• I Will Be Strong!

    July 28, 2018.  Board member Dr. Judith Gates is with our team, back in Kigoma, Tanzania where we held our first-ever program ten years ago. #CAC10.  #WhatsYourLegacy?

    “I Will Be Strong!”

    These were the final words I heard amidst all of the goodbyes, exchange of email addresses and chatter about selfie photo ops that invariably mark the end of a Coaches Across Continents programme. Teachers and coaches were jostling with each other and sharing plans as to how they were going to put all they had learned that week into practice. The group of students, identifiable by their green uniforms, were talking enthusiastically about new insights gained.

    She came up to me. Tall and athletically built, she unexpectedly hugged me, kissed my cheek and said, “Thank you. I will be strong!”

    My spirits soared. I understood what she was saying. I knew what she meant.

    This week’s programme was to mark the 10th anniversary of Coaches Across Continents. Ten years ago the very first CAC programme was held in Kigoma, Tanzania. CAC had returned to mark this important anniversary. It all began here. From one programme in one country in 2008, CAC is now working in over 50 countries around the world.

    All week, with Nick working alongside Nico as leader, the group had focussed on the challenging issue of Child Rights and Child Protection. Curriculum activities had included games in which participants had identified sources of potential harm, recognised the varying forms of abuse, identified who could be of help and which places could be considered safe. They had explored attitudes and expectations relevant to their local community. Teachers and students had shared ideas together during the games, but also worked separately to discuss factors which were specifically relevant to their age group or profession. They had then talked with each and demonstrated their capacity for understanding differing points of view.

    I had led a discussion on abuse. I asked which form of abuse, physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, was most prevalent in their community. Hesitation was minimal. The vast majority of both teachers and students cited sexual abuse. Teenage pregnancies were high. Girls were forced to marry at an early age. Hunger and poverty led to girls being sold, or selling themselves, sometimes for only a bag of rice. The boundary between Child Rights and Women’s Rights blurred as they explored the reality of life for young girls in their community.

    I asked teachers and students, each in their separate group, to think about what could be done, how things could improve. Acknowledging the problem openly was seen as key. The students suggested media reporting, government intervention. Their message was clear. We deserve support and help. Children should not have to experience these things. Teachers suggested education and parental involvement. Both groups wanted answers and action. The aspiration of the girl students was to complete their education and find a job, so that their subsequent life decisions were made from a position of relative strength.

    The final words I shared with them were about personal responsibility. We can turn to others to make the changes we want, but we each have the capacity to influence in some way the context in which we live. I asked them to be strong. I asked them to contribute to the changes they hoped for.

    I told them they each could be part of the solution, they each could contribute to making Kigoma an even better community.

    And she had heard me. Her final words were of latent power, of commitment, of hope. “I will be strong!” That is the message CAC endeavours to leave behind, hoping that it will take root and contribute to locally desired community changes around the world. Another first for Kigoma!

    ~ Dr. Judith Gates

  • FIRST BLOG OF 2018: CONAN IN HAITI

    February 3rd, 2018. First-Time  on-field as new CAC staff, Pedro, writes about his experience working with GOALS Haiti during the ASK for Choice program in Leogane. 

     Before starting my first trip as staff member of CAC i didn’t know anything about my destination: Haiti. It’s hard to hear from Haiti being in Spain -after visit MUPANAH one can imagine the reason-so i didn’t know what I was going to find.

    After a quick pass through Port au Prince we arrived in Leogane for work during the week with our partner in the city, GOALS Haiti.

    Once in Haiti, and Leogane in particular, this place stopped being a stranger to me. I learned, in only five days and a half, about the importance of this city in the history of the country.

    Some examples, it was in Leogane where the taino queen Anacaona raised up against the abuses of the Spanish invaders. Since then she represents the courage of the Haitian woman and her story has been immortalized in books, songs and is represented in a large statue that presides over the main square of Leogane.

    Leogane is one of the sport’s capitols in the country. It is home to five major league sports teams -remember that it’s a city with 90.000 population-. And it’s also important because music festivals and vodou religion too (did you know vodou is a religion? I didn’t either!).

    At the same time, I had the opportunity to visit the communities where GOALS Haiti is working. It was really impressive to see the large number of children participating in the sessions and how the community respected these moments. I have seen different trainings like this in many other countries and believe me, it’s not easy to get this picture.

    Why am I telling all this? Because as the TV show “Conan in Haiti” -he’s in the country on the same days that we are – we want people to know that Haiti of course it’s not always the country it is portrayed to be – and you will know from the first moment you set foot there.

  • It’s Colombia not Columbia

    December 15th, 2017. Nora Dooley writes about delivering ASK for Choice programs in Colombia with Community Partner Inder Alcaldía de Medellín, alongside Corporate Partners Nike, Postobón, GIZ, and Groupo Internacional de Paz, to close out a strong year working across the country for the rights of women and girls.

    I treasure this moment of reflection. Four years after beginning my work with Coaches Across Continents, five years after graduating from Columbia University, I have spent more time in one country than any other: Colombia.

    Working with CAC as a facilitator necessitates humility and a unique acceptance of the unknown. With our intention to challenge international NGO culture that designs development programs based on foreign knowledge of best practices (which can also be called white supremacy/ neo-colonialism), we must enter each community assuming and imposing nothing. Our job is to provide some structure through fun, play-based activities that stimulate group discussion, self-directed learning and collective problem-solving, and to support our partners as they create legacies for the social changes they want to see.

    As little as I claim to know about this world, I can share some experiences – many of which I have enjoyed in Colombia with a faction of the large government organization, Inder Medellín.

    Colombia is complicated. And even knowing more people and more facts about this country than most others, my U.S.-raised brain cannot imagine the depths of this complexity. I feel so fortunate, therefore, to have various and continuous opportunities to share time and space with Colombians invested in their community’s future.

    Our work in Colombia throughout 2017 was bolstered by the social responsibility efforts of Nike and Postobón. This programming, centered on our ASK for Choice program which uses play to develop Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge to inform choices for women, men, and communities, caught some welcome attention. We spent a week north of Bogotá sharing with the GIZ sponsored program in collaboration with CAC partner, Grupo Internacional de Paz, and then returned to Medellín to learn more alongside humans I am lucky to call friends at Inder.

    During this training with representatives from Inder’s ‘Deporte, Convivencia y Paz’ and ‘Cultura D’ teams, we focused on gender, problem-solving, game adaptation and creation, challenging and transforming the cultures we want to change, and the vast possibilities available inside the lines of the sports field to address all that lives beyond it.

    I feel so grateful for CAC’s strong partnership with Inder, for my Paisa family, and for the experience (and wisdom?) to know – at least in my life – that it most definitely is Colombia, not Columbia.

     

  • 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