• Knowledge and Gratitude

    August 10th, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Elvis Nshimba, writes about the experience Coaches Across Continents gave him to work on-field with CAC partner training4changeS

    Our two weeks in northern South Africa, in a village called Bennde Mutale which bordered Zimbabwe and Mozambique, were spent working with and creating impacts alongside community members and leaders. From there, we spent two wonderful weeks in Cape Town. The first week we played games with coaches, teachers and community members and through those games educated them on how to use sport for social impact. At the end of this week, the participants were able to coach and adapt games on their own!

    My last week was the most beautiful! We worked with students in different schools, which allowed me as a teacher, to acquire another experience learning from others. We worked with the local coaches of training4changeS to strengthen their capacities to educate and create social change for their pupils through sport.

    Because of this trip with Coaches Across Continents, I was able to see the ocean for the first time! It was a great pleasure! I enjoyed my stay in this part of the country, although it was extremely cold. Because of this opportunity to travel with CAC I was able to learn a lot, including realizing the differences between people. I would like to express my gratitude to Coaches Across Continents (CAC) for aligning me on this trip, and to my organization the Malaika Foundation (MALAIKA) for supporting me during my time working away.

  • Clouds and Humans

    August 3rd, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, reflects on week in Vancouver, B.C. working with partners Hope and Health

    In my mind, the best thing about humans is that they are all different. Unfortunately, in my mind, the worst thing about the world is that it makes being different something to be punishable by ridicule, physical abuse, public shaming, inequality, ect. But why? If everything were beautiful, nothing would be. If everyone were smart, no one would be. If everything and everyone were the exact same, none of the qualities we love about ourselves and our loved ones (the qualities that make them/us unique or special in our minds) would mean anything. If everyone is everything then we are all just the same. Does that make us all nothing? In that world, none of us are special, or smart, or kind, or bold. We all can be all of these things in our own way. But if we are all just the exact same… in that world we are one of many, and in my mind that would be a shame.

    I think the best thing about my job is that it constantly has me thinking about who I am, what I believe, and what I know. What I know for sure is that people interpret the world and express themselves differently. We all have a story, and none of them are the same. Those stories derive from where we came from, who raised us, what bad luck we caught, which chemical levels are in our brains, and what we are drawn to in the world.

    For me a smile means happiness, light, joy, or fearlessness. For others, smiling is a mask, a physical escape, a Band-Aid over a wound, or a self-defense mechanism. When I see someone’s smile, I look to see if it is also in his or her eyes. That is how I interpret a really happy smile, where as for others, if you were not frowning they might assume you are happy. The way one person expresses himself or herself may mean something completely different if another does the same.

    If every person at CAC were magically on the same continent, at the same time, near the same place and we were all staring at the exact same cloud… we may all see something different. But, when we all start calling out what animal, vehicle, thing of the planet, whatever it is that we see – instead of telling one another that is crazy, or wrong, or silly – we would look at that cloud, tilt our heads, open our minds and try to see what they are seeing too.

    What is so interesting to me, and sometimes very sad, is that we can do this when it is something that doesn’t matter. “We”, meaning the people of the world. Something as insignificant as what a cloud looks like warrants an open mind and accepting ear. But when it comes to politics, religion, philosophy, business strategy, gender issues, race, child raising, favorite sports teams…  YOU NAME IT (all of the important stuff), if people do not say or do what we (the people of the planet) believe, or what we want to hear, or what we are comfortable with – we (this is me unfairly lumping the human race all into one) judge them, we put them down, shut them up, argue our point, and so on. When this happens, THAT is what makes being different a bad thing. But, when we are talking about clouds and our minds are open, being different is something that brings us closer together. When we are talking about clouds, perspective is something that makes us smile together and appreciate each other. Perspective otherwise is something that we sometimes fear because it disrupts the world we know.

