• Back in Biak

    September 6th 2016. Alicia Calcagni writes from Biak, Indonesia about the unique island and our work with Uni Papua.

    Biak is an authentic island that does not possess the familiar qualities of any other island I have visited. Now of course not one island is the same, but they can tend to have a similar feel. However, Biak holds an unadulterated and fascinating vibe that radiates from east to west. For example, on our last day the Uni Papua team took us to a beach and cliff area. We step out of the car to wooden hangout huts with tin roofs along the ledge of the beach. One of them was used as a dance floor for the karaoke machine, which not only contained classic Indonesian songs, but the classic American ones as well. Mark and I may have preformed one of the best duets of “I Will Always Love You” Indonesia has ever seen. We unloaded pots filled with rice, vegetables, potatoes, and a big black bag of fresh raw fish from the car. Our hosts set up a small burner and used coconut shell debris as wood to start the fire. After Uni Papua refused Mark and I’s help with dinner preparation, we walked off to the cliffs. From far away it looked like a cluster of bodies peering over the edge contemplating whether or not to jump in. Instead, people of all ages were balancing in a deep squat; their backs were as straight as a line drawn with a ruler. Putting all of their faith in the friction created by their flip flops, they pressed their heels into the slippery rock stopping themselves from sliding straight into the Pacific. In other words, they were fishing. Except, only one kid had a fishing rod. The rest of them wrapped the fishing line around their hand or used a water bottle as the rod. The pure joy on everyone’s face was beautiful. Life is simple. Man made stone couches were ingrained on the side of the cliff. It was the ideal spot to watch and partake in the warm Saturday evening activity. One of the 10 year old boys who participated in our program earlier in the week came over to me with a half living, flopping fish. If I wasn’t disturbed by this enough, he started picking out the guts of the small animal with his bare fingers. Yeah, I had to look away too. We are not able to communicate, so after a few minutes of this procedure he just ran away. I looked over my shoulder searching for him and I spotted smoke rising from a grass patch on the flat of the cliff. As I was walking, I tried to convince myself that he was not cooking that small baby fish right here, right now. Sure enough, I found him carefully roasting his prize in an open fire built from bamboo, coconut, and bark. Amazing. Never experiencing something like this before I could not stop laughing. I had to try a piece now. So, there we squatted enjoying our fresh snack, and the view.

    Before this invaluable experience, Uni Papua took us to a high school on the island. When we got there we were introduced to a few of the teachers and the headmaster. The headmaster wanted us to play a few games with the students. It was awesome. We all walked down the road to a small field. After our introduction we started the session with Old Trafford Tag. Which is a normal tag game, but whoever gets tagged needs to join hands with the tagger, which will eventually form one long line. The game is over when there is only one person left. The students loved this game. They were laughing and smiling simultaneously problem solving and developing leadership skills. We followed with three more CAC games: Adebayor Hands Against HIV, Adebayor Uses a Condom tag, and Head/Catch. The students and the headmaster said they had so much fun. When we went back to the school for a meeting with the headmaster he told us that every Sunday is game day for the kids, and the games we taught them were going to be added to the list. All we had was one hour and a half and now the 4 games we played will be repeated every Sunday. We caught a glimpse of the benefits of using sport for social change.



  • 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.


  • 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.