Mind Your Mind
Our latest on-field programme is with the incredible Sports With a Mission (SWAM) India team, who have been using Purposeful Play in Bangalore to raise awareness of Mental Health. Delivered by Superstar CIC Benny and his wife Nandini, Team SWAM continue to show the power of Education Outside the Classroom…
Sports With A Mission (SWAM) is a non-profit organization based in Bangalore, India. We teach life skills through sports for vulnerable population. SWAM teaches education outside the classroom through purposeful play and we encourage self-directed learning, through which we address the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals #3, 4 and 5, which focus on General Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education and Gender Equality.
In partnership with CAC, we decided to deliver a program to 15 participants, so we could comply with local government restrictions. The only thing that was on our mind is which group to reach out to for the program because our regular football club players had exams. We contacted young man named Vimal who has a dance studio, as he had reached out to us earlier to conduct some workshops for his students. He was very eager and excited and immediately put together a group of 14 members.
The preparations for the event began by clearing out the ground and trying to make it as even as possible to avoid injuries. The next thing was to see if we had all the resources for the event. We went shopping for refreshments, balls, bibs and markers. We created posters and banners for the program and got our first standee made to showcase what work we do. We did a little research about getting in mobile toilets but they were too expensive and there was a lack of water at the venue. The day before the event we took all our material right from tables, chairs, first aid kits, water cans and drinking water in our small car. We were shocked to see the number of things that fit into it.
Finally, the day to begin the event, it rained the previous day and the whole ground was slushy. There was a lot of anxiety because we were unsure of the participants showing up. When we saw them enter it was clear to us that most often we live with assumptions the reality is very different. The participants came with an empty mind because they did not know what our sessions would be like and were surprised at the end of the first session as to how games can make us understand so many issues that are otherwise swept under the carpet. The participants enjoyed the Playing with Distance games, a serious discussion happened after the Balancing Emotions because most of them would not express other emotions apart from happiness due to shame, fear of judgment and labeling, fear of losing a friend, discomfort within the group. After the program they realized the importance of expression and communication, most of them are ready to make a change and will try to implement what they have learnt in the program. The group is interested in continuing their relationship with SWAM with more such workshops every quarter.
The Power of Acronyms
May 16th, 2018. Coaches Across Continents Facilitator, Ashlyn Hardie, puts together a blog reflecting the incredible leadership and success of Community Impact Coach (CIC), Benny Marquis, and past Michael Johnson Young Leader, Jamie Tomkinson who recently lead a Coaches Across Continents training in Bangalore, India with CAC partner Parikrma Humanity Foundation.
Stories like these are amazing. They are amazing because everything that Coaches Across Continents strives for is positive social change in the world – and not just for a moment, for a minute, for a year – but forever. Sustainable, positive change is why we do everything that we do here at CAC.
So, why is this program so special? Why is this blog titled “The Power of Acronyms”? Let me explain….
FIRST – Jamie Tomkinson was nominated by Coaches Across Continents to be a Michael Johnson Young Leader a couple years ago, and was selected! MJYL, our first acronym for this blog, is one of the most prestigious leadership training courses, and life-changing opportunities for young people all around the world. Jamie, once finishing the MJYL training, has continued to work with Coaches Across Continents (CAC – this one you should know) on multiple on-field programs over the past two years.
NOW – Benny Marquis has been a CAC program participant in the past, but was just recently promoted to being a CAC Community Impact Coach! The CIC Initiative is designed by CAC to take stand out participants from our programs and further develop them with the Online Education Program (OEP) and On-Field professional development opportunities!
AMAZING – So, back to sustainability. A couple of years ago CAC, nominated a kid to give him a chance for the MJYL program, and he thrived! He continued to travel, coach, and learn and has recently ran his own program, independently representing CAC with partner Parikrma, in Bangalore, India. Assisting him with this training is CIC, Benny, who is now able to apply all of his learnings from the OEP program on the ground. Not only this, but Jamie has connected CAC Partner Parikrma with his old sporting club, Spartans Academy, and they will be hosting a Girls Football Festival at the end of the month – so the good work keeps on going!
