March 17th 2016. Long-term volunteer CJ Fritz blogs from Brazil about our recent third-year training with the Brasilia branch of CAC partner Futebol Social.
Before every program, we try to have somewhat of a plan in place for the week. In the smoothest of scenarios the sessions contour themselves exactly how we would have hoped, and the plan doesn’t have to change. This smooth scenario is also called a “fantasy.”
Every program has, it seems, at least one moment when something unforeseeable happens, and the plan shifts.
Nora and I arrived into Brasilia the weekend of March 5th, ready and raring to get back to work after an extended break from on-field work. On Sunday we sat down and met with our local contact, Karina. We couldn’t speak Portuguese and she couldn’t speak English. Not the plan. Shift. After her son served as a makeshift translator, we learned that we would have 100 participants on Monday. Not the plan. Shift again.
On Monday afternoon, on our way to Taguatinga for our first session, it is revealed to us that we won’t have 100 participants…that number is now 170. Not the plan. Shift.
After revising our plan as best as possible to fit our ever-growing group, we arrive at the university where we will be conducting the sessions. We are greeted by a wall of eager Brazilians ready to get started. The nerves that came with the prospect of coaching so many people dissolved in our excitement to start the program.
After a very energetic round of Circle of Friends, we move on to Mia Hamm skills. We divide the group in to two more manageably sized groups and go to get half of the balls for each group. Turns out there are only 14 balls in total. Time to shift. By conducting most of the Mia Hamm skills with imaginary balls instead of real, we manage to get more people involved in the game.
Throughout the week, although sheltered from the rain by the indoor sports courts, we were not immune to the leaks and small pools of water forming on the courts. Not safe. Shift. With mops at the ready and cones around the more dangerous wet spots, on continued the sessions.
When the Child Rights talk loomed on Thursday, there was one upcoming obstacle that we were able to foresee. Asking 170 people to participate in a discussion and hoping that we could hear from a diverse group of them was not going to happen. Preemptive shift. With the group broken down into small clusters of four to five participants, there was more discussion and wider participation as a whole.
Although there were many moments of uncertainty throughout the week, it turned out to be one of my favorite weeks coaching with CAC. The changes kept me on my toes from the day I arrived until the day we flew out of Brasilia, feeling already nostalgic for a program that had barely finished. Not wanting to let go of the Brasilia program wasn’t what I expected. Shift.
Beauty Inside And Out
CAC volunteer Niki Herdegen talks about her week in Rio de Janeiro with Futebol Social.
June 22nd 2015. We began our second week in Brazil by transitioning from the quiet city of Brasilia to the city that never sleeps, Rio de Janeiro. Adjusting to city life was difficult at first, but the people proved to be extremely welcoming, helpful, and kind. The breathtaking views of Copacabana beach provided an easy escape from the buzzing of the city, giving us truly the best of both worlds during our stay in Rio.
For our sessions during the week we once again partnered with Futebol Social. We had a huge turn out with the program the week before in Brasilia, so I had come in with huge expectations. To my surprise our group was quite small with no more than 15 participants per day ranging in all different ages and backgrounds. The group was small but mighty, and the intimacy of small numbers allowed us to discuss in depth the social problems in Rio. Our conversations got individuals excited and sometimes even heated, but it was incredible to see that all these discussions can be lead through our curriculum with Coaches Across Continents. It became evident that drugs, alcohol, child rights, gender equity and violence were all ugly problems in the beautiful city. We specifically selected games that highlighted these problems to help educate the local leaders and pass down to their children they train. The games put smiles across everyone’s faces and it was hilarious how much fun grown adults were having playing games designed for children. However, the serious undertones at the end of each game showed the coaches that the social message is key to solving the problems we discussed before.
During my week coaching in Rio, the hardest part for me was hearing about the lack of equal opportunities for girls both on and off the field. It made me realize how much I take for granted and how easy it is for me to go out and simply play the sport I love. Women are expected to stay home and take care of housework, not participate in activities like the other men and boys. Our female members payed an important role in not only sharing their inspiring stories but also inspiring other male members to take a stand against the problem. The problem is diminishing slowly, but I know if these coaches pass down the games we teach to their children we can create a generation that lives without discrimination.
