• Safe Space

    August 6th, 2018. Community Impact Coach, Jaffar al Shishani, writes about his experience working with Coaches Across Continents in Armenia and Lebanon with GOALS Armenia and ANERA.

    Getting out of your comfort zone is not as easy as I thought it would be. After the last two weeks in Armenia and Lebanon with CAC this was the first thought that crossed my mind.

    Coaches Across Continents made it possible for me to explore new opportunities and deal with different cultures by applying a method based on creating a safe space where coaches and participants can be free to try, apply and exchange ideas. This safe space allows both sides to grow together and gain experience.

    Being used to working in Fencing,  an individual competitive sport, the experience with CAC was a very important chance for me to concentrate on different goals, and especially to reconsider the social impact and the power that sport can have to change society.

    One focus of our work in particular was on women rights and the use of sport to empower women.  Learning and applying CAC methodology also increased my own awareness of the constant violation of women rights in society, and gave me a different perspective on the subject. This kind of awareness will be very valuable and helpful in my development as a coach and I will try my best to use it to work for a change in my own country of Jordan. The desire to create a more equal society in my environment was a strong motivation to take part to this program in the first place, and CAC provided the safe space that I needed to develop ideas and strategies to work in this direction.

  • FINDING YOUR VOICE

    July 19, 2018. Coaches Across Continents Global Citizen, Rosa Morales, writes about her experience working on field with GOALS Armenia in Martuni and Gyumri, Armenia for the third year of the ASK for Choice partnership. 

    “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard … we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”  – Malala Yousafzai

    There are many individuals who have the luxury of being born into a privileged family, where they have little to no concern in regards to the realities those in developing countries face. However, although those in westernized countries do not face the hardships that are faced elsewhere, they are still battling for similar rights. Being a woman, no matter the location, is a constant battle and through my experience with Coaches Across Continents (CAC) as a Global Citizen, I have become increasingly aware that we must raise awareness and encourage the younger generations to fight for their rights through a voice that has been suppressed for centuries.

    In Armenia, women have been suppressing their voices due to a culture that emphasizes the man’s power. Here, women are seen as weaker than their male counterpart, diminishing the power of their voice based on the outdated concept of their place being at home, in a kitchen. However, women and organizations throughout the country have taken a stand against this. One nonprofit organization, GOALS Armenia, has taken a stand.

    GOALS, Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer, an organization that “empowers youth to become leaders through the creation of safe spaces, speak their mind, and challenge social norms,” has primarily been focusing their largest impact on young girls. By targeting a younger audience, they provide the means to make an impact on social issues sooner than later – hoping to raise enough awareness for a more equal life for proceeding generations.

    The participants that CAC worked with in Gyumri, Armenia struck me the hardest. The majority of these participants were women, attempting to make a difference in their communities. They were included in trainings and discussions that focused on methods to gain confidence in oneself, raise awareness on the many complex manifestations of discrimination in their country, and matters to make a positive, lasting social impact. Here, they were granted a voice that would usually be suppressed, allowing them to express the things that make them uncomfortable.

    Topics ranged from gender inequality, inclusion, racism, sexism, religious views, and homophobia – each resulting in the group agreeing that educating and raising awareness within their communities will have the largest impact in regards to changing to a more progressive viewpoint.

    As Malala stated in the quote above, we must raise our voice, not only for us, but also for those whom are denied a voice. By utilizing our voice to spread awareness on the inequalities and injustices that occur throughout the world, we raise awareness to allow for progression towards a more equal world. We must help each other to accomplish our goals, to progress as a human race. Thus, we must be compassionate and empathetic; we must remove ourselves from our comfortable, privileged homes and expose ourselves to the uncomfortable situations that millions of people experience daily.

    While we are growing up, our parents tell us to “change the world,” to “make a difference,” but instead, we have been so focused on our personal growth that we forget that without others, we are alone. If we wish to strive for a world of opportunity, we must think about those who receive so little. We cannot change the world and make it a better place if we are working on doing so by ourselves – what would take us centuries to complete as individuals would take us far less time if we worked together.

    As an individual in a more progressive society, we must forego our selfish nature and begin to focus on the “WE,” instead of the “I.” We can no longer ignore those who are crying for help from all around the world, but instead we shall join forces. Together, we can give a voice to those who have been voiceless, give strength to those who have been denied of their abilities, and allow their stories to be heard by those who have ignored them for so long.

  • Cultural Differences, Cultural Development

    April 18th, 2018. Community Impact Coach, Lorik from GOALS Armenia, writes and reflects on her experience working with ANERA in Lebanon. 

