• Oh Yes, We Made a Plan!

    November 14th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard Alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson blogs from Nagpur, India about our groundbreaking partnership with Slum Soccer

    I’ve been so lucky as a CAC Global Citizen in so many ways, including having the opportunity to work with longtime partner Slum Soccer here in Bokhara, Nagpur, India. As an outside observer, it struck me that the comfort, familiarity and understanding that CAC and SS have developed together over 8 years, as people and as organizations, created an environment of trust and openness that allowed for real progress to be made this week.

    A common phrase you’ll hear whenever a decision needs to be made is “We make a plan.” This applies to almost any decision that I saw made this week incl: when to leave for Shakti Girls (Girl Power) practice; where to go for delicious Southern Indian dosa and tea; who is going to drive/be a passenger on which motorcycle (all of which read below empty on fuel) and of course which direction to take and grow an organization. Often the decision can take some time; that’s what happens when you have a lot of bright people with different ideas, and/or a lot of bikes and passengers to organize.

    And many plans were made, executed and/or in progress. Highlights include:

    Serious strides in professional and organizational development for Slum Soccer using CAC’s process consultancy framework. It’s not often easy to take the “right” next steps to grow and mature as an organization; the insight and knowledge CAC leaders provided this regard was invaluable and those next steps put into place.

    Development by senior female staff of 3 brand new games for Slum Soccer’s female health & wellness initiative, focusing specifically on menstruation. It was amazing to see the girls open up, voice frustration with, and ask about the verity of, cultural traditions and listen to the SS senior staff support, educate and inform them. You know it’s working and trust exists when the day’s program is ended, and 15 girls are circled around still asking questions and getting answers.

    42 games played with 35 coach/mentor participants, including those designed to address HIV, LGBT, Child Rights and ASK for Choice (Female Empowerment.) It’s truly rewarding to see those girls too shy at the beginning of the week to say anything or even look up from the ground, raising their arms up and shouting “I am strong” or “I have a voice” by the end of the week. Yes change can happen in 5 days.

    An amazing street food tour (once we figured out who was actually on which bike) led by senior SS staff. That “We make a plan” took some time to make following an outing to the cinema featuring Thor, my first Hindi 3D movie, but was so worth it. Thank you Slum Soccer friends and family!

  • Creating Traditions of Woman-Power with Refugees in Jordan

    November 13th 2017. Global Citizen, Ian Phillips, joined us on-field to work with our new ASK for Choice partner, Reclaim Childhood, and their coaches from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and Egypt.

    It’s 5am in Amman, Jordan. The first few tentative rays of light are making their way through the night sky. The stillness in the air is broken by the Muslim call to prayer, and the sound echoes across the hilltops, down in to the valleys, and makes its way to my window. The chants are haunting, and beautiful, but did I mention that it’s 5am? The call to prayer rings out from mosque to mosque five times a day and, like the sound that echoes throughout the city, the influence of Islam is pervasive here. It can be heard, seen, and felt in the streets. While this influence manifests itself in many positive ways – such as the kindness, warmth, hospitality and generosity that I witnessed every day, it’s also fair to say that the traditional attitudes many people associate with this part of the world create significant challenges for the women and girls who live here.

    We’re here in Jordan to work with a local NGO called Reclaim Childhood, an organization that uses sport to empower and educate girls. Often, the practices and leagues set up by Reclaim Childhood represent the only opportunity these girls have to leave their house in order to play, exercise, express themselves, and learn important lessons in a safe space. Their all-female staff and coaches are courageous, intelligent, empathetic, compassionate – and inspirational. The highlight of the week was having the opportunity to visit the coaches in action – and seeing a field full of smiling, happy, vibrant young girls. This, more than anything, shows that the efforts of Reclaim Childhood’s brave coaches are worthwhile, and that their programs are having a positive impact.

    The week of training in Amman was an amazing experience. The CAC coaches and myself were able to work with a group of people who are passionate, thoughtful, and genuinely dedicated to creating positive change in their respective communities. I’m grateful for the chance to get On-Field with CAC, and to meet some of the local partners who make this work so worthwhile.

