• Female Role Models in Sentani

    September 11, 2014.  Sometimes change is hard to see.  We are working for the second year with Uni Papua in Sentani, near the city of Jayapura.  In the past year Uni Papua has grown to four communities surrounding this beautiful tropical lake.  These are communities who have a strong desire to use sport for social impact, who recognize the power of football for social change instead of trying to create top-level footballers.  These are also communities where it is common to take a boat to get to school and where the million plus inhabitant city of Jayapura seems decades away instead of just 50 short kilometers.  It is hard to believe that this vast country of Indonesia can have so many different geographical differences, as well as differences within its population, each coming from distinct tribes and unique islands.

    While it might be easy to focus on some of the social issues that exist in Papua including high HIV rates and tribal conflict, that means you may be missing some of the other positive changes that have occurred since CAC was here last year.

    The most impactful game of the week was Marta for Gender Equity, a scrimmage game with a strong message that has certain coaches sitting out for extended stretches of time.  These substitutes learn what it feels like to be forcibly left-out, simulating the feelings of young girls who are not permitted or encouraged to play.  By the end of the game, the coaches who were not permitted to play were visibly affected, and this lesson can help change their perspective on the right for everyone to play sport, regardless of gender or ability.

    On our final day of coaching, Touska Iba came up to us and said how proud she was that more women attended our trainings this year.   Last year, she was the only female coach (out of 26) and this year there were eight women coaches (out of 54).  Although far from a 50/50 split, it a real progress, from 3.8% up to 14.8%.  This progress demonstratively shows young boys and girls that equality should exist and that equitability is getting better.  We need more positive male and female role models to continue to make real efforts to ensure that gender equity is more than just a statement, and that it becomes a reality.  Hopefully within their lifetime, with the efforts of people like Touska, it will not be strange to see even numbers of boys and girls playing for coaches of either gender.

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  • Back in Beautiful Biak

    September 6, 2014.  Off the northern coast of Papua lies Biak Island, one of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands that make up the worlds largest Archipelago. This remote island exists today as it’s own natural paradise, untouched by traveling tourists and nearly free of western influence.  But the simplicity of the island is what makes it so unique; Papuans grow and catch their own food and rely on traditions and their own ideas to develop. The remoteness of the land and seclusion from outside sources makes it difficult for Biak to advance in many ways. One of the main problems Biak faces today is the high rate of HIV/AIDS. The regions of Papua and West Papua have two of the highest HIV prevelency rates in Indonesia and the reality is that if traditions stay the same and education about how to protect against HIV/AIDS is never implemented then these numbers will continue to grow.

    Social issues on the island, such as this one are why people like Harry are so important to the future of Biak. Harry founded Uni Papua, a sport for social development NGO, and has been working on Biak island for two years. He has high hopes for the future of Biak and Papua and is adamant about Uni Papua’s partnership with CAC, using football as a tool for social change. Last year Uni Papua existed in one location on Biak, but this year they have coaches in three different communities on the island.

    When Brian and I arrived on Saturday we spoke at Biak’s radio station which aired internationally throughout all of Indonesia and the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea. The People of Biak are very appreciative of our time and efforts in their communities. Over the course of the week the coaches learned football games to teach young kids about gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and and entire day was spent on HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to develop problem solvers, creative thinkers and  educated leaders who don’t need to rely on others to make decisions or solve their problems for them. Once the coaches can fully grasp the self-directed learning model of coaching, they are sure to make a difference in the lives of children in their communities. A couple of the coaches that participated in the first year program stood out among the rest which gives us some knowledge of how CAC has had an impact in Biak.

    The problem solving games were the most impactful over the 5-day coaching camp as the coaches found ways to strategize and problem solve on their own. After playing a game called Old Trafford tag, where players link together when tagged; they used an analogy about how their chain represented a fishing net to catch all the remaining players. It was neat to see them relate a real-world application to solve their problem.

    Personally it was another week full of surprises and sensory overload in the world of CAC. I think the only time I stopped grinning was when I found worms living in the basin of water I used to shower with everyday. From the tree house nestled deep in the jungle that I dreamt of living in as a kid, to laughing with the children we met at schools across the island every morning, I have fallen in love with the Papuan people and the beautifully exotic paradise island I called my home for seven days.

    Writing never does enough to encapsulate all that I experience with CAC, but with every village I enter, every school I visit, and every coach I work beside I am able to see the power football can have on a community. And even more so I am able to see the value of social impact through sport that CAC offers around the world.

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  • Impacting a Tropical Paradise

    IMG_7255October 8, 2013.  Picture a tropical island that tourists forgot about.  The blue clear water laps the shore, where palm trees provide shade.  The sandy soil quickly turns into lush green forests that creep onto the   narrow roadways.  Biak island is part paradise, but also a developing community in the eastern reaches of Indonesia.  There is a strong European and American influence from past missionaries and General MacArthur who fought and liberated this island from the Japanese in WWII.  But for various reasons the direct international flights to Biak stopped over ten years ago, tourists stopped coming, and the lone five-star resort in all of Papua also deteriorated back into the jungle.

    IMG_7640Coaches Across Continents is here because of Uni Papua Biak, the local branch of EMSYK Uni Papua who we worked with last week in Jayapura.  Although a small island with just 140,000 people, we had 45 coaches attend every training sessions.  Together they mentor over 2,500 youth on the island.  Having an international group like Coaches Across Continents come to Biak was important to the people here, who are sometimes overlooked by outside groups and even their own government.  We were welcomed warmly, and even citizens of Biak city were happy to see us as we wandered around.  After our week concluded we were told we were the first international coaches to visit Biak, ever.

    IMG_7651Soccer is important here, with the local team Persipura winning the Indonesian league last year.  The youth coaches are keen to pick up whatever knowledge they can, and very quickly saw the power of football to teach other life lessons.  This was helped by our translator Wesly and other members of the Uni Papua team who understand the social impact of this fun game.  Although the scenery is idyllic, problems exist here in Biak.  HIV rates are high, there is a lack of economic development and markets for goods from Biak, and other issues.  Uni Papua Biak realizes this, and knows of the work CAC has done to help local communities around the world tackle their own problems.

    After training for one week with our coaches, we are already excited to see what progress they can make in the next twelve months before we return.  Armed with a curriculum that teaches social impact as well as football, we know that this group of coaches can effect a large segment of the youth on this small island.  The tourists might be temporarily gone, but Uni Papua and CAC are here together with our Hat Trick Initiative.

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