    As a Community Impact Coach, I joined Jordan from CAC in Lebanon. On the third week of training, we moved from the seashore to the mountainous region of Zahle. The taxi driver who took us to the region was very kind and stopped every now and then to allow us to take some photos of the beautiful view. Later on, we arrived in Zahle; we were staying in the area of Maronite Christians, which was surrounded by statues of St. Charbel and Maryam. We descended towards the lower part of the mountain to Saadnayel, which is the beginning of the Muslim region – and where we were holding our training.

    The participants of the training were of different nationalities, including Palestinians and Syrians. They had different backgrounds, cultures, religions and beliefs. Seeing past each others differences is one of the most important factors in life skills through sport for social impact games. There were challenges in implementing the games because of cultural difference and the interaction of both genders; the problem was solved by using alternative methods – ex. tagging or holding hands through use of the bibs.

    During the first day, men were playing very rigorously during the games, which made women want to sit at the back and not show any willingness to participate. By bringing this issue up during discussions and asking for solutions, they agreed on equal participation. During one of the coach back sessions, the participants had set a rule where only the women could score a goal. This demonstrated good progression of the group.

    One of the participants who motivated me was a lady called Mirna, who was born with a disability because of the relative marriage of her parents. She is a Ph.D. student who is studying NLP. She is Palestinian and living as part of a minority group in Lebanon. Observing different kinds of discrimination, she spent most of her childhood in hospitals and at home. She overcame her isolation with the help of her psychologist by setting life goals. She is a life skills instructor, a psychologist, and a role model for many of her students.

    Obtaining experience in coaching different groups of cultures and religions allowed me to better understand their mentality, and it facilitated the sharing of ideas and knowledge. It was inspiring to see and meet different people who thrive to provide equal opportunity for their students and provide a safe space for them to express their opinions.

  • Tbilisi – City of Culture, Poets and Passionate Coaches

    September 18th 2017. CAC Community Impact Coach Lorik Hartoun, from our partners GOALS Armenia, discusses her experiences during our work with Georgia Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs in Tbilisi. We want to thank the Games 4 Good Foundation for supporting Lorik’s trip to Georgia. 

    Almost every Armenian poet, author and intellectual has studied and been educated in Tbilisi in the 19th century and earlier. I have always wanted to visit this city and feel the culture and passion hidden within. I was lucky enough to be able to travel with Coaches Across Continents as a Community Impact Coach (CIC).

    As we were on our journey from Yerevan-Armenia to Tbilisi-Georgia, I had my list of places to visit and some information about the people and country. We entered the city and drove through the city center Avlabari, which is home to an Armenian community. We passed through cobbled streets and saw churches with different architectural styles. We also passed by Rustaveli street which was my favorite, because of its mixture of old stoned and column buildings and modern glass towers. Finally we reached our hotel.

    Our program was held and organized by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia. Almost 80 coaches representing 23 different disciplines registered for the program. It was very interesting to get to know people who are very similar to my ethnicity. Everything except the language was common and similar to Armenians. Even their comments, jokes, their love towards poets, culture and patriotism were similar.

    During the week-long seminar, I learned about the rules of different sports and exercises such as American Football, Frisbee, Baseball, Kudo, Judo and more. It was very inspiring to get to know female judo and other martial arts coaches. During the program we had a discussion about gender equality and their opinions towards it. It was a challenging topic and it was mostly the women who were aware of the positive consequences of implementing gender equality. I also learned that in Georgian the word for ‘mother’ is ‘Deda’, which means mother of Earth. The word for ‘father’ is ‘Mama’. It was very interesting to me that in Georgian the symbol of earth and empowerment is associated with the mother of the family.

    On the last day of the seminar we closed the program with a discussion about children’s rights and the characteristics of a good coach. I received positive feedback from the participants and they showed their willingness to attend the CAC seminar next year. I gained invaluable experience as a CIC during this program; I met coaches and made new friends and partners who would like to organize programs focusing on Female Empowerment. I want to thank CAC for giving me this opportunity.

    On the last night I had some very tasty Georgian wine, combined with lots of toasts and celebrations towards the connection of sport and peace. I want to make a toast towards this program of CAC and its growth and I hope it continues its efforts around the world. Puchka Puchka (Cheers in Georgian)!

  • Pathways to Female Empowerment

    September 13th 2017. CAC Community Impact Coach Lorik Hartun wrote about her experience with CAC and our partners GOALS Armenia in Dilijan. We want to sincerely thank the Games 4 Good Foundation for their support of this partnership in 2017. 

