• Condoms in Cartagena

    Turner “Hooch” Humphries blogs about last weeks program in Cartagena.

    February 5, 2015. Our first Colombian program began in the city of Cartagena, a city revered by tourists for its many picturesque beaches, cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture. While parts of the city possessed all of these brochure worthy features, we were able to get a look behind the curtain as to the issues facing the average citizen through our partner program Colombianitos. It was our second year working with their Cartagena program so our team was anxious to expand on the work they had previously done together.

    What was unique about Colombianitos’ Cartagena based program was their use of young leaders in the community. Rather than simply viewing them as students they recognized their potential to understand the pulse of the neighborhood and enabled them to be active in finding creative solutions to issues they deem important. The majority of the coaches we worked with were under the age of eighteen, which is fairly uncommon. Ainge (17) and Ismael (20) were two participants in particular that possessed wisdom and maturity beyond their years. Both were able to handle large amounts of energetic children by themselves and could command an audience of adults during topics on complex social issues.

    At the beginning of the week, Alfredo, head coach of Colombianitos Cartagena, identified youth pregnancy as something that was having adverse effects on his community. He was seeing far too many fourteen and fifteen year olds left to care for a child, forcing them out of school and void of most of the activities enjoyed by their peers. To address this specific community need we played a game called ‘Adebayor Uses a Condom Tag.’ In this adapted tag game players are able to avoid being tagged by going to select stationary players around the field that represent a condom. Through the game we learned the benefits of condom use, one of the many good choices available to prevent unwanted pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

    Sexual health can be a challenging topic to discuss with anyone, especially younger coaches, a few giggles and under the breathe jokes are usually common place. However this group of young leaders took the game seriously and were very vocal when asked questions on proper condom use, showing their maturity yet again. It was refreshing to see so many young coaches dedicated to a better Cartagena.

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  • Working with the Army in Papua

    29th September 2014. General Eduard greets us at the field at the Kodam XVII jayapura army base overlooking the serene landscape of Cenderiwasih Bay. Down below the stadium seats, a training drill field holds army men, civilian coaches, a marching band and 2 local football youth teams that are suited up and ready to play a short game of futbol following the ceremony. We are treated to cake and pastries, a common Papuan snack during and after training sessions, and we are accompanied by several army chiefs. After joining the men on the field for the opening ceremony, Cenderawasih, a club team coached by some of the coaches we will be working with, played against another local club team.

    This year was CAC’s first time holding a clinic at the Jayapura army base. Thirty nine participants attended; a mix of army and civilians. I was curious to see how they would respond to the self-directed learning approach to coaching as it is a different way of learning than they are accustomed to in their structured lives. The coaches adapted well and were quick to take in information and respond. Although the clinic only ran for 3 days, we were impressed to see their willingness to run the morning school sessions on their own by the third day. I am confident that the coaches have learned enough of the curriculum to start implementing change where they see fit in their communities.

    An area of focus for us in Papua has been smoking and the high rates of HIV/AIDS. Chain smoking in Papua is very common, especially in the military. The smell of burning plastic and cigarette smoke is almost impossible to escape here. One thing I have particularly noticed while traveling through Indonesia is how uninformed people are when it comes to their health. One man told me he smokes to concentrate better, another told me he smokes so he doesn’t fall asleep when driving. Although uninformed about the actual effects of smoking, it is still clear on every cigarette package that smoking kills. Our discussions about smoking always seem to end with Brian and I encouraging them to be good role models by never smoking in front of their players. The message seemed to reach them as many applauded at the end of several discussions. The Adebayor against HIV/AIDS games raised many questions as well. Many of the coaches were parents as well as coaches, which explained why there were a lot of concerns. Our Adebayor games were created to demonstrate how healthy educated decisions can stop the spread of HIV. After a question and answer filled Adebayor session, I am confident that the majority of these coaches will use our Adebayor and health and wellness games with their teams. Since talking about HIV is stigmatized, playing these games are a great way to start the discussion and create a safe space to talk about it.

    The Conflict Resolution games seemed to have a great impact on this group as well. Mingle Mingle and Marta for Conflict Resolution are both energy filled games that they all loved. Both games require quick thinking and problem solving, with incentive not to lose. Marta for Conflict Resolution is a game where 6 teams line up facing each other in a circle. Each player on the team has a different number from 1-6. When your number is called, you run around the front cone, continue around your team and around the circle until you reach your starting position. There are several variations where you can add a ball, call out two numbers at the same time, and give instruction to pick up the ball at the same time. A lot of cheating arises in the game which calls for teachable moments. Coaches learn the significance of teaching their players the difference between cheating and making a mistake and they also learn that in order to solve problems in life, we must communicate and work together.