    How does all of this apply to my trip to Vancouver? Working with Hope and Health? Talking about First Nations/ Reservations struggles? Well – these kids are bullied, judged, looked down on for no reason better than the fact that they are of First Nations descent. A story that we all know, and are fully aware, that the First Nations people were not the bad guys. Worse, the intergenerational trauma these kids have passed down to them and the hardships they see everyday (substance abuse, alcohol abuse, young pregnancy, child abuse, gender inequality, poverty, bullying, discrimination) are all reasons the people in the world around them, shut these kids out. Instead of understanding them, accepting them, appreciating their difference, helping them, learning from them… these kids, their families, are treated like outsiders in their own homes. The most beautiful thing I realized about the coaches that are going to be working on the reservations with the First Nations kids, is that they want those kids to accept them. Their biggest concern was learning how to help those kids trust them as coaches, take them in, open their hearts to them. Because these kids have spent their life being shut out for their difference, that is the only way they know to express themselves. The remarkable thing about these coaches, is that they are so willing to see past those surfaced expressions and are looking to find a way to break through and make sure they express themselves in a way that those kids will understand and interpret to know they are valued and important, and worthy – Because THEY ARE.

    I would like to challenge anyone who reads this:

    Dare to be different. Work to be THE difference you want to see. Strive to accept others difference.

    Be your happiness. Be proud. Be one of one.

    And love yourself – just because you are you.

  • Having No Plan, Is Planning

    August 2, 2017. Global Citizen Nicole writes about her experience coaching and camping in Zimbabwe as CAC worked with World Parks, World Cup.

    In South Africa, a common phrase you hear is, “We’ll make a plan”. Typically meaning the current situation isn’t going as originally planned and there is no clear solution at the moment. In the States, it’s relatable to creating a “plan B” or trying our very best to “go with the flow”.

    The saying makes me laugh every time I hear it and I hope that I continue to use it when I get home. It makes everything seem OK and less urgent or threatening. In the grand scheme of things, that is true, things will probably work out.

    Our trip to Zimbabwe from Bennde-Mutale, South Africa was definitely one of these situations. While it only takes about 3 hours to walk from SA to the village we were staying in Zim, it was an 8 to 9 hour journey by car, inclusive of a large dried up river bed where your tires easily get stuck in the sand, intense border patrol on both sides & bumpy unmarked roads where the memory of various trees – that all look identical to me – were our compass. Yet, it was never of any concern, we were in good hands with World Parks, World Cup – and well, we made a plan.

    We arrived in Chishinya, Zimbabwe a little before dark, where the Moyo family welcomed us after our long journey. Chishinya isn’t on any map, at least that I’ve seen. And I wasn’t originally expecting to go to Zimbabwe when volunteering – or to be sleeping in a tent, camping under the Milky Way, building a fire each night to cook and stay warm, serving as a space to discuss religion, politics, relationships and all of the joys of life with my travel companions and the Moyo’s.

    In the end, Zim was one of the more rewarding weeks of my time volunteering with CAC. It had the perfect mix of the “expected” pieces of the program – coaching, connecting with people and fun with the kid’s. With the unexpected elements of magic that come along with a true adventure. I live for a good adventure! We experienced elements of life in Zim that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Mr. Moyo and his family were special; they were kind to us, naturally warm and loving, treating us like family from the moment we arrived. It’s a comfort you feel around certain people, an aura or energy they exude that can’t be faked. They were happy, loving people who opened their homes, for which I will be forever grateful.

    One of my favorite memories is the hat that Mr. Moyo wore every day with “Nicole” stitched into the front. Maybe it was fate that we were to meet. And as he said when we hugged goodbye, “we will all meet one day in heaven”. Whether heaven exists for you, it’s a nice thought and the most realistic setting for our next meeting.

    It is hard to say goodbye to people after you have become part of their everyday lives, even for only a week. And more so when knowing you won’t be following their Instagram account or sending iMessage photos of your daily life to them. It is unlikely that your worlds will cross again. Regardless, you still hope that they do and the reality is that you will think of them often for some time.

    Most importantly, it felt that we made lasting connections in Zimbabwe, with coaches, teachers and community leaders who were engaged in the games & the social messages that were pertinent to their communities. The beauty of the CAC program is the focus on sustainability, providing the participants with the skills and resources to teach and adapt the games as needed in their local environment.

    I look forward to checking back in on the programs that I volunteered with to see if the same people are involved and the progress that has been made over the next year. The work of CAC is powerful – both in the vision and execution. I am very proud of the time I spent volunteering and of the valuable things I learned. I have the utmost respect for those working in social impact. Thank you for letting me be a small piece of the team for a few weeks – I hope to be involved again soon!

  • Conservation and Education

    July 21, 2017. CAC Global Citizen Nicole Slevin wrote about our first year with World Parks, World Cup in Bende-Mutale, South Africa.

