• Gender: Zooming in and out as We Search for Equality

    May 5, 2017. Nora Dooley shares thoughts after her visit with long-time partners ACER Brasil in Diadema for the fifth year of programming and first year of ASK for Choice.

     

    What does it mean to be a man? To do something ‘like a man’? To be ‘masculine’?
    What about a woman? Female? Feminine?

    As the lines between genders blur and we begin to understand the origins of these identities, we become better equipped to recognize, question, and challenge expectations, norms, traditions, and cultures that limit us – whoever we are, whatever we call ourselves.

    But…

    While the smashing of labels and boxes that contain us sends a powerful message to any who dare assume our strengths, abilities, and vulnerabilities – our wants, needs, and fears – solely based on what body we are born to… can those same labels serve a collective, more equal future? And if we use those labels to empower us – to put language to injustice and call out oppressing forces – how do we strike the balance between the ideal and the real? How do we walk and breathe equality in a vastly unequal reality?

    These are some of the complex questions we explored on the futsal court last week in Diadema where we have worked for several years with our partners, ACER Brasil.

    Through almost 50 different games and activities we moved together as a group of humans, each with our own individual experiences and visions, towards a tangible, practical, and sustainable goal. We navigated the existing issues and climates that contribute to the realities people in Brazil (and the rest of the world!) are faced with each day, and emerged through this complicated, sometimes blinding, fog with a fresh sense of possibility.

    This group of women and men from different communities, and with nearly 50 years of life between some, welcomed me for the second consecutive year into their space. They offered me their time, ideas, voices, ears, kindness, hugs, and willingness to march together for a future where all of us have access, knowledge, and opportunities to make the choices that will serve our personal and collaborative aims. I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to build on this rich partnership, introducing and tasting new ASK for Choice flavors, and sharing this inspiring and creative environment with the ACER team and our other valuable partners.

    In the final days we made commitments to ourselves and to each other to continue asking ‘Why?’ and to move with clear eyes from the ‘What?’ to the ‘How?’. We played, laughed, danced, discussed, dug deep, reflected, and created. I leave Brazil eager to watch and listen as these leaders bring policies to life in their communities and beyond.

    Obrigada, Diadema! Eu Vou…

  • Protecting Street Children in Penha (Rio)

    May 29th, 2015.  Penha is a favela in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, located in the north zone.  It is a favela which has tremendous social problems including drug trafficking and seemingly weekly shootings often involving the ever-present police.  We are here with Street Child United which dedicates itself to improving the lives of street children and ensuring that they have access to the same rights as all other children.  You may also recognize them as the hosts of the Street Child World Cup, their flagship event where they bring teams of street children from dozens of countries together to compete every four years.

    However the impact that they have on the street children occurs daily, as they run training sessions with children in Penha.  Our award-winning partnership with Chevrolet FC and their #PlayItForward campaign has allowed our two groups to work together for the past two weeks, collaborating as we implement a training plan that highlights specific aspects of our curriculum – most notably Child Rights and Conflict Resolution.  It is easy to state that children should have certain rights, such as the right to education, the right to safe sport, and the right to a protected home – but if adults are not fighting to ensure those rights, how could they be ensured?

    Our curriculum specifically teaches both coaches and children about the rights afforded them under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Most important is that they are fun, extremely soccer-specific, and create a safe space for children to learn while they are playing (UN Child Right #31).  Street Child United will take our curriculum and implement it into their training to ensure that their goal to create a world in which street children are protected, supported and given opportunities to realize their potential is reached.

    Also joining the training this week were coaches from Favella Street and PlayLife, and our staff was joined by Camila, a Community Impact Coach from our São Paulo partner ACER.  These coaches (all women) and girls who participated in training made this one of the most gender-balanced training sessions CAC have had.  These powerful female role models are helping to ensure the rights of young boys and girls in Brazil and through Street Child, around the world.

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    The coaches of Street Child United, Favella Street, and CAC

    We enjoyed a weekend beach training session on the Copacabana!

    We enjoyed a weekend beach training session on the Copacabana!

  • Unanticipated Impact: Brazil

    November 13, 2014. After six years of Hat-Trick Initiatives and monitoring and evaluating everything that we do On- and Off-Field, we have a fairly good idea of what to expect in terms of growth from our implementing community partners and the coaches who attend our trainings. But it gets really fun when we experience what we internally call “Unanticipated Impacts.” These are outcomes due to our Hat-Trick Initiative that could not be predicted as we started our partnerships – and oftentimes are a great example of what can be achieved using sport for social impact. A great case in point is what is currently happening in Brazil because of our partnership with ACER.

    This year marks the second year of our partnership with ACER in Eldorado, Diadema, one of the favela communities that makes up the periphery of São Paulo. When we began with them in July, 2013, neither ACER nor CAC knew that in just 18 short months the CAC curriculum and ACER coaches would be working within Fundação CASA, also known in English as the Youth Offenders Institute. In layman’s terms, it is the prison system for adolescents. They can be remanded for up to 45 days, and if convicted prior to their 18th birthday they can serve up to three years in these maximum-security facilities.

    A series of events made this possible. Following our first On-Field training, one ACER coordinator named Luiz César Madureira accepted a full-time position within Fundação CASA. Luiz César did so well in his new post that his superiors were duly impressed. This led to a site visit that included the Fundação CASA administration, CAC Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz, former Brazilian national team player and World Cup Champion (1970) Zé Maria, ACER founder Jonathan Hannay, and the local television cameras.