  • Beautiful On The Inside And Out

    November 6th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson writes about her first CAC experience with YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India.

    This is my first trip with Coaches Across Continents and the first week has already delivered as promised; thought provoking, inspiring, fulfilling, rewarding, fun, and full of firsts for me, the CAC team and the YFC Rurka Kalan partner participants. On the list of firsts, CAC & YFC announced a formal ASK for Choice partnership addressing gender equity, YFC hosted the first Workshop on Community Gender Policy in the community, and the coach mentors designed their own games to bring this policy to life. I also survived my first of many harrowing Indian driving escapades (apparently rules of the road and licenses are optional) realized for the first time just how important tea time is to all and also how the Punjabi are amazingly hospitable, generous, enjoyable and funny- talk about a quick wit.

    The YFC/CAC Workshop on Community Gender Policy was led by Judith Gates who did an amazing job addressing and engaging women and men from the local community. It was particularly inspiring to watch the YFC mentor coaches lead the breakout groups and encourage participants who would not normally speak out, to do so. An eye-opening first: one of the male attendees commented to CAC leader Charlie Crawford that he had never seen a female speak “like that” i.e. with a strong voice at a public gathering.

    On the field, we played 36 games over 5 days with a specific focus on the ASK for Choice curriculum that addresses gender equity and girls’ and womens’ rights. On a personal note, while this was something important to me from the get go, it became even more urgent as a goal based upon my first hand experience. Long story short: it’s not always awesome being a girl in India.

    Highlights on and off the field include:

    1. The success of the game Indonesia for Attitudes which addresses language and stereotypes. End result: girls voicing “I am strong!” and voicing “I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.
    2. In the words of one of the full time program coaches as we watched Scary Soccer, “All these coach mentors, and especially the girls, have become more expressive; compared to even the beginning of this week with CAC you can see they now want to take the lead and actively participate in the games and discussions. You can hear their voices right now.”
    3. The sense of community among the coach mentors and staff at YFC – including sing alongs after session, the dance off post awarding of certificates, selfies at tea time, and so, so many laughs.
    4. The post week visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh temple, with Charlie from CAC and Pradeep from Naz Foundation. A must see if you make it to the area; busy yet tranquil at the same time and amazingly beautiful at night all lit up.

    I look forward to following the progress and expansion of YFC Rurka Kalan in partnership with CAC and to all my new friends at YFC: stay strong and beautiful, on the inside and the outside!

    – Cheers, Action

  • New Eyes on Ireland

    October 25th 2017. Nora Dooley, CAC Gender Strategist, writes about the launch of our ASK for Choice partnership with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI).

    I first visited Ireland while studying abroad in Dublin during college. I lived there for 5 months, went to class, traveled and spent time with extended family members – a heritage that affords me the privilege of having dual citizenship. Returning to this country that so honors my existence as to dub me ‘citizen’, I welcome reflections on what that word – that claim – means.

    With CAC we have the unique opportunity to learn about communities through the eyes of people who live there – citizens. And in my experience our partners amplify the meaning of this legal or informal identifier. It is not enough for the CAC global community to simply live in a space, to exist, to benefit or endure. Citizens of CAC partner communities are people who engage, ask difficult questions, take personal and collective responsibility and hold themselves and each other accountable for the day-to-day, year-to-year realities – in all their beauty and complexity.

    Our new partnership in Dublin added layers to my understanding of Irish citizenship, just as my presence in Ireland as a CAC representative provoked fresh gratitude for the chance to hold this space. With SARI leaders we shared our ASK for Choice curriculum which stimulated conversations around existing inequalities and created opportunities to strategize on and off the pitch around solutions to translate ideas and policies into practice.

    The SARI team welcomed me into their community. They are Irish – and they are also Nigerian, Jordanian, Saudi Arabian, Zimbabwean, Kenyan, Indian, Congolese, Brazilian… and many more. They dwell in Dublin, they build inclusive spaces and they celebrate and thrive on diversity.