Our 2nd year curriculum in Rio came to an end and I couldn’t be more thankful to have met our participants. All of them have a passion for soccer and more importantly the social programs they are involved in. If they can continue to pass down the messages to the children they coach, the positive impact will create a domino effect of lasting change. Our participants allowed us to share with them their beautiful city, whose heart triumphs the beauty on the outside. I’m looking forward to my next two weeks in Sao Paulo as we continue our journey in Brazil.
A Planned City Without A Plan For Choice
CAC volunteer Savannah Schinto talks about her experiences in Brasilia, Brazil with Futebol Social.
June 16th 2015. To “say” something and to “do” something are two very different statements, this is ever evident in the Brazilian culture. Our first day with the students and coaches at Universidade Catolica was chaotic, 67 eager to learn students, to three coaches was quite far from the expected 30 students. This was our first taste of the difference between saying and doing.
Every 15 seconds a women is assaulted in Brazil.
It is widely know that Marta, a Brazilian Women’s national team player, is considered the best female player in the world, and it has been this way for many years. Although this is true, and the Brazilian Women’s team is recognized as a top team in the world, they aren’t always welcomed as players on the pitch. This is where saying and doing become very different statements.
As of 2012, there are between 530,00 and 660,000 people living with HIV in Brazil.
When talking about HIV, AIDS, and general healthy behavior habits, these students had all of the right information. Here was the second taste of saying over doing. Student’s can recall the facts, and the methods of prevention or treatment, but education alone is not enough to evoke the positive social change needed. These student’s wish to be a positive change in the world, and by recognizing that educating alone is not enough, they now strive to be the first step toward positive social change.
This past week should be considered a success for the year two program in Brasilia. After the first day, coaches were jumping in with ideas of how to adapt games for education, health, and children’s rights. Choice should not be a challenge any longer.
A Tale of Two Brazils
July 28, 2014. Volunteer Tiffany Fonseca (Harvard, ’15) compares her time with CAC in Brazil to her semester abroad in Rio de Janiero. Before I talk more about the final week, I should begin by saying that Brazil was not new to me at the start of the CAC program. I studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro for seven months last year, immersing myself in Brazilian culture and brushing up on my Portuguese. But even though I technically lived here, many aspects of my experience were lived through a tourist’s point of view. I hung out with the international kids. I heeded the university’s advice to stay out of the favelas, with the exception of one or two particularly pacified and gentrified ones. I stayed within the confines of Rio’s wealthy South Zone, home of the Rio postcard pictures, scenic beaches and nice houses- relatively absent of the abject poverty of the north. Even though poverty and wealth exist in such close proximity in this country, I managed to block out the poorer 80%, not because the Brazilian inequality issue didn’t appall me, but because for the time being I wanted to enjoy my quintessential study abroad experience. However, regardless of what I thought I knew, or what white Brazilians told me about how the other (more than) half lived, I was naïve and admittedly a little paranoid when we drove into Diadema on that first day, and needless to say I was seeing a Brazil I was completely unfamiliar with, a Brazil I had been warned against.
A week later that paranoia was out the window. In fact I don’t even think it’s possible to nicely encapsulate right here the wonderful experience that was my four weeks with CAC. Especially in these last two weeks in Diadema and Campo Limpo, I’ve met the most genuine Brazilians I’ve met all year. Their communities may not be perfect but they don’t deserve some of the labels they are given. These people are truly invested in the future of their community. They’re thoughtful, determined, and selfless. They have amazingly positive attitudes. They inspire me to do better.
As I was saying, words can’t do this experience justice. But here goes anyway: Our final week in Brazil went above and beyond expectations. I don’t think I could have asked for a better end to our time here. It was our second week in São Paulo, this time with our partners at Futebol Social in Campo Limpo. After an hour-long drive to the field on the first dreary, cloudy morning, we were greeted with a familiar sight: new faces, some smiling and some timid, many young men and women, and a few older guys as well. It didn’t take long after introductions and Circle of Friends for the skies to clear up. Feeling the sun shine through the clouds and watching everyone open up as they ran around, smiling and laughing like carefree children, I could tell this week would not disappoint.