    It was great to see collaboration between the army, Uni Papua and the local communities. Huge steps can be taken before CAC comes back to Jayapura next year if the army coaches implement the 24 week curriculum into their practice plans and push their players to think independently and solve their own problems. The future of Jayapura looks promising as the coaches have already started to understand self-directed learning after three practice sessions with us and were determined to show us what they learned at the sessions at the schools every morning.

    As I continue to learn about the Papuan culture my appreciation for the people of this country grows. Uni Papua have been so generous and absolutely lovely to work with. Yanti and Kalin in Sentani treated us like family during our 10 short days working with them, and after sharing our last meal with Eduard’s family the night before our departure from Jayapura, we were taken to a karaoke bar. Brian and I sang “Ironic” by Alanis Morisette which was a highlight of my night; but a close second was the the dan-dout traditional Papuan dance performed by Eduard’s wife and daughter.

    Although we only had three days in Jayapura, our work on the field was extremely productive. We worked with a group of bright individuals who are great role models for Papua and I believe they will have a strong influence on Papuas future leaders.
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  • Uniting NGO Forces in the Fight Against HIV

    June 2, 2014. Picture a lake as large as an ocean. And hills looming like mountains, standing watch over a village. Picture an undiscovered tourist destination, a secret of only few adventurers, and Coaches Across Continents.

    We return to the shores of Lake Victoria, but this time on the other side. Our Kenya programs take us to Homa Bay County, and down a rough road to a village called Mbita. CAC staff member, Nora Dooley is joined by another Community Impact Coach (CIC), David Mulo, from our long-time partner Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP), to train coaches from our new partner, Boychild Agenda International.

    Set on a picturesque field surrounded by mountainous islands, the training focused on introducing the community coaches to football for social impact. The region, and particularly Mbita, has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Kenya. Often a priority during Year 1 programs, the importance of focusing on the HIV issue became paramount for this week.

    After playing all five Adebayor games from our HIV module, the participants really grabbed hold of our coaching for social impact methods. The discussions that followed each of these games were enlightening as we discussed why the participants believe Mbita to have such a high HIV rate and what they can do as a community to change that. This day of the training was made even more momentous by the arrival of two more CAC coaches. One was another CIC from VAP, Mathew Malusi. He ensured the safe arrival of our volunteer landing mid-week in Nairobi from the United States. Mackenzie Jones joins CAC for the remaining six weeks in Kenya. She just finished her junior year at George Washington University where she plays goalkeeper for the women’s varsity lacrosse team. Alongside classes and lacrosse she has also been running programs for an NGO called The Grassroot Project (TGP) for the past three years. This is an initiative in Washington DC inspired by Grassroot Soccer that has student-athletes from DC colleges teaching urban youth how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

    Mackenzie and Mathew arrived to Mbita just in time for our HIV day, adding great value to the pool of knowledge about HIV prevention. From Nora’s history with Grassroot Soccer (GRS), to VAP’s focus on HIV education in their Nairobi programs as well as their partnership with GRS, and now with Mackenzie’s background in the mix, we had a highly trained team of coaches well-equipped to address the gravity of the HIV epidemic in Mbita. This was a special day for the participants as they learned an entirely new way to confront the issue with CAC’s football for HIV behavior change games. It was also an exciting experience for our coaches as the worlds of CAC and GRS came together alongside VAP and TGP, uniting forces in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS on this beautiful field overlooking Lake Victoria. Not a bad week at the office.

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  • Commitment and Creativity – Pemba coaches are becoming Self-Directed Learners

    May 21, 2014.   A long way from Germany, CAC Coach Markus Bensch describes our work this past week on Pemba Island (Zanzibar, Tanzania).  When Sophie and I arrived on Sunday morning in Pemba we went straight from the airport on an island tour. The whole vegetation was lush green and everything flowered. It felt a bit like paradise and our accommodation was right next to the ocean which gave us a very nice rest in the afternoon, before we started with the program the next day.

    On Monday morning we would welcome 41 coaches to our training of which were 32 returners which means they had participated in our training last year. That made us very happy, because it is exactly what we want, coaches that take part all three years in our Hat-Trick Training and change things in their community step by step for better. We were also very impressed by their commitment during the week. Some of the coaches came earlier to the venue to write up the games we played before the training started, most of the coaches were on time so we could start punctually and the number of participants stayed constant over the week and could work with more than 40 coaches every day.

