leaders who were engaged in the games & the social messages that were pertinent to their communities. The beauty of the CAC program is the focus on sustainability, providing the participants with the skills and resources to teach and adapt the games as needed in their local environment.

    I look forward to checking back in on the programs that I volunteered with to see if the same people are involved and the progress that has been made over the next year. The work of CAC is powerful – both in the vision and execution. I am very proud of the time I spent volunteering and of the valuable things I learned. I have the utmost respect for those working in social impact. Thank you for letting me be a small piece of the team for a few weeks – I hope to be involved again soon!

  • Coaches Across Continents Finalist At Beyond Sport

    July 27, 2017. Coaches Across Continents was a finalist for the Beyond Sport Award for Global Impact of the Year in New York City.  Representing CAC during the ceremony was Chief Executive Strategist Brian Suskiewicz.  “We are extremely proud and humble to be recognized for our work in hundreds of communities on six continents, impacting thousands of coaches and millions of children annually to create legacies of change in their communities.  We would like to thank our great corporate, governmental, foundation, and community partners.  We also could not do the work that we do without our extremely dedicated staff, various advisory boards, supporting partners, and global citizens who all volunteer their time to create legacies around the world.  Finally, I would like to thank all the tens of thousands of coaches and organizations that we have worked with who help to create social impact through sport in their communities, countries, and globally.”

    Congratulations to Women Win for winning Global Impact of the Year at the 2017 Beyond Sport awards! We are proud to have a strong relationship with them having worked together to deliver sport for social development globally. Coaches Across Continents has previously won Beyond Sport Awards in the Best New Project (2009) and Corporate of the Year (2014) categories.  This is the third Beyond Sport shortlist recognition for CAC since 2014.

    Corporations, Governments, Foundations, and Community Based organizations from 95 countries have requested our Process Consultancy services to help them Design, Develop, and Implement sustainable Education Outside the Classroom Programs that use Sport for Social Impact.

    Coaches Across Continents is the only global NGO providing year-round process consultancy resources.  By using our Self-Directed Learning methodology, CAC mentors organizations through our Hat-Trick Initiative to create legacies of positive social change based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

    Our work and expertise has been recognized through 21 major global awards, invitations for dozens of international presentations and keynote speeches annually, published methodology, and CSR work in 20 countries for corporations and foundations.

    Our impact on six continents has allowed for hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of leaders to be able to create positive social change for millions of children.

     

    Congratulations to CAC partner Grupo Internacional de Paz from Colombia!

  • Searching for Unideal “Ideal” Places

    July 26th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about his week on-field working with Mother Child Health Foundation in Kenya.

    “This Is Africa” (“TIA”). People come to Africa and often hear this remark, meaning don’t complain and just shrug off inconvenience or misfortune coming from the cultural or technological difference. As much as I have enjoyed the epic natural beauty and people’s kindness of Africa, I also had to overpass some TIA moments: Catching malaria and spending nights with neither power nor running water were somewhat predictable. It was mentally, physically, and spiritually challenging making a seven-hour-long minivan bus (“matatu”) trip on the bumpiest road I’ve ever been on with 20 people and a bunch of fish and dead animals crammed in. Wherever I go, I would get followed by dozens of kids and get yelled at endlessly, “mzungu (nomad or white man).” If I get lucky, they would call me “China.” Oh, I copped me my Ghanaian tattoo in Kumasi, that is a burn scar on my calf from the exhaust while I was riding a motorcycle taxi (“boda boda”). I was very close to losing it in Gomoa Benso when people full-blasted commercial messages in the streets (like outdoor concert style), from 2 am to 8 am every single night.

    Anyway, these all are unique, cute experiences. When this sort of event happens, I now tell myself it’s one more story to tell when I get back to the states. However, it becomes a nightmare for people working in Africa when their project is put in danger for a “TIA” reason, like this week’s program in Rusinga island in Kenya, for example. Mother Child Health Foundation (Mother Child) was founded by Mary Okech in 2016, with a mission of achieving “0” maternal mortality rate in Homa-Bay County. One day Mary found out that her fourteen-year-old cousin was unwantedly pregnant along with 24 more girls in her high school. The girls starved while they were attending classes, skipping breakfast and lunch. Most of them ended up dropping out of school to find a job to support themselves and their fetus. Mary was mad and devastated and started providing the girls 10 to 20 Kenya shillings (10 – 20 U.S. cents) a day so they could eat and keep going to school.