Change is possible, and sustainable. People can make a difference, and their impact can grow. This story started with a teenage boy with a good heart, and now he is training community leaders around the world for the planets largest international sport for development non-profit. This is what Coaches Across Continents is all about … ACRONYMS …. and sustainable development at its finest.
Notes from Benny on the week:
“I learned a lot of leadership skills thanks to CAC and Jamie. I also learned how to modify the session in case of a larger group of students, and also how to use available resources – even if it is just a stone lying around – to conduct the session. Tough this was explained during the OEP in theory, I got my first hand experience at it this time on-field. I also got to learn more about two hour sessions, the number of games that can be included, and the kind of sport for education discussions that can be had.”
Parikrma in Tiento
Parikrma Humanity Foundation is a non-profit organization located in Bangalore, India. Parikrma addresses the growing gap in urban India between those benefitting from economic liberalization and those who are not, in which consequently only a minority of children in India can afford access to private schools where the content of education is of high quality and in the English medium. Children from slum and rural communities attend schools in the free government-run mass schooling system, where they only teach in the state language, which often proves insufficient in attaining job opportunities in a rapidly globalizing world.
Parikrma believes that even the poorest children from the slums of urban India should be able to access the best opportunities in our globalized society and play a positive role in its evolution.
The name Parikrma comes from a combination of two Sanskrit words, “pari” meaning circle, and “krma” meaning to complete. Parikrma strives to complete “The Circle of Life” by supporting children from kindergarten until they procure a job, thus ensuring that their students break out of the cycle of poverty.
The CAC training for Parikrma was held at Tiento Sports football Arena, from the 27th of November, 2017 to the 1st of December, 2017, where around 45-50 participants from Parikrma attended. 20 were girls.
As a CIC I would really like to thank Charlie for giving me the best training, which has changed my coaching type completely to be much more vibrant and active for delivering the sessions with more fun and laughter with the trainees on feild.
Thanks to the other two CIC’s Jaspreet and Benny who were very supportive during the training.
Soccer As A Vehicle For Learning
November 22nd 2016. Discussing our first ever program with the Parikrma Foundation in Bangalore, India.
This is my second week with Coaches Across Continents and we were in Bangalore, Karnataka, India with the Parikrma Foundation. It is an awesome foundation that takes marginalized children and puts them in a school in order to give them more opportunities when they get older. They have four different schools. Their program runs from kindergarten to twelfth grade and is much more than just schooling. They feed the children breakfast, lunch, and a protein shake and they have an awesome physical education program at all four of the schools. Then after school they have great sports programs for football, taekwondo, and athletics. Both in the classroom and out of the classroom they teach the children about the social issues they face and how to overcome them through Self-Directed Learning. The Parikrma Foundation gives these marginalized children a platform to fully express themselves both in the classroom and out of the classroom.
We started the week off with Mark, Brian, and I. When we got to the volunteer house that we were staying at on Saturday, 12 November, we met up with Jamie Tomkinson, a talented coach based in Scotland from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Program. Monday and Tuesday a Community Impact Coach named Tejas from his own organization, Sparky Football, came to the training session to add a local presence to our staff. Then Wednesday night Fatma Ahmed came who is based in Tanzania and is also from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Programme. She was a woman of few words during the camp but conveyed some of the most impactful messages during the week. Finally, Nora from CAC joined us on Wednesday night and added another female presence amongst an entirely male dominated camp. It was a very diverse group from different cultures and different backgrounds that came together to make an awesome staff for the week with the Parikrma Foundation. It was also very nice to spend some time and learn from Brian who is a very seasoned teacher/coach and is also a Boston College Soccer Alumni like myself. It was a tremendous group to be apart of where I learned something from each person.
This week I did a little bit more coaching than the past week in Rurka Kalan. It was easier to coach with the CAC staff giving me feedback and especially with the coaches from Parikrma that we coached being so in tune with the curriculum we wanted to teach. The Parikrma Foundation teaches a curriculum that is very similar to ours, which is Self-Directed Learning inside and outside the classroom. The only reason I saw that Parikrma needed our help was with their coaches implementing the Self-Directed Learning of social issues on the field. That was so easy though because they already understood the social issues but just needed our assistance in showing how to apply the social issues through sport. It also helped that they were talented soccer players themselves so it made the training sessions run very smoothly. Overall, it was a very good week because we were able to get Parikrma to understand the CAC curriculum and I was able to further better my coaching through the feedback I got from the players, the Michael Johnson Young Leaders, and CAC staff.
