• Educating 100,000+ on World AIDS Day

    November 24, 2014.  World AIDS Day is only one week away! What are you going to do to help stop the spread of HIV?

    Coaches Across Continents continues our practice of providing a free football resource packet for important global days. In one week, on December 1, 2014, we are helping to educate hundreds of thousands of people through our network of partners and through groups who have reached out to us for assistance.  Our five HIV/AIDS games are designed to educate coaches and players on the facts about HIV, as well as dispelling harmful myths about the virus.  In addition, we are looking to trigger behavior change in communities regarding sexual education and HIV/AIDS awareness in terms of knowing your status, using protection, and promoting healthy sexual activity.

    Our games center on the ideal that we should all be aware of our options when it comes to sex and once we have that knowledge, we can make the right choices for our own bodies, and for our lives. The more good choices we make, the better protected we are from viruses and infections including HIV, as well as unwanted/teenage pregnancy. These messages are crucial for all of us, and at the appropriate age – which varies according to the individual – children have a right to this information. Our games bring these lessons to life with a ball, and more importantly, a coach who creates the safe space for those who want to learn, those who are willing to ask questions, and those who are open to challenging cultural and societal norms surrounding sexual education.

    Approximately seven weeks ago we provided a free resource packet for leaders to use in their schools, with their teams, and in their communities. This packet went out to over 500 communities worldwide, which will impact over 100,000 individuals.  These games have been played in the build-up to World AIDS Day on December 1st.  Many of our implementing partner programs are already familiar with these games as they have been a staple in the CAC curriculum for the past several years to promote positive behavior change in individuals and communities.

    Want to get in on the worldwide sport for social impact movement? Contact  for a free resource packet.

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  • Football for HIV Education in South Africa

    November 10, 2014. Markus Bensch – Senior Staff – returns to his old home in Durban, South Africa to run the CAC program with long-time partners Whizzkids United.

    From October 2012 till December 2013 I volunteered for Whizzkids United (WKU) in Durban, South Africa. Back then WKU had two workplaces, the office in Durban and the Health Academy (HA) in the Edendale Township 70 km away from Durban. The administrative office was in Durban and at the HA children and youth of Edendale can access health services and participate in different programs after school. The focus of WKU’s work is HIV/AIDS prevention through football. WKU is running year-round Life-Skill sessions at local schools that use football to educate students on HIV and raise awareness for the services and programs at the HA.

    Ten months after I left WKU I was lucky to be able to come back, see some of my old colleagues and friends and conduct a one-week CAC program together with my current colleague Kelly Conheeney. I’m happy that I can say colleague, because Kelly just decided to be on board full time with CAC for 2015. Welcome Kelly!!!

    For CAC it is the 5th year that we’ve trained the coaches from WKU and Edendale Township with the difference that the Football for Hope (FFH) Center that WKU has been rewarded with is finally finished and the previous two workplaces are now united at the Center. We were lucky that we could train with the coaches on the brand new artificial pitch and make use of the multifunctional room in the new building.

    Kelly and I welcomed 19 coaches on Monday morning. But first I received a very warm welcome from my old colleagues. It felt for me like I never left and I realized how much the WKU staff had taken me into their hearts. I was very happy to work with some of my old colleagues during our program.

    We started with a general introduction into Football for social impact and into the work of CAC, because it was most of the participants first time attending a CAC training. When we got on the pitch and introduced “Circle of Friends” and “Messi Skills for Life” we realized they enjoyed those games and were capable of identifying the social impact messages of the games very quickly. Circle of Friends is CAC’s most played game, because every session starts with this warm up. Players stand in a circle and one person starts to show an exercise while moving through the circle and finding a person on the outside for an exchange that includes a move (i.e. high five) and the use of voice (i.e. shouting your name or favorite football club). Now different players start to move through the circle doing the exercise that was shown to them and finally finding a person on the outside for the exchange before this person starts to do the same. This game is so much fun and often encourages people to introduce silly as well as challenging moves which creates an exciting atmosphere. This group was so enthusiastic and it was so much fun that from the 2nd day we let them lead the circle and introduce their own exercises. This game works brilliantly to warm up our bodies, but also to warm up and make use of our voice. Another social impact is to communicate with other people in the circle, concentrate to do the exercise correctly and to remember the exchange on the outside.