    In spite of her beautiful mind and passion, Mary had felt inadequate to pursue the task continuously, and Mother Child consistently had faced financial and organizational challenges. Mary found out about Coaches Across Continents (CAC) through her mentor, Joseph, who had had a partnership experience with CAC, and requested a partnership with CAC. Although the start-up charity for young pregnant women’s health was not directly related to training teachers to discuss Self-Directed Learning, CAC decided to work with it to promote sustainable changes in the community. When Team Kenya arrived at Rusinga island, however, things were a lot different from what we were expecting. We found out that Mary got a new job in Nairobi in the mean time and moved out of Rusinga island, so Mother Child had to stop operating tentatively. There was no program. On the first day of the program, a handful of participants from a boy football team showed up, hoping to move to the states, because they thought we were recruiters. T.I.A… Did I not learn that things are subject to get real (or unreal) at any moment? I later figured that there was a significant gap of the way people do things and the expectations between CAC and Mother Child. A lack of technological access in the island also limited communication.

    CAC takes a considerable amount of risk in designing and executing a training program in about 60 different developing countries. It runs 21 programs in Africa this year, and each program is expensive and extremely labor-intense. The nature of social development work in Africa let alone involves lots of uncertainty. Things and words could change quickly here. Language and cultural barriers and limited internet access make it tougher to coordinate a program with a partner in a small rural village. I believe the uniqueness in CAC’s partner selection adds even more risk. CAC choose to work with community’s need based, not based on charity partners’ qualifications and potentials. In other words, CAC seems to want to give an opportunity for any communities who need its help rather than limit it to successful and notable charities. That isn’t a logical decision for growth and security from the business stand point, but a brilliant move for choosing meaningful impact and keeping its integrity. CAC is a mission-driven organization that makes mission-integrated decisions. That is why CAC finds some of these unideal situations ideal. And that is also why CAC is a leading global social impact organization winning Most Impactful Companies and Beyond The Sports awards.

    And then, what happens is that CAC coaches do magic. These guys are working on the frontline of global social impact, playing multiple vital roles. A lot of CAC’s partners in developing countries have organizational and operational weaknesses. Those weaknesses are big obstacles for them to work with international NGOs like CAC hindering their functions and sustainable growth. Besides providing training, CAC coaches create shared value by consulting about a clear vision and mission, strategic directions, relevant impact measures, and functional networks. Helping partners constructing these essentials would consequently improve CAC’s program quality and impact progress in future years. Traveling about 4 to 7 months a year CAC coaches have to be an excellent coach, an international project manager with extensive sympathy, and a travel expert with high-stress tolerance. It really takes a special talent and personality to do the job.

    This week’s hero was coach Mark Gabriel. When we discovered the program was in danger of cancellation, Mark didn’t let that happen. He grabbed Mary, basically rebuilt Mother Child, and saved the program for the whole week. The flying squirrel (Mark’s nickname) first arranged a partnership with a boy health organization in the island and established a foundation to visit schools and provide proper sexual and maternal education. And then, he talked to a women’s vocational school and other women organizations in the island and got some of the teachers and students involved in Mother Child as volunteers. He customized and complicated female empowerment and sexual health related games for Mother Child. Additionally, Mark created surveys and matrix so Mother Child could record and monitor their activities in the future. Finally, he promised Mother Child that he would give a year-around support to Mother Child as an impact consultant. While Mark was beasting, I backed him up by breathing entrepreneurial fumes all over Mary.

    Mary now feels empowered and believes running Mother Child is her destiny. She believes CAC’s mind-training- using one’s own body helps make a habit of identifying one’s issues, taking actions, and make changes. Mother Child now has a structure, tasks, and people to work with. She said her long-term goal is to build a school for young pregnant women in Homa Bay. The training result also turned out pretty well. 27 Rusinga Islanders of local teachers, students, volunteers, and players participated the training. As a result, we estimated the program would potentially benefit 493 children. The size of this week’s program was nothing impressive, but the meaningfulness of the impact was tremendous and would be memorable. CAC finds another unideal ideal place and gets one-step closer to its mission.