    Throughout the week we played games that focused on different topics, i.e. how to resolve conflict without using violence, how to find solutions for problems without asking for the answer and how communication and cooperation can help to overcome challenges, both individually and as a group. We also addressed different social issues like environment pollution, gender inequality, violence against children, HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy. The group did a great job when they adapted our “Adebayor makes good choices” game which is about HIV/AIDS prevention into a game that teaches about prevention of early pregnancies.

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    Playing football in pairs needs a lot of coordination and communication

    On Friday we had our coach-back day as usual. For us coaches it is always a lot of fun because we can act like participants and even take part in the games and leave the stage to participant coaches to practice the games they invented. We saw great coach-backs from nine different groups and it showed us that each of them made a big step during the last year and throughout the week towards the goal of becoming a self-directed learner. We’re very curious to follow up and hear about their progress throughout the year and we are looking forward to come back in 2015 for the final year of our Hat-Trick Curriculum to support the coaches in developing a more open community that respects and supports the rights of children and woman and that addresses existing issues openly to discuss them and find ways to solve them.

    The two successful weeks on Zanzibar would not be possible without the excellent cooperation with all the implementing partners. We’re happy to say ‘Thank you!’ to Save the Children, The National Sports Council, The Zanzibar Football Association and The Ministry of Education for two wonderful weeks with more than 100 coaches in total that surely will make a difference in the community and in young people’s live that are in their care. We hope that this partnership last for a very long time and we are happy to come back on Zanzibar next year.

    We left Pemba on Friday afternoon to land after a wonderful half an hour flight on Unguja again, because we wanted to go swimming with dolphins on Saturday early morning. We left the hotel at 6am and one hour later we sat on a boat to reach out to the dolphins. The beaches and the water are so beautiful that it felt again like paradise. After a while we spotted the first dolphins. After our driver brought us in position we could even jump into the water and marveled them swimming right next to us. It was wonderful to see the elegance with which these creatures ride the waves and swim through the ocean. Compare to them our movements in the water seem like clumsy movements just to save us from drowning. This experience was a great finish of our two weeks on Zanzibar and I already want to submit a request to Brian our Chief Executive Strategist that I want to come back next year.

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    Coaches Across Continents “Lines Game” always causes a lot of confusion and conflict resolution opportunities

  • 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

  • Football for Health & Wellness

    We can all agree that being active and playing sports is an incredibly healthy decision for our physical well-being. More and more people are beginning to understand how important a role sports can also play in improving our emotional well-being. CAC uses football to teach both of these messages. We also use football games to educate our participants, who then educate the youth they work with, on how to stay healthy, to practice good hygiene, to think about the food and fluids they put into their bodies, and to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

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    At the most fundamental level we teach Health & Wellness games in order to get the heart pounding, the lungs gasping for air, the muscles aching, the sweat pouring forth. One such game is Marta for Health & Wellness. In this game there are cones scattered about in a space with about 3-4 yards between each one. We will have two groups in this game – one group will work, the other will rest. Each will go for 30 seconds and in that time they have to get to as many cones as possible doing different movements at each one. For example, the first round they might touch the cone with their hand igniting more of a speed and changing direction challenge. Then they might jump over the cone with two feet – over and back – before they move on to another cone. Then maybe one foot, then the other. There are all sorts of variations to this game, but they all have the same purpose – get to work!

    Either after we finish, or between each exercise, we ask the participants how they feel. We see what information we can pull out of them, not as a test, but to help them understand why it is important to think about exercising in ways that extend beyond becoming better footballers. We ask pointed questions, as we do not want to lecture but, rather, to encourage the participants to think for themselves. In this manner our discussions about health and wellness become locally relevant and we learn about the various cultural factors that influence our ability to stay healthy, in body and in mind.

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    These Health & Wellness games lay a strong foundation for us to build from when going more in-depth with topics such as nutrition and sexual health. One of our long-time partners, Whizzkids United, has the most comprehensive HIV education program that we have encountered in our work. Their new Football for Hope Center is at their office next to the hospital they partner with in Edendale, a community outside of Durban, South Africa. This relationship allows them to not only educate about HIV/AIDS but to also incorporate HIV testing and counseling, and thorough, long-term follow-up care into their programs. It is small-scale, but it is big impact. Our role in this partnership is helping Whizzkids capitalize on their charge of the Football for Hope Center. Their coaches learn all of our games with particular attention paid to our HIV module. These games embody the messages about sexual health meaning whatever happens during the game is what shapes the discussion.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows that before our program only 29% of our participants could teach young people how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS using a football game, whereas after a CAC training, that number jumps to 93%.

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