    One of the focuses of the training was HIV/AIDS education, because the battle against this disease is one of the biggest challenges for South Africa as a whole and the community of Edendale. So we played all our five Adebayor games that teach through football how everybody can protect him/herself from getting infected with HIV and take care of his/her sexual health. In the afternoon different participants were responsible to coach the CAC games they learned to the students that came to the HA. One of the female coaches just adapted our “Can Adebayor see HIV?” into a conflict resolution game and asked “Can you see who stole your pen?”. In the original version two lines of players with their hands in the back are facing each other and alternately have to guess who on the other team has the bottler cap or small stone in his/her hands which represents HIV. The social impact of the game is that you can’t know just by looking at the other person if he/she has HIV or not. The only way to know is to get tested. The young woman changed the social impact of the game and taught the youth that you can’t know who stole you pen just by looking at the other person and she discussed with them different peaceful ways the resolve conflicts. We were very happy to see that participants were so quickly capable of adapting games and make them their own.

    Two of the challenges for WKU over the past few years were to secure that participants from past years would come back for further training and to implement CAC games into their curriculum and trainings. The lack of implementation was also due to the fact that the construction of the FFH Center didn’t start for years and once it started it took more then a year to finish it and during that time WKU had to run their services next to a construction site. Together with the management we set some goals for the next year and we very much look forward to see our games being regularly played at the FFH Center and implemented in the schools in Edendale.

    We want to say “Thank you!” to WKU for being again such great hosts for our training. A very special “Thank you!” goes to our two host families in the Edendale Township who spoiled us with warm African cordiality, which includes delicious local food! To stay with locals always adds a very special flavor to our unique programs of letting us experience the local vibe and give us a better understanding of the local conditions.

     

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  • Little by Little

    October 13, 2014.  Kelly Conheeney posts her thoughts from our last program in Indonesia in rural Papua.  I am sleeping in a house right now in the middle of Maybrat, a remote jungle land overpopulated with stray dogs and banana trees. There is one road between here and the city of Sorong and we occupied all 240 km of it on our 4-hour drive in. I am convinced my life in Maybrat is the closest I will ever feel to being a celebrity. Kids scream “Bule” (“white person”) when we drive by and giggle when we say hi to them. After every practice session we exit the field in the bed of a pick up truck waving goodbye to the children that sat and watched our 3-hour practice session.

    I feel as though I’ve travelled back in time. Electricity turns on every night at 7 pm and shuts down at 4 am when the roosters and howling dogs start their early morning chatter. Cell phone service can be found at the top of the mountain if you have the patience and time to stand with your hand in the air and wait for a bar to show up on your phone.  What seemed at first like difficult living standards became quite comforting after long days on the field.

    Everyday is a new challenge. Both on field and off field In Maybrat I was taken out of my comfort zone.  Brian had me plan each session and run each game on my own all week which was new to me. A week that was extremely impactful and eye opening in my life and educational, at the least, for the coaches that attended.

    Papua has the highest rate of HIV of anywhere in Indonesia hence the reason we spent two full days focusing on the issue. Some people in Maybrat expressed the belief that HIV is brought into town by people who travel to and from the city of Sorong. It’s a valid thought but it seemed a lack of knowledge over the issue was the dominant reason many of the coaches placed all the blame on that one theory.

    On the 3rd day of training we played Adebayor HIV games with the coaches. Among these games we talk about the facts concerning the spread of HIV as well as the ways it is contracted, and the social stigma attached to the virus. When asked how HIV is contracted; an answer that may seem obvious to some, were not so obvious to the eleven 30+ year-old coaches staring back at me. Some of the answers we heard was why HIV education was a mandatory focus for the next two days for us; Answers that were all false and based more on myths than actual fact.