During the week there was an exact moment where the participants realized that they could use the curriculum not only to raise awareness about social issues to their kids but to also produce a good football training session. It was on Wednesday during the Child Rights game. It is a keep away game with two teams but there is a box in each corner of the grid that you play the game in. Each corner represents any different right that children should have. Examples are right to education, right to healthcare, right to security, right to health and wellness, and many more. When your team passes to a recipient in one of the boxes they must yell a right that children should have. When you enter each square your team gets a point. When we played the game it started very slow. When we made the soccer points of spreading out, using the whole field, and switching the point of attack quickly, that is when the game started to flow and the ball was zipping around. Now each team was hitting each square a couple of times and yelling a right that children should have. They were having fun and when we brought them in to talk about the social learning you could see that they now understood the CAC curriculum. They were answering the Self-Directed Learning questions about child rights with ease and understood what they needed to do to convey this to their own children. We know that this is the moment they got the message because when we had a participant coach it back to us they hit each and every point they needed to while having the game flow. They now understood that soccer is just the vehicle in which to make their own players understand the social issues that surround them in their communities.
Eagerness, Excitement, Encouragement
CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch talks about his time with Magic Bus in Hyderabad, India.
November 18th 2015. Can you impact a group that you work with for 2 and a half days? That was the question I asked myself when I was approaching Hyderabad for my 2nd program with Magic Bus in India. Tejas (one of our Community Impact Coaches in India) and I arrived together with the participants at the A.P. Forest Academy in Hyderabad on late Saturday morning. This campus would be our home for the next 2.5 days. Due to the Diwali festival the program was scheduled over the weekend and would end on Monday afternoon.
After everybody’s arrival we ate lunch together and I had to realize that the food in Hyderabad was even spicier than in Bangalore. I had to use quite a bit of the yogurt sauce that was provided to soften the taste. After Tejas, who lives in Bangalore, said that the food is spicy for him as well, I was re-assured that everything is fine with my taste buds.
After the heat left my mouth again we met for our first session in the classroom. As part of the introduction we asked the participants about their expectations for the course. As they mentioned their priorities I was putting together in my head the curriculum for the next two days. They asked for a game about nutrition? OK, we can play Balotelli for Health & Wellness. They want to get taught different warm-ups? No problem, I can show them many different variations of Circle of Friends. They want to learn goalkeeping skills? Great, I have planned to play Hope Solo Skills for Life anyway. They want to play Fun games? Sure, during Head Catch we will have a lot of laugher. They would like to learn how to easily introduce to topic of sexual and reproductive health to their children and youth? I think our ASK for Choice game ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ works perfectly for that. And I was excited, because the participants seemed very eager to learn many new things.
Hyderabad is a hot place during the day so we had to hold back with our excitement and only went on the pitch later in the afternoon for our first On-Field session. ‘Circle of Friends’ already caused a lot of laugher and Mingle Mingle kept the energy high. On the 2nd day we then also got to the topic of sexual and reproductive health. I was not surprised by this request, because I knew that India is a country where people have difficulty talking about any topic that is related to our bodies, sexuality and relationships. Again I was impressed by the eagerness of these participants to change that, because they have realized that keeping these topics under wraps impacts the high number of teenage pregnancies and abortions, forced marriages, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ is a game where two teams are standing in a line and the first two people are facing each other. There is some space between the two players and to their left and right are two gates. One of them represents healthy/positive behaviors and the other unhealthy/negative behaviors. Now the coach yells out different choices a person can make and the respective person in the front has to quickly decide if it is healthy or unhealthy. I started with “Eat vegetables”, “Smoking”, “Drink Water”, “Eat a lot of chocolate” and then moved on to statements like “Have knowledge about your body”, “Use a condom”, “Talk about sex”, “Have a boyfriend/girlfriend” and many more. It was a lot of fun and competition and some of the statements caused an argument as they were not clearly positive or negative. The participants were very grateful for this game as it gives the children the opportunity to make a statement without having to raise their voice and the coach can get a very good idea of what his/her players think about sexual education. They were eager to use it as an introduction before they would even talk with their youth about sexuality.
