• The Most Valuable Toolset

    August 8. Meghan Fligg from CAC partner based out of Barnstable, MA, USA shares her reflections after our first ASK for Choice: Education Outside the Classroom training with United Kidz Soccer Development (UKSD) and South Shore Select Soccer Club. 

    Something we have learned through our journey here at UKSD is the importance of making partnerships. For the past few weeks, we have partnered with South Shore Select and Coaches Across Continents in order to enhance all of our abilities to reach kids through the game of soccer.

    South Shore Select is an all girls soccer club located in Hingham, MA. Although they focus much of their work on building talented young athletes who are both technically and tactically educated, they are very much aware of the importance of helping their players also build their sense of character, commitment, leadership potential, and global awareness. It is because of this that Select welcomed, with open arms, Coaches Across Continents hands- on-training. Over the course of two weeks, Select Coaches, along with our very own UKSD coaches, actively participated in CAC educational sessions. However, don’t let the word education make you think of classrooms and books. The CAC staff had us moving, playing, thinking on our toes, and having deep and meaningful discussions.  Their mission is to use sport as a means of community growth and awareness. They knew that with a pitch full of coaches and even some players that the best way to do this was through the game itself.

    Because CAC tailors their curriculums to the communities they are serving, they asked Select and ourselves what topics we wanted to focus on in our sessions . They wanted to know what we felt we needed in order to strengthen the kids we work with. We each came to the decision that some of the main focuses would be women’s empowerment, gender equity, leadership, healthy competition, and the definition of success. Throughout the training, these topics evolved in the most thoughtful and organic ways. Each coach was able to add their insight, experience, and how they could and would implement the lessons we were learning into our sessions with our kids.

    The beauty of our discussions were that there really was no wrong answer. Each coach was encouraged to take what they could from the different activities and games and find ways to adapt them depending on the age, diversity, needs, etc. of the particular group we would be working with. Every one of us walked away, day after day, with valuable skills and lessons we could implement immediately.

    It was in discussion after the trainings that we collectively recognized something; this type of player education could, quite possibly, be the most valuable toolset we could ever give the kids we work with.

    Although some will go on to play at the collegiate level or pursue careers having something to do with soccer or sport, many will pursue other endeavors. We need to give skills which can transfer from their training on the field to whatever it is that they choose to do off of it.

    We’re so excited for this partnership we’ve built with South Shore Select and Coaches Across Continents. It’s not everyday that an established soccer club will make time for this type of work. Even though winning may be important, they recognize that building youth with exceptional character is far more important. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for each of these organizations and our connections with them.

  • Education Outside the Classroom in the “No-Law Zone”

    April 12th, 2018. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Jordan Stephenson, writes about his second visit to Lebanon working with Corporate Partner ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid). 

    Arriving in Lebanon for my second time representing Coaches Across Continents was a great thrill. Having experienced the hustle and bustle of Beirut previously and worked with some incredible people with our partner Anera (America Near East Refugee Aid), it was now time to work with the local NGO’s which Anera support.

    We are delivering Life Skills training to teachers working in refugee communities. The programme works with youth aged 14-24 years old who have not been in education for more than 2 years. Our Education Outside the Classroom methodology is allowing more young people to access vital skills relating to employment [even though it’s virtually impossible to get a job anyway if you’re Palestinian or Syrian] and becoming a better citizen.

    Most of the teachers are living and working in the Ein el Helwe refugee camp. It is the largest refugee camp in Lebanon with over 120,000 people. It has high media presence because of gun violence and death rate due to the lack of Lebanese authority. It is known as the “no-law zone” because Lebanese police have no jurisdiction in the camp and therefore the community runs themselves.

    The training brought to life our curriculum as well as giving me a greater understanding to the challenges which people face here, both whilst using Education Outside the Classroom and in their lives. We have two more weeks of training in different locations across the country and I am excited to continue to spread the community legacies which Coaches Across Continents are involved in!