    Exactly the same day last year I was just an inspired participant of the CAC’s ‘ASK for Choice’ program in Yerevan, Armenia. While I was getting to know the CAC team and playing games, I was thinking that I have always tried to raise awareness about social issues. But, I had never thought about combining sports and social awareness. That was the time when a spark occurred in my mind and I approached Nora (the head coach), saying I will definitely continue implementing your games.

    I got to know about GOALS (Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer) during the same program and I offered my help and cooperate with them. After a while their team approached me and offered me to work with them as the director of programming and training. I accepted their offer and along with several educators and trainers from all over Armenia, we passionately continued to implement CAC games, which incorporate themes that need to be discussed, such as: gender equality, women’s rights, discrimination, stereotypes etc. After a few months of being involved in programming and monitoring the NGO’s programs, I was given the chance of being GOALS’ Executive Director. Now being GOALS’ CEO, as well as a partner of CAC, we have been able to organize several successful events with the idea of raising awareness of social issues our communities face. For example, this year we organized a CAC training in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, as well as at one of the greenest cities of Armenia; Dilijan.

    Markus and Jamie from Coaches Across Continents were leading the programs in Armenia and I was excited to join them as a Community Impact Coach (CIC) in Dilijan.

    On the first day of our training, as Markus, Jamie and I were walking along the beautiful green field of UWC, where our training would be held; I was looking at the faces of the participants and I could already predict their questions of what exactly we are going to do and how sport and social issues could be involved. Training started. On the first day some of them, especially the adults, didn’t feel comfortable doing more active games such as dancing mingle mingle and doing crazy things in the circle of friends. But on the last day almost everyone was doing fun activities. The point being that: as we grow up we think we shouldn’t be free and have fun like children, but fun and freedom shouldn’t have any age limitations.

    The most challenging part for us during the training was bringing up discussions about women’s rights and equality in Armenia. Most of them were denying the existence of gender inequalities. People were also applying their generic ideas of their community to the rest of the country. We gave them some hints and a place for them to think and study more about those topics.

    I am very happy that 8 participants from the program joined the GOALS ‘after school’ program where they chose one of my designed modules, which focused on: discrimination and equality, leadership and problem solving, and lastly environment and healthy lifestyle. The coaches will implement the games once per week adapting them for their individual needs as they represent different disciplines such as, basketball, track and field, wrestling, boxing etc. I feel confident that through the program the coaches are now well-equipped to apply the games and activities with their students and players. And I am already looking forward to next year’s program where we want to welcome many returners so they can continue on their journey of becoming Self-Directed Learners.

    It is very fun working with “nature-boy” Markus as he gets called by Jamie, the Scotsman on our team. I am already looking forward to working with them in Tbilisi, Georgia.

  • Games 4 Good and GOALS Armenia

    August 29th, 2017. Jamie Tomkinson writes about his experience working On-Field during a Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice program with partners G.O.A.L.S. Armenia. Jamie was a 2016 Michael Johnson Young Leader, with experience working with CAC. We would like to extend a very sincere thank you to the Games 4 Good Foundation who sponsored this program. 

    The closest I thought I’d ever get to Armenia was watching Mkhitaryan playing for Man United on the television. However these last two weeks I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Coaches Across Continents program working with GOALS Armenia.

    During our week in Yerevan we were training up community leaders, coaches and teachers about using Sport for Social Impact in efforts to help improve the lives of others in their community. This was an ASK for Choice program which specifically focuses on using games from the ASK curriculum around Women’s Rights, choices and Female Empowerment.

    One of the highlights of the week has been working with Markus, a guy who speaks English as his 3rd language, and everyone being able to understand him better than my Scottish accent! It’s a tough week ahead when even the translator can’t understand you.

    With the help of Lorik from GOALS, we were able to work with the group to a point where they understood the games, could deliver them to local children and take part in meaningful, engaging discussion around Armenia and the challenges that women face. These challenges include being under represented in parliament to the morality of a woman driving a taxi! Why is this such an issue in Armenia? Through conversations following the Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice games, one of the participants felt inspired to create a booklet teaching women in Armenia (and encouraging them, should they wish to) how to become taxi drivers. This to me is a meaningful impact and sustainable impact from the week. Because of the Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice program, these women are taking action towards change.

    Looking forward to working with GOALS in the mountainous village of Dilijan next week.

    Learn more about on-going work and the history of Games 4 Good Foundation partnership with CAC in 2015 in Cameroon and 2016 in South Africa.