    This is not the Dublin I experienced as a naive US American stumbling around a country I thought I had a claim to. I am grateful for my second passport, and because of SARI I feel closer than ever to understanding and truly appreciating what it means to be Irish; and because of all CAC partners, closer to realizing the potential of citizenship anywhere (legal or not!).

  • 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.

  • ISF Coaches Take the Lead!

    August 30th, 2017. Michael Johnson Young Leader, Ryan, writes about experience working with Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) in Cambodia alongside Coaches Across Continents.

    I went to Cambodia with a very open mind and was excited to see how CAC used football as a tool for social impact. I really liked the self-directed learning model they had in place. I have always felt very passionate about sport and I know from personal experience how life-changing sport can be. I wanted to learn more about the social messages that football has taught in the Cambodian community. I realised that Cambodian people face a number of social issues and it really hit home how many messages through football help people facing these social challenges. Not only face these challenges, but allow the coaches that Coaches Across Continents has been training to take these games and teach them in their communities, making a real difference to so many lives.

    On the first day of training, all the coaches from ISF (Indochina Starfish Foundation) were very welcoming and friendly. We had some younger players from a local program that works with young people who have been affected by HIV. CAC coaches, Mark and Emily, ran games on the first day alongside Nara and Panya who are two experienced coaches that have taken part in the CAC programme for the last few years. It was great to see all the coaches having fun – their love and passion for football was evident. Mark and I visited a disability session at Rabbit School in the afternoon and the session was great as it was very inclusive, fun and the coaches had a great relationship with all the students varying in disability.

    On the Tuesday we returned to the training field where some of the experienced coaches who have been in the programme with CAC before, were asked if they would like to run a game. A few of them put their hand up, and ran games that they knew and had used in their community before. Many were CAC games but some were games they had created in their local community addressing social issues, inspired by the Coaches Across Continents Self-Directed Learning Model. In the afternoon we visited one of the ISF schools for kids whose parents are unable to provide their kids education. We met with some of the staff and students who were really friendly and we watched an afternoon football coaching session led by a some of the coaches from the CAC programme.

    Unfortunately Mark was unwell on Wednesday so the ISF coaches were asked to run more of the games. I also ran my own game too which was a trust exercise where we used blindfolds and I asked the coaches to guide one another through an obstacle course. In this I was also able to get the coaches to run as fast as they could with blindfolds on, which was fun for all. In the afternoon we visited another IFS school, which was much smaller than the school from the day before – but, all the teachers and students were very friendly and they welcomed us at the gate with hugs and lots of questions. They asked us our names, where we are from and whether we would play with them. It was really nice to hang out with the students, watch them play sports with one another and see them having lots of fun.

    After the training on the Wednesday, the ISF coaches were asked to plan and run the activities for the Thursday. As we left after the training the coaches were all in discussions, planning the next day. When we arrived at the training field on the Thursday, the ISF coaches were all ready to go and beginning to set up their activities. They ran a morning of some CAC games but what was most impressive was that they came up with their own games too that had social messages. The training ran smoothly and was really well organised. In the afternoon we visited a school where the ISF coaches worked and there were four football sessions happening with both boys and girls of different age groups. The sessions were fun and it was great to see so many talented footballers at the school.

    On Friday, it was CAC’s turn to run some games and a lot of the activities were game orientated so the coaches were very tired at the end. But, they had good fun and can now implement some of these games in their coaching programmes. I ran a game too which I really enjoyed called Child Rights: Right to Education game. I really appreciate the impact of the social messages that these games provide. After training we headed for some food on the roadside with some of the ISF coaches and kids from a community hub supporting youth who have been affected by HIV. We went to their community and the ISF coaches ran a great session with around 50 kids using some of the HIV social impact games. It was great to see the ISF coaches working with the kids and the amazing laughter and excitement the kids had playing these games.

    It has been a great first week on field in Cambodia, it has been great meeting with all the coaches and seeing their coaching styles, and learning new coaching ideas from them. Seeing the close relationships with the kids they coach was the biggest take away for me. I am looking forward to seeing the ISF coaches coach more next week and personally learn more of the games CAC uses to help social change.