  • ¡Viva Mexico!

    March 28th, 2018. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Pedro Perez, writes about his experience working with Fundación Paso Del Norte in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

    Imagine you’re playing a game where the purpose is create a strong competition between groups and see how they react. Suddenly and spontaneously the participants decide that instead competing they will start to work all together to accomplish the goal. Well, this is exactly what happened during our week in Juarez.

    This shocked me. It was surprising that this kind of situation calls our attention and not the other way around, right? I tried to find an explanation for this phenomenon. The word resilience came to my mind.

    Over the years Ciudad Juarez has been a host city of drug trafficking, violence and insecurity. Faced with this situation, people from Juarez – as it happened during the game – have created a system where they are taking care of each other, and where cooperation is more important than competition. They could choose to believe that what once surrounded them was the model they had to follow, but no, they have chosen to create a reality where the collective good is above the individual.

    For me that shows resilience. The people of Juarez after years suffering from an environment full of violence came out strengthened from that period, with the creation of a collective consciousness above the average. Admirable without a doubt!

    After that week working with Fundación Paso del Norte, and the teachers that are part of their program “Juarez en Acción”, I had this idea in my mind….“Do you know the feeling of arriving at a place, that turns out to be completely different from what you expected? Well, that’s Ciudad Juarez.”

  • Post-Disaster Sustainable Legacies: the AFC & CAC

    March 25, 2018. Kathmandu and Sindhupalchok, Nepal. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), and Coaches Across Continents joined forces this past weekend for three important events. There was a school dedication ceremony in Sindhupalchok, Nepal signifying the completion and handover of the AFC school rebuilding project, as well as a coaching education workshop on sport for social impact, followed by a clinic for Nepali street children.

    As the Official Social Responsibility Partner of the AFC, Coaches Across Continents (CAC) is working with ANFA grassroots coaches in Nepal, creating Education Outside the Classroom. Through football, we create learning opportunities to enable the social development of players on key topics like Health & Wellness, the importance of Education, Child Rights, communication and confidence, and teamwork.

    Thirty-four coaches worked with Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz on Friday learning our award-winning methodology and curriculum. We then held our first joint clinic with social development as the primary focus, working with over 50 street children from the organization Shelter.  Incidentally, a team from Shelter will be representing Nepal in Russia this summer at the Street Child World Cup.

    Saturday at the Shree Setidevi School, near Chautara, Sindhupalchok, Nepal was the official school dedication and handover ceremony. The original school building was completely decimated by the 2015 earthquake. The new school is now one of the nicest in the entire country. Standing two stories tall, it houses 18 classrooms, a central courtyard, washrooms, offices, and a water filtration system that will serve the entire community as well as the 600+ students who will attend the school.

    Key dignitaries in attendance throughout the weekend included AFC Executive Committee member and Chairman of Social Responsibility Ahmed Eid (Saudi Arabia), ANFA President Narendra Shrestha (Nepal), AFC Head of Social Responsibility Dr. Annathurai Ranganathan (Malaysia), CAC Chief Executive Strategist Brian Suskiewicz (USA / Nicaragua), as well as other local dignitaries.

    As a proud partner of the AFC, Coaches Across Continents will continue to support the Asian Football Confederation in Creating Legacies throughout their 47 Member Associations. Other continuing post-disaster Legacy Programs include our partnership in Tacloban, the Philippines, as the community continues to develop following Typhoon Yolanda.

  • Empanadas, Mi Amor

    March 20th, 2018. On-Field SDL Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, writes about her month in the state of Sonora, Mexico with the Secretary of Education and FESAC, working alongside the teachers in Hermosillo, Obregon, and Nogales.

    What an interesting time to travel, as a US Citizen, into Mexico to work with the Secretary of Education. In each of the three weeks we spent working together on-field, one of the first issues that teachers referenced was the border with the United States, and the dangers and discrimination their youth feel because of the current political climate and immigration policy debates.

