• How Can An Empty Beer Glass Stimulate Self-Directed Learning?

    CAC’s Markus Bensch blogs from Tarrafal, Cape Verde on our partnership with Delta Cultura.

    October 28th 2015. Can you imagine how an empty beer glass, a penny and a beer-mat can be related to Self-Directed Learning? Hopefully you will understand after reading this blog.

    It is Saturday night and Frederick and I are sitting in “Burg Pappenheim”, a Bavarian restaurant in Munich. We just returned from our program in Cape Verde and now we are celebrating Bayern Munich’s 4-0 victory against Cologne in the German Bundesliga that we witnessed in the Allianz Arena earlier that day. After many months I was craving some Bavarian food and Frederick, who is a local, took me out to this place. We finished our delicious meal and I am sipping my “winning beer”. As I look across at the table next to us I witness a boy offering a challenge to his friend: on top of an empty beer glass he places a beer-mat and a small coin. He asks the girl if she can get the coin into the glass without touching it. The girl simply takes the beer-mat, tilts it slightly sideways and the coin slides into the glass. She looks happy. The boy is astonished, but after a second he realizes what happened and says: “No, no, no! I didn’t mean like that. That is too easy. You should also not touch the beer-mat!” In the following minutes the two children try to find ways to get the coin into the empty beer glass without touching the coin nor the beer-mat. The whole situation makes me smile. To see these two kids makes me even happier than Bayern’s victory against Cologne.

    Change of location and scenery: just a few days before we are on Delta Cultura’s Football for Hope Center pitch and the coaches are separated into two groups. They are given tasks and they compete with each other to finish them as quickly as possible. First I asked them to keep the ball in the air and everybody has to touch the ball at least once. Both groups start to juggle and pass the ball to each other with their feet. It is very difficult for them to complete the task. Finally they succeed. When I asked them why they didn’t use their hands they said: “We thought we have to use our feet.”

    Is there any connection between these two incidences? I could say that the girl in the restaurant has simply better listening skills than the coaches from the program in Cape Verde. But I think it goes deeper and the situation in the restaurant made me again realize why I love the work I do and why it is important. I want to encourage people to question and challenge tradition, religion and culture. I don’t want them to just assume what might be expected from them. The boy and the girl in the restaurant were facing a problem and then tried to find solutions to it. The adults that were around them didn’t tell them how they have to do it or what the best solution is. I think this is the biggest difference between these two kids and the people in Cape Verde and many other places in the world. I want to encourage those people who live in places with a culture of authoritarian control to find creative solutions to their problems instead of repeatedly trying to make solutions work that they have been told to use. My work is challenging, but often also very rewarding. The coaches in Cape Verde are on the right track as they have been very creative while developing their own games during the partnership. Their games address important social issues in their community such as robbery, social inclusion and female empowerment. As it was the third year of our Hat-Trick Initiative with Delta Cultura the coaches are now able to create and develop their own curriculum which will positively impact the next generation of children.

    Who knows in 20 years I might go back to Tarrafal and while I am sitting in a bar and sipping my beer two children might be sitting at the table next to me and will use an empty beer glass, a coin and a beer-mat to develop their own little challenge.


  • Whizzkids United, CAC and Dance Moves

    1391704_532537620162322_1544185932_n17 October 2013. As we develop our valued partnership with Whizzkids United, Coaches Across Continents staff set off for Durban, South Africa for a week of training. The program took place about an hour outside of the city in a community called Edendale, down the road from the Whizzkids Health Academy and future location of their Football for Hope Center.  Whizzkids United is the best in the business with regard to health and particularly HIV education, but it is our job to help them rope more football into their curriculum, redefining their place in the realm of sport for development. With small help from Nora Dooley recovering from malaria, Nick Gates led the Whizzkids coaches through a variety of CAC games.

    Though we always want the focus to be on the trainers during our programs, youth involvement is never discouraged. Our week in Edendale was different from other trainings as we taught fewer games, but saw immediate impact. Three-hour sessions each day allowed us only one hour to teach the coaches as many CAC social impact games as possible before the pitch was overrun by eager young footballers. The Whizzkids coaches would then take the games they just learned and immediately work with youth of all ages from the community. We allotted two hours for this coaching portion, but each day lasted longer than the one before as the participants never wanted to leave the field. As the week progressed, the Whizzkids trainers came into their own as football coaches for social development.

    There were a few games in particular where the impact was tangible, and both the coaches and the participants truly grasped the social messages. On the second day of training Nick led the coaches plus 85 youth of varying ages in a huge game of “Mingle Mingle”. A common favorite among many groups we work with, “Mingle Mingle” sets the stage for players to solve their own problems, finding solutions without the help of their coach or teacher. It also provides a wonderful opportunity for Nick to show off his dance moves. Another game that really tested both the Whizzkids coaches and the Edendale youth was Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund. This is a game where players form lines and each line has ownership of a number, for example from 1 to 5. When the coach calls out two numbers (1 and 3!), then those two lines have to switch positions faster than the two lines of the opposing team. This game challenges participants to, again, find their own solutions to the problem they are faced with.1381687_532538073495610_625742006_n

    With every program we run all over the world, our main goal as an organization is to find the ways in which we can best help our partners and the communities they work in. This is, naturally, different for each and every program. CAC’s adaptability is one of the many strengths that powers our organization. In this particular case in Edendale, South Africa, priorities shifted towards the incoming Football for Hope Center. An incredible opportunity for both Whizzkids United and the people of Edendale and surrounding communities, the Center also presents a daunting responsibility. Being tasked with improving, and somewhat defining, Whizzkids’ use of football for social impact, CAC wants to ensure the organization is capitalizing on every way such a Center can enhance its environment. Our focus, therefore, for the week and the future of our partnership, is to provide Whizzkids with the necessary training and resources to exceed the expectations that come with running a Football for Hope Center. After this week, we are very excited about the prospects and look forward to the opening of the Center in just two months time.