    After this successful visit, ACER and Fundação CASA continued their dialogue. What transpired from October 20-24 is a major step forward for all parties. A partnership now exists between the Physical Education and Sport Management (GEFESP), the School of Education and Professional Training (EFCP) of CASA, and ACER.  Davi Alexander and other ACER coaches just completed a week-long training for 20 physical education teachers who work in five of the remand centers. They reach approximately 1,000 of the highest risk youth in Brazil. These teachers are receiving CAC games, translated into Portuguese, as well as a specialized monitoring and evaluation program on their in-house computer tracking system. For the next 45-day cycle (the maximum that any youth is allowed to be remanded without a judicial decision), these 20 teachers will implement the CAC curriculum, taught by Davi and others from ACER. We are thrilled to have played a part helping ACER reach sustainability through the skills of teaching other educators the power of sport for social impact.

    If this partnership continues to be successful, it may grow to incorporate and impact the estimated 8,000-10,000 youth who are in the system at any one time, some for as long as three years. It is this sort of impact that Coaches Across Continents expects when we start any partnership – we just don’t know exactly how it may manifest. Just 18 months ago we began our three-year journey with ACER. And now they are having a tangible impact on both the youths of Diadema where they have worked tirelessly for the past 20+ years, but also on the highest at-risk adolescents throughout São Paulo. Potentially over the next 18 months this could grow to include the entirety of the state as well as other parts of Brazil. The true power of sport lies in the impact – both the foreseen and the unanticipated.

    All photo credits: Eliel Nascimento, Fundação CASA.  Faces have been pixelated for privacy and security reasons.

    Youths within the system alongside Zé Maria (2nd from left) and others: Photo credit Eliel Nascimento, Fundação CASA

    Brian enjoying his time working with Fundação CASA and Zé Maria! Photo credit Eliel Nascimento, Fundação CASA.

     

  • Storms in São Paulo

    July 18, 2014.  Melanie Baskind writes this blog from Brazil.  Besides her volunteer work this year with CAC in Brazil, you may remember Mel from her great work with CAC in 2012 in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Tanzania.

    Unlike the week of rainy weather we suffered in Sao Paulo, the storm of the German national team came and went quickly. It took just over ten minutes to get going, and once passed had left Brazil in a state of shock, unable to do much other than replay, over and over again, the um, dois, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, SETE goals scored upon them. The Argentineans advancing through on penalties only worsened the country’s mood, as the locals could do little to stop their rivals, clad in blue and white stripes, from singing boisterously in the streets that Maradona was better than Pelé. For the first time since I arrived in Brazil three weeks ago, both common sense and the director of ACER advised me NOT to wear my Argentina jersey in public.

    I have to say I was feeling equally low as the Brazilians, having missed Prince Harry’s visit to ACER by mere days. But inspired by the coaches we worked with for the week, who showed no hint of the depression lingering on the other side of the gated field, I too learned that life must go on. Harry will wait for me…

    Despite these minor glitches, our first week in Sao Paulo was a huge success. In addition to the ACER coaches participating in their second year of CAC training, we welcomed a group of physical education teachers and administrators from Fundação CASA, the national youth offenders institute (juvenile prison system). These new coaches brought a lot of enthusiasm to the sessions, and they were able to quickly grasp what CAC is all about, diving right into the games and their social messages. We hosted the head of the entire system on Thursday, and look forward to seeing where this potential partnership goes in the future. (editors note: Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz visited an institution on July 16th, seeing first-hand their work and playing several CAC games with some of the youth who call the facility their temporary home).

    It was also a special week as we met back up with Ellen and Orlando, who had accompanied us in Brasilia and Rio, respectively, in the two weeks prior as Community Impact Coaches (CIC). It was fun to join forces once again, and see how those weeks had impacted them as individual coaches. One of the highlights of the week took place while I happened to be in the bathroom (harharhar). Tiffany and I had to run back to ACER as the bathroom by the field was locked, and without Tiffany’s translating skills, apparently things were not going so smoothly back at the field. By the time we got back, we found that Orlando had taken complete control over the next game. As preached in our problem solving games, he had identified a problem (the game had been lost in translation), and without coaxing from anyone, stepped in to fix it. I spent a few months volunteering with CAC in 2012 before the CIC program was implemented, and returning to see the program in full force was really cool. Aside from them gaining invaluable experience and additional leadership training, the program really enhanced my experience as a volunteer, as I was able to live and learn from hanging out and working alongside both Orlando and Ellen.

    Like any CAC program, the week was filled with lots of laughs, and a group of kids and coaches with a ton of personality. For every highlight on the field, there was one off the field as well. I think Tim, Jamie and Alex would agree that nothing off the field topped the Afro-Brasilian dance class we participated in on Friday afternoon. We hopped in to a class being taught by one of our coaches, and to the beat of a drum, learned a host of dance moves that I have stored away in my memory to be pulled out at a later time. I arrived back in the US on Monday night, and my first Google search was Afro-Brasilian dance classes in Boston. Nothing came up… but I’m looking into Zumba…

    Thias and Ellen enjoy the week with Coaches Across Continents

    Thias and Ellen enjoy the week with Coaches Across Continents

    What are you looking at Melanie?

    What are you looking at Melanie?

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