    In each week participants introduced, created, and adapted games about the border situation and “The Wall of Trump”. Each game with a similar message, and a sadly negative one at that. For me, an American facilitator, this conversation had to be carefully managed. As a group we each reflected about these issues and how it is making young kids feel, the dangers it presents if we don’t educate them, etc. But as for right now, the people are so offended, that it is almost impossible for them to focus on the remaining possibilities. This however, we came to realize as the most important part! In our last week in Nogales, a border town split between the United States and Mexico, the group of teachers had an incredible conversation on the importance of not teaching kids to accept defeat in this situation, but to focus on the ways of legal immigration. Together we discussed educational opportunities, possibilities through sporting success, relationship, work visas, etc. Most importantly, we discussed the powerful role of teachers in not breading hatred from both sides, but educating on possibilities.

    My hope is that the people of Mexico continue to be welcoming to US Citizens, that they do not return the rejection they feel, and that they remain positive and bigger people. My greatest hope is that the American people also continue to/begin educating our youth, our future, on the power of inclusion, respect for others, and handling our business respectfully and tastefully.

    If illegal immigration is an issue, okay…. lets fix it. But in the process, let us not offend entire nations of people, who do nothing but welcome us with open arms. For the last 3 weeks the people of Sonora, Mexico welcomed me into their lives, their homes, and their families. They kept me full of tacos, coyotas, carne asada, advocato and galletas. More importantly, these people made me feel welcomed, safe, and happy – in a place where I did not speak the language and entered from a nation of controversy. There are incredibly hard working, good hearted, well informed leaders in the group of teachers from Hermosillo, Obregon, and Nogales, Mexico. They are easily some of the most incredible and professional participants I have ever had the privilege of working with. They smiled at my Spanglish, danced and laughed, brought lots of food, and most importantly – made it clear that they were making an incredible impact in the lives of their children.

    I hope we begin to live in a world where we can look out for our own people, while still showing respect, appreciation, and regard for others. I hope that we go back to continuing progress towards inviting diversity, social inclusion, and love for all people. And lastly, I hope that everyone who reads this blog gets the chance to eat an authentic Mexican Empanada in his or her lifetime. If not, I can confidently say, you do not know what delicious is! And on that note, it is now time for me to officially begin my mission to learn to speak Spanish…. Adios Amigos!

    P.S. VIVA MEXICO!

  • FIRST BLOG OF 2018: CONAN IN HAITI

    February 3rd, 2018. First-Time  on-field as new CAC staff, Pedro, writes about his experience working with GOALS Haiti during the ASK for Choice program in Leogane. 

     Before starting my first trip as staff member of CAC i didn’t know anything about my destination: Haiti. It’s hard to hear from Haiti being in Spain -after visit MUPANAH one can imagine the reason-so i didn’t know what I was going to find.

    After a quick pass through Port au Prince we arrived in Leogane for work during the week with our partner in the city, GOALS Haiti.

    Once in Haiti, and Leogane in particular, this place stopped being a stranger to me. I learned, in only five days and a half, about the importance of this city in the history of the country.

    Some examples, it was in Leogane where the taino queen Anacaona raised up against the abuses of the Spanish invaders. Since then she represents the courage of the Haitian woman and her story has been immortalized in books, songs and is represented in a large statue that presides over the main square of Leogane.

    Leogane is one of the sport’s capitols in the country. It is home to five major league sports teams -remember that it’s a city with 90.000 population-. And it’s also important because music festivals and vodou religion too (did you know vodou is a religion? I didn’t either!).

    At the same time, I had the opportunity to visit the communities where GOALS Haiti is working. It was really impressive to see the large number of children participating in the sessions and how the community respected these moments. I have seen different trainings like this in many other countries and believe me, it’s not easy to get this picture.

    Why am I telling all this? Because as the TV show “Conan in Haiti” -he’s in the country on the same days that we are – we want people to know that Haiti of course it’s not always the country it is portrayed to be – and you will know from the first moment you set foot there.