The level of engagement we received this week was phenomenal. Wanting to tailor to the community’s specific needs, we asked what the biggest social problems were. Overwhelmingly the response was drugs and violence, among other things. As we tackled various issues throughout the week, I experienced some of the most rewarding moments of my CAC experience.
One coach came up to me right after a gender equity game to talk about the boys team and girls team he coached. Unfortunately, though the discouragement of parents due to cultural norms, the girls slowly stopped coming to the point where he didn’t have a team anymore. We had a great conversation along with Brian about the importance of getting the message of equality to parents in order to prevent sexist tradition from keeping girls off the field.
In another instance, after a game of “Can Adebayor see HIV?” one man stepped forward and talked about losing his uncle to AIDS. The dialogue this started was amazing. We stood there and witnessed the coaches educating each other about facts and myths of HIV without having to say a word ourselves.
These moments for me are so encouraging because they prove that the coaches are really taking the issues to heart and see the games as real solutions they can apply in their community. It took me 4 weeks to slowly understand the difference we were making. It’s one thing to know what sport for social impact is. It’s a completely different thing to see it taking hold in the minds of community and youth leaders on the field. That is the real reason the last day was so definitive for me. Not simply because it was the last day, but because I have never received more genuine thank-yous and hugs and handshakes before!
Thank you too, Campo Limpo. Obrigada!
Bom Dia from Brasilia
July 4, 2014. In one climactic boom the rapturous celebrations of Brasil’s third goal disappeared into a dizzying ring. Every game for the home country is a holiday: a Fourth of July where restaurants are as accommodating as reservations. Unfortunately the drunk-since-lunch lady at the table adjoining lacked either the arm or care to send her quarter sticks of dynamite much beyond touching distance, and we the Portuguese to understand ‘heads up’.
The passion here is infectious and omnipresent, if not explosive. Brasilians are here on this earth to enjoy t
hemselves; an approach to life that manifests itself in even the most fleeting of interactions. Situations where we may get angry and shake a fist or raise a finger to a stranger are smoothed here with a thumb’s up. There is no sense in telling off the idiot driving the wrong way, for that requires letting his actions affect you.
It was amazing to be given a week to engage and make friends in a community and culture where friendship is the understood starting point of every relationship. The language barriers that the game of soccer is able to bridge – to both create and deepen such opportunities – is the coolest gift of participating in a truly global game. To experience this in the football/soccer capital of the world, as my personal introduction to seeing what CAC does around the globe, was a dream.
The week on the field was awesome. Our games, in addition to being expressed in entirely new levels of soccer ability, had their rules adapted and expanded within days of their learning to address both the little problems hampering the enjoyment of their playing, and those of greatest community and societal importance. Our group of 29 held the perfect mix of passion and ideas from the university students preparing to become physical education teachers, and poignant questions and quiet control from the older, established teachers and coaches from the community, to really focus our time and help to maximize the week we had together. From bringing American Football maneuvers into Circle of Friends, to a passionate post-game discussion with Ellen, our Community Impact Coach from ACER in Sao Paulo, about creative strategies and methods of coaching Messi for Health and Wellness, the group was a shining example of the power of self-directed learning.
When the day ended with Falcao for Fun, Mel Baskind formed a team of three with a pair of Brasilian sisters and ran the rest of the group off the field. The next day she found herself instead as a member of my team, and was megged to the point of disbelief and near wobbly ankles by the fifteen-year-old younger of the two. The girls were approached with extreme caution whenever in possession for the rest of the week.
The week in Brasilia was full of highlights:
-The city shut down entirely to host Brasil’s third and final group against Cameroon on Monday.
-Mel, Colton, and I watched Portugal and Ghana battle back and forth to a thrilling and perfect result for we Americans in the national stadium.
-The same twist of the Portuguese language that has given us Ronaldinho’s for our Ronaldo’s allowed Tiffany (our hero and only translator) to provide a true highlight of the week when she announced that we were finished and the team in the pinnies (little soccer shirts) were free to take their condoms off.
We are off to Rio with high expectations, as the standard set in Brasilia will be tough to beat in more ways than one!