    This week we partnered with World Parks, World Cup in Bende-Mutale located in the far NE corner of South Africa, bordering Zimbabwe & Mozambique. WPWC’s goal is to bring together the communities that surround the Great Limpopo National Park, in these neighboring countries, establishing open communication and support with groups that might not otherwise connect. They have the opportunity to build and share resources, with the Coaches Across Continents curriculum as a common link, between the coaches, teachers, community leaders and the children in these villages. It is a great vision and we were excited to be involved from the beginning!

    This was my first week being a Global Citizen with CAC, and my first week ever visiting South Africa! No one could have promised me or prepared me for such a rich experience. I don’t think I have ever learned so much in such a short window of time. Every day is filled with new learning opportunities, genuine unique human interactions, and little moments of gratitude and magic. Along with the beauty of the sunsets, the vastness of the trees in the bush & the varying animals that keep you company at night. It’s hard not to fall in love with South Africa and the remarkable experience of working with CAC. 

    I quickly learned this is a complex program, coaching in and of itself is hard! Being a good and effective coach takes practice and clear intentions. CAC’s curriculum does so much, by providing Self-Directed Learning techniques to the coaches, so that when the program is over the lessons and social impact topics still continue being discussed. It’s a mixture of teaching effective coaching practices, dependable football skills, setting up an environment for social impact discussions, and providing guidance on how coaches and leaders can use these in their own environments. With a few daily life lessons to go along in that mix. It’s a lot! But I’ll say it again  – I’ve never learned so much in just one week. 

    There were many memorable moments during the week – of course, watching the games implemented with kids running around barefoot and happy. I could be a part of that everyday! But there were also many moments with the coaches in the program, when good discussions were had after a game or when they provided positive feedback that the program was going to help change how they coached or taught at the schools. They were extremely grateful and without asking, it was clear that we had made a difference. That’s a feeling I want to always remember.  I felt lucky to work with such amazing, engaged people. 

    Elvis, the CIC traveling with us from the Democratic Republic of Congo said tonight – “I didn’t know what good volunteering could do for me, until I worked with CAC. Then I realized that doing something for someone else, without expecting something in return – it can bring peace, even in the mind.” 

    As we drive away in the early morning, headed to Zimbabwe, Charlie plays Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye”.  And we can leave smiling, knowing we did good work with the people of WPWC in Bende-Mutale.

  • Online Education Program connects Coaches Across Continents

    February 24th, 2017. Online Education Strategist, Markus Bensch recaps last years OEP.

    In football there is a saying that when a team gets promoted to a higher league, the 2nd year is the toughest one. You must prove the quality of your team once the wave of excitement has faded.

    We faced a similar challenge as we entered into the 2nd edition of our Online Education Program (OEP). We started with a new group of participants in March 2016! There were 12 coaches from 4 different continents (Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe) that graduated in the 2015 class.

    We’ve introduced new technology tools such as hosting quarterly webinars and using an interactive feedback sheet. During the 9‑month program the coaches invested 200 hours on-field and off-field. The coaches implemented games with their teams, participated in 4 webinars throughout the course, shared their monthly feedback online, and entered games on Sport Session Planner (SSP).

    It is exciting to read that the coaches witness behavior change in their players when implementing Sport for Social Impact games! One story was shared with us by Paula, from Brazil, about the youth she works with: “In the group of teenager after playing human rights game, they began to speak more properly about the right to education and for the first time began to remind people in the community who have had their lives changed because of it as an example.”

    The participants went through three Self-Directed Learning (SDL) stages “Educate”, “Adapt” and “Create”, each lasting for 3 months. During the Educate stage the coaches receive a monthly curriculum to implement in their communities. During the Adapt and Create stage each of our 12 graduates developed and implemented 8 new games. In these 6 months each participant also implemented 8 games from other coaches and gave individual feedback.

    Lin from Kenya, now living and studying in the UK, reflected on her adapted game by stating: “Empathy grew as the players began to stop stigmatizing each other. They became less embarrassed and began speaking up about HIV/AIDS and how it is affecting their families and communities. They also understood that silence plays a BIG part in the spread of it.”

    We are very delighted that we now have almost 100 newly designed games available on our online platform SSP, ready to be implemented by coaches around the world. We have also included some of these games in the new CAC curriculum that will begin implementing during our on-field programs. The OEP is becoming a highly interactive program where coaches from different continents and cultures share knowledge, games, and experiences. The coaches have cultivated the skill of developing and designing FSI games, which are fun and educational. Reading the participants’ feedback you can see that they are very excited about their newly gained skills!