At the closing ceremony we got to see a visual treat as Tejas, who is a freestyle footballer, gave us a short performance of his skills. It was exciting to see what can be achieved through fun and hard work and what can be done with a ball when it is in the possession of an artist. And as we were driving back from the camp to the city of Hyderabad I realized that even a short training of only 2 and a half days has impact if it is paired with eagerness, excitement and encouragement.
How My Lonely Shadow Became My Little Limelight
November 13th 2015. I was sobering up from my solo trip to the Himalayas with 3 footballs and 300+ chocolates for the mountain kids – a trip which redefined my spirituality and perspective on life. On my way back, the purpose of my trip became clear: “everything we can imagine already exists. What more is there to life than making each other happy? And happiness begins with being content with the life that we are given”.
On November 2nd, I was part of Coaches Across Continents . I was part of something greater than myself. As I hopped on my bike with sheer excitement towards the training camp, I encountered a 10 year old kid who was late to his school and trying to hitchhike. I considered it as sign for me to understand my blessings and share my luxury by dropping him to his school which was somewhere in the woods. After dropping off the child, I thought about the conditions of India today, where there are several problems but people are trying to develop different solutions for them. The school kid had one for his!
At the Nirjhari camp, I was happy to see the participants from last year (during which I was one of them) but this year I was a coach. This amazing transition from being a participant to becoming a Community Impact Coach (CIC) drifted my thoughts back to the times where I faced rejection and discrimination for local football coaching jobs, because they all saw me as a college failure. Today this failure of mine is the fuel of my success! As I thanked my universe, I met Markus at the camp. He bailed me out of these intense thoughts and emotions of mine, by presenting me with a CAC t-shirt – an unforgettable moment where all my hard work paid off. All my lonely shadow became my little limelight.
As the session started, Markus addressed the 34 Magic Bus participants with his sharp and amusing introduction. During the session, I had the privilege of translating his English into 3 of our local languages- Kannada, Tamil and Hindi. I was happy to pay tribute to my school education this way. At one point, he correlated “Football for Profession” with “Football for Life” which made me understand that life is not about surviving but life is about living. Next day, I chose this note as a theme for my presentation on a literature examination addressing my college mates, which fetched me an ‘A’ grade. I was pleased to revive Buddha’s wisdom, “A master should create a master” by sharing what Markus taught me earlier.
Back at training, I watched and coached participants who were jumping, dancing and rolling on the floor with such sincere laughter while we all played Mingle Mingle, Circle of Friends with Boom-Shakalaka, Messi for Conflict Resolution, Hope Solo Skills for Life etc. It was inspiring for me to watch the participants, who were 2 times my age, give 100% to the game and create such enormous positivity in the environment, which celebrated all the goodness in the world. This sense of belonging validated my life – I was privileged to be a part of something amazing yet again.
As Markus piloted this roller-coaster ride of fun, he played a new game called “Brazil for Attitudes”. While the game was played, I was baffled and sad, to watch the stereotype actions of participants, when he called out actions such as “Punch like a boy, punch like a girl; shout like a boy, shout like a girl!”.
At the end of the game, I watched Markus handling this critical situation with such subtle brilliance, by analyzing and making participants recognize their notions on the differences between men and women. The group split for a water break after this. Although the discussion reflected a positive attitude towards both men and women, I thought to myself, that the world would have been a better place if these stereotypes, our ‘pigeonholes’, were created just for pigeons rather than for judgmental notions.
As Andy quotes in the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption’ – “Hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies”. With this I understand and believe that in spite of all the good and bad in the world, there is always hope for good things to happen.
And, I hope that in all the pigeonholes we create from now on, the pigeons are going to be safe and happy, leaving our minds free for positivity.