• Gender: Zooming in and out as We Search for Equality

    May 5, 2017. Nora Dooley shares thoughts after her visit with long-time partners ACER Brasil in Diadema for the fifth year of programming and first year of ASK for Choice.

     

    What does it mean to be a man? To do something ‘like a man’? To be ‘masculine’?
    What about a woman? Female? Feminine?

    As the lines between genders blur and we begin to understand the origins of these identities, we become better equipped to recognize, question, and challenge expectations, norms, traditions, and cultures that limit us – whoever we are, whatever we call ourselves.

    But…

    While the smashing of labels and boxes that contain us sends a powerful message to any who dare assume our strengths, abilities, and vulnerabilities – our wants, needs, and fears – solely based on what body we are born to… can those same labels serve a collective, more equal future? And if we use those labels to empower us – to put language to injustice and call out oppressing forces – how do we strike the balance between the ideal and the real? How do we walk and breathe equality in a vastly unequal reality?

    These are some of the complex questions we explored on the futsal court last week in Diadema where we have worked for several years with our partners, ACER Brasil.

    Through almost 50 different games and activities we moved together as a group of humans, each with our own individual experiences and visions, towards a tangible, practical, and sustainable goal. We navigated the existing issues and climates that contribute to the realities people in Brazil (and the rest of the world!) are faced with each day, and emerged through this complicated, sometimes blinding, fog with a fresh sense of possibility.

    This group of women and men from different communities, and with nearly 50 years of life between some, welcomed me for the second consecutive year into their space. They offered me their time, ideas, voices, ears, kindness, hugs, and willingness to march together for a future where all of us have access, knowledge, and opportunities to make the choices that will serve our personal and collaborative aims. I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to build on this rich partnership, introducing and tasting new ASK for Choice flavors, and sharing this inspiring and creative environment with the ACER team and our other valuable partners.

    In the final days we made commitments to ourselves and to each other to continue asking ‘Why?’ and to move with clear eyes from the ‘What?’ to the ‘How?’. We played, laughed, danced, discussed, dug deep, reflected, and created. I leave Brazil eager to watch and listen as these leaders bring policies to life in their communities and beyond.

    Obrigada, Diadema! Eu Vou…

  • Olympic Legend Michael Johnson Unveils New Initiative

    May 3rd 2016. Olympic legend Michael Johnson recently announced the launch of his Foundation. The Foundation’s initiative, spearheaded by the four-time Olympic gold medal winner, aims to provide young people from around the world with the tools they need to fulfil their potential through sport. By developing an in-depth, sustainable programme focusing on sporting performance, leadership development and community engagement, the Michael Johnson Foundation will give specially selected young people – all of whom come from a diverse range of challenging backgrounds – the confidence, skills and resources to make a positive impact on their futures.

    The young leaders once-in-a-lifetime journey will begin with an intensive course at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, Michael’s one-of-a-kind training ground in Dallas, where they will be provided cutting-edge support to enhance their sport performance skills, receive in-depth leadership training and get time and support to develop their ideas about how they can contribute to their communities and make a genuine difference for fellow young people back home. The young leaders will be travelling to Dallas this month from all over the world – Mexico, Nepal, UK, Cambodia, Armenia, Kenya, Uganda, India, Brazil and Tanzania – and were carefully selected not only for their potential to develop sporting talent but their capability to lead and a desire to contribute to their community.

    Regarding the desired outcomes for the young people on the programme, Michael said: “It’s not about finding the next Gold Medallist – although if someone has the potential then Michael Johnson Performance will identify and nurture that talent. It is our hope that successful young people from the course will become community leaders, or be the first of their family to go to college, or start their own sports charity or clubs. Success here means that every single young person who has gone through the course will have the skills and opportunity to achieve a better future.”

    Participant Freya Levy from the UK, who overcame muscular dystrophy to represent GB at wheelchair basketball, said; “I feel incredibly honoured to be chosen to be part of the program. To go to an elite top level performance centre and learn from a former Olympic Legend such as Michael Johnson is an incredible opportunity. I’m hoping the lessons I can learn will help me as I continue to pursue accessibility for disabled sport back in the UK. There is so much more I want to do in this area and I am so excited that the Michael Johnson Foundation will help me achieve it.”

    Coaches Across Continents is delighted to be a part of this initiative. As a global leader in sport for social impact, the organization was honored to be asked to facilitate the recruitment and selection of qualified young leaders for the project as well as supporting them before, during and after they take part in the course in Dallas. We are pleased to have been able to work with some of our implementing partners and offer this opportunity to their most promising young leaders. The selected young leaders have the capacity to become strong role models in their community and make the most of this life-changing project. We are extremely grateful to Michael Johnson, Beyond Sport and others who are helping these young people reach their full potential.

    Thanks to project partner Beyond Sport for the majority of this post.

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    Fatma, from Zanzibar, is one of the selected young leaders.

  • Moving Forward

    April 15th 2016. With his final week On-Field with CAC, long-term volunteer CJ Fritz tells us about CAC’s fourth and final week in the country with ACER Brasil. 

    Diadema, a city just beyond the outer reaches of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has had a troubled past. For a long time it was one of the biggest hot spots for violent crime in Brazil, most notably including murders. But over the last few years, it has undergone a transformation.

    Since the city government decided to restrict the time at which bars in the city could close, the murder rate has fallen by 50%, an unprecedented free fall.

    Now, changing the closing time of establishments that sell alcohol did not magically reduce violent crime. The change also sprang from a city full of people ready to move forward. They were committed to altering Diadema in a positive way, and they have succeeded.

    We could see this mindset in our group on the very first day that we worked with them. We had about 30 participants in all, and they brought a fantastic energy to the sessions. They were enthusiastic and willing to jump right into anything that we threw their way.

    They were not the first group ever to be fun-loving; what set them apart was their ability to flip the switch seamlessly between goofy and serious. That is a difficult ability to have, but they exhibited that skill repeatedly throughout the week.

    Beyond that still, they continually questioned and disagreed and discussed from Monday to Friday. When asked how many people were in their family, some volleyed back “how do you define family?” When a man stated that women should not be in the role of fireman, hands shot up around the room, eager to present their counterpoint to the statement.

    These are the signs of moving forward. How can anything change if we don’t question our traditions? How can we introduce new ideas if we refuse to discuss the problems at hand? In Diadema, the participants showed clear signals of a group not content with current progress. They demand more from themselves and those around them because they are aware of what it takes to change.

    By the end of the week, I was extremely impressed by this group, and if they are any indicator of the general mindset in Diadema, I see every hint that there is more positive change to come in their city.

    When I asked one of our more experienced participants why her work was so important to her, she responded without missing a beat, “because we must keep moving forward.”

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