    Ryan, from GOALS Armenia commented: “I wanted to make games that that both teach soccer skills and life skills, which is really difficult. After researching and remembering different soccer exercises I was able to apply new rules and create social impact meaning behind that exercise’s technical objective!”

    There are certain challenges to the Online Education Program. Limited access to internet and technology has been the major reason for people not to be able to graduate. Although there are factors in place that make completion difficult for our participants, there are so many incredible success stories that rise from the program! Many participants go on to further schooling, rise to a new level of coaching, or have new found confidence in their ability to teach others. This is what OEP is all about!

  • Emulating Self-Directed Learning

    February 20th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and FESAC in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

    The Coaches Across Continents team landed in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico at 11:30pm after four two-hour flights. While a bit exhausted we were greeted by a bubbly character by the name of Andrea from the local partner, Fundación del Empresario Sonorense (FESAC). She hit us with a burst of energy that quickly permeated our sleepiness. This is an energy that we would continue to experience with the participants throughout the week! Hermosillo reminded me a lot of home in Southern California. Paved roads with some street vendors selling delicious tamales, tacos, and fresh fruits.

    The first day the partner took us to Náinari Lake. It was the place to be! Everyone was there. Vendors were selling food and drinks, there was a stage with live music, people were on pedal boats across the lake, zip lines longer than a football field were hanging above the lake, we saw birds being fed, trampolines being used, and countless children in battery operated cars driving around in front of their parents while they walked the perimeter of the lake. It was stunning. We were able to walk around and watch the sun set over the lake until it became too chilly. Then the partner took us back to our hotel. It was a nice break before getting the week started.

    This week we worked with Physical Education teachers and students in the Hermosillo area. The teachers were eager to learn and get started. A lot of them remembered a couple of the games from last year and mentioned they used them throughout the year. We were told that one of the teachers even took the CAC curriculum they learned from last year to nearby after-school programs outside of Hermosillo. What an impact! It was so great to hear about the CAC curriculum making it’s way around Sonora, Mexico after teachers had gone through the training last year. This group was ready and engaged. As new games were being presented they had plenty of questions, conversations and creative solutions to current challenges facing their schools today. This group was so involved that they were able to adapt games on the spot when asked how they would change the game to make it even more relevant to what they face as Physical Education in schools in Sonora, Mexico.

    Seeing this group take to the CAC curriculum so wholeheartedly, the CAC team decided they were ready for the challenge to create their own games in the realm of health and wellness, bullying, and inclusion issues. These issues were the main conversation points throughout the week. The teachers created teams of three to four people to collaborate, create, and deliver a new game that addressed the three main points above. The CAC curriculum “students” were now becoming the creators! The resources CAC supplied them with in regards to games, social messaging, and questions allowed this group to continue in their learning, challenging of concepts, and adapting to make them relevant to their area. It was phenomenal to see how well the games addressed certain issues and how well the teachers emulated Self-Directed Learning within their sessions. One of the Physical Education university students absorbed CAC so much that she wanted to know more about the philosophy and volunteer opportunities. Below is her story:

    “My name is Dayanna Enriquez from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I attended the training sessions this past week. I currently study physical education and as a student, the sessions Mark, Taylor and Emily provided taught me so many things when it comes to teaching children. How simple games can impact the lives of so many kids and the way we as teachers can help them grow and accomplish many goals in life.

    The week was very productive with a lot of fun games and lessons learned. We had lots of fun and they actually inspired me to find out more about the organization Coaches Across Continents to see if there is any way for me to volunteer and try and help others make the world a better place.

    I want to thank Mark, Taylor and Emily for providing me with the opportunity to take part in the weekly sessions. Also I want to congratulate them for their enthusiasm and their great outgoing personalities that made this course lots of fun and a great atmosphere for us to learn while enjoying ourselves.

    Hopefully one day I can get a chance to become part of this great experience!”

    Coaches Across Continents has created a space for teachers at different schools to come together and start a conversation around how they can overcome the biggest issues facing their kids today. The CAC curriculum has already sparked action within the teaching community in Hermosillo.  After successfully taking on the challenge of creating their own games with social messaging attached, the teachers are motivated and determined to continue the work and adaptation of the CAC curriculum to address relevant issues in their communities. I look forward to seeing the growth of this group in the next few months! Great job CAC!