    It was a memorable moment for me when a little boy who was watching from the sideline jumped into our session, because the game calls for larger teams and our numbers were small. At first he was reluctant to join in on the conversation until he felt a brave voice inside of him tell him to use his words. His little voice very softly muttered under his breath. The coaches laughed and I wasn’t able to hear what he said until Jason translated his answer to me. He was right! The little 10 year old had said the answer I had been waiting for as to another reason how HIV can spread, “through your mom”. The other answers, including “Mosquitos, eating different types of food, sharing the same cup of water as someone else” are not ways one can contract HIV/AIDS. But rather through unsafe sex, sharing needles, and through childbirth/breastfeeding.

    I think the moment may have opened the coaches eyes more than it did mine.

    A 10 year-old knowing about HIV/AIDS isn’t uncommon to see around the world, but HIV education isn’t enforced until later in their lives. Some unfortunately never learn the facts. But it may have been a slight moment where the coaches realized the importance of sending the correct information to the kids so they are able to make educated decisions with their lives.

    The way I see it, Maybrat is an area of the world that needs time to grow. Little by little they will progress, and it will take time. It will take a foundation built upon strong leaders and a system like the hat-trick initiative for existing coaches to have a structure for their lives and be able to impact the lives of the future generation as well.

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  • Back in Beautiful Biak

    September 6, 2014.  Off the northern coast of Papua lies Biak Island, one of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands that make up the worlds largest Archipelago. This remote island exists today as it’s own natural paradise, untouched by traveling tourists and nearly free of western influence.  But the simplicity of the island is what makes it so unique; Papuans grow and catch their own food and rely on traditions and their own ideas to develop. The remoteness of the land and seclusion from outside sources makes it difficult for Biak to advance in many ways. One of the main problems Biak faces today is the high rate of HIV/AIDS. The regions of Papua and West Papua have two of the highest HIV prevelency rates in Indonesia and the reality is that if traditions stay the same and education about how to protect against HIV/AIDS is never implemented then these numbers will continue to grow.

    Social issues on the island, such as this one are why people like Harry are so important to the future of Biak. Harry founded Uni Papua, a sport for social development NGO, and has been working on Biak island for two years. He has high hopes for the future of Biak and Papua and is adamant about Uni Papua’s partnership with CAC, using football as a tool for social change. Last year Uni Papua existed in one location on Biak, but this year they have coaches in three different communities on the island.

    When Brian and I arrived on Saturday we spoke at Biak’s radio station which aired internationally throughout all of Indonesia and the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea. The People of Biak are very appreciative of our time and efforts in their communities. Over the course of the week the coaches learned football games to teach young kids about gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and and entire day was spent on HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to develop problem solvers, creative thinkers and  educated leaders who don’t need to rely on others to make decisions or solve their problems for them. Once the coaches can fully grasp the self-directed learning model of coaching, they are sure to make a difference in the lives of children in their communities. A couple of the coaches that participated in the first year program stood out among the rest which gives us some knowledge of how CAC has had an impact in Biak.

    The problem solving games were the most impactful over the 5-day coaching camp as the coaches found ways to strategize and problem solve on their own. After playing a game called Old Trafford tag, where players link together when tagged; they used an analogy about how their chain represented a fishing net to catch all the remaining players. It was neat to see them relate a real-world application to solve their problem.

    Personally it was another week full of surprises and sensory overload in the world of CAC. I think the only time I stopped grinning was when I found worms living in the basin of water I used to shower with everyday. From the tree house nestled deep in the jungle that I dreamt of living in as a kid, to laughing with the children we met at schools across the island every morning, I have fallen in love with the Papuan people and the beautifully exotic paradise island I called my home for seven days.

    Writing never does enough to encapsulate all that I experience with CAC, but with every village I enter, every school I visit, and every coach I work beside I am able to see the power football can have on a community. And even more so I am able to see the value of social impact through sport that CAC offers around the world.

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