• Every CAC Week Is Different

    June 7th 2016. Cameron Hardington writes about his 2nd time volunteering with CAC in Colombia with Colombianitos

    I arrived in Colombia for my second time volunteering with Coaches Across Continents feeling much more confident than I did for my first stint in Africa. I’ve been through the program and am aware of what to expect, and also know how CAC operates on the field. What I was quickly reminded of, however, was that each experience with this organization is a unique one. This is not just because I’m in a different country or culture than my previous time, but that each community we work with has their own needs and interests. Rather than having a rigid structure of what to do each week, CAC adapts to the needs expressed by each community which makes for a more dynamic coaching and learning experience. It’s one reason why I enjoy volunteering so much.

    This past week, unsurprisingly, brought new challenges to overcome in regards to scheduling and organization. We scheduled a program with Colombianitos in Barbosa. They were less familiar with our work than previous programs. This to me was an advantage as we got to teach a wide range of our games to show what CAC does.

    The group we worked with was small but they were all passionate and eager to learn. One game that I particularly enjoyed coaching was a game called Earth, Wind, and Water. It’s a simple game of football with three goals, but when a team scores a goal, it gets taken away. The game is meant to show how pollution (the ball) can pollute your resources, and once you lose your resources, they are gone for good. The group was very receptive and this game, and one coach named Cesar particularly enjoyed it and used it to coach to his kids on Friday.

    It was a joy to see these coaches willing to incorporate some of the games that we taught them so quickly, and hopefully we will get the chance to work with them again next year in greater depth. For me this week was also a perfect example of how there is rarely a similar week with CAC.

    It’s refreshing for me to experience that, and it’s why I came back.


  • Off to a Great Start in Rwanda

    July 3, 2015.  Long-time CAC supporter, advisor, and now volunteer-coach Jamie Reilly blogs about his first week On-Field with CAC and our partner, Football for Hope, Peace and Unity and their Sport for Peace ‘Play For Hope: Rwanda20’ Initiative.

    I wasn’t sure what would await me when I arrived in Rwanda. I’ve been fortunate to do some traveling in other developing areas in Africa. While incredibly rewarding, travel in these areas can be challenging and you definitely need to keep your wits about you. I’d also seen the film “Hotel Rwanda” about the 1994 genocide. Words can’t quite capture the brutal horror of those 100 days where over one million people were slaughtered in an ethnic cleansing of minority Tutsis (Tootsies) by the majority Hutus (Hoo-Toos). To say that my guard was up, is an understatement.

    My apprehensions and expectations, however, could not have been further than reality. The first thing I noticed was how unbelievably clean it is… EVERYWHERE. And I mean spotlessly clean. Main streets, side streets, parks, schools, homes, bus depots – you name it – everywhere seems freshly swept. Didier Bana, our wonderful host from Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU), told us that all Rwandans take great pride in where they live. To build unity, every neighborhood and village gathers on the 4th Saturday of each month to do service and connect with neighbors. Indeed, throughout Rwanda, there is a sense of collective commitment to a peaceful and prosperous future and you can see it and feel it throughout the country.

    Our first program was in Rubavu, a community about 3.5 hour drive on great roads from the capital of Kigali. There we worked with 64 coaches from local soccer clubs. This area in particular, has a very established academy system for training players in skills and tactics. It was exciting to see so many turn out to find ways to incorporate social education into their work with their teams.

    Over the course of the week we taught and played 26 different games that illuminated life skills, gender equity, conflict resolution, and health and wellness including HIV. An important element to almost every game is for players to use their voice. Early in the week, coaches were somewhat hesitant, but by the end of the week “muvuge cyane” (translation is loud voices) were echoing across the field on every game.

    My favorite game with this group was Messi for Gender Equity. For those that are unfamiliar with the CAC curriculum, there are different modules built around role models like Lionel Messi star of Barcelona FC or Perpetua Nkwocha former captain of the Nigerian women’s national team. Messi for Gender Equity starts with a brief discussion about different roles and positive qualities of women in Rwandan society. These roles and qualities are then selected by smaller teams of three who then are each called to meet other teams in small sided games.

    The competition was fierce and fun, but the best part was the discussion afterwards. We are lucky to have Dr. Holly Collision from Loughboro University (UK) with us for two of the four weeks in Rwanda. Dr. Collison’s research specializes in Sport for Development and Peace. In short, it was great to see a very male dominated group, make the connection that they as coaches can not only play a role in challenging limiting gender stereotypes.

    Another highlight was an afternoon trip to a local community center for the mentally and physically impaired. The welcome we received was one of the warmest I could remember. We had a brief tour of the different programs they run to help develop life skills, and then we played a few games with the students in the courtyard. As I zipped back to the guesthouse on the back of moto-taxi, I had a new appreciation for what fun can be. So many smiles and so much laughter!

    Finally, my post wouldn’t be complete without mention of Anike Ishemwe. We met Anike after the first session when we grabbed a cold water at a restaurant on the shore of Lake Kivu. The next day, he was at the field joining in the games taking pictures, collecting scrimmage vests, and just helping keep a smile on everyone’s face. Anike has Down Syndrome, and must be the most popular guy in Rubavu. We were so pleased to present him with a certificate at the end of the week and welcome him as a Coach Across Continents!

    Almost forgot… in Kigali, we stayed at a place that has the only bowling alley in Rwanda!


    Playing Circle of Friends at the Community Center!


    CAC coaches with Rubavu favorite Anike


  • Empowering The Youth

    CAC volunteer Cameron Hardington blogs from Kumba, Cameroon following our 2nd week with Cameroon Football Development Program.

    June 24th 2015. Unlike my first week in Dschang, We had the luxury of spending two weeks in Kumba. This allowed us to really dig deep and challenge the group. Only a select group of coaches participated for both weeks and this became evident as certain coaches began to step up and come into their own the second week. The most impressive part was that most of these coaches were under the age of 18.

    After the first few days, some of the older coaches started to grumble about how many young leaders were working with us and some argued that it was disruptive. The young leaders, however, paid no attention to this. They quietly went along with their business and continued to learn and stay engaged. At the end of the week Nora decided to let any of the coaches that wanted to create a game with a social message and teach it to the rest of the group. It was no surprise that the majority of the coaches that stepped up to teach were the young leaders. Before the games, I was very curious to see how the older coaches would react to someone so much younger teaching them something. For the most part, there was obvious enjoyment during the games, and afterwards the older coaches were incredibly respectful to what the kids had to say and they participated wholeheartedly in the discussions.

    One of the games that I particularly enjoyed watching was an adaptation of a CAC game called Gazza Scrimmage. The young leader who coached it, David, turned the game into a handball game in which both teams were trying to score except one team could only use one hand, while the other team could use both. The message he portrayed was about social inclusion, but he soon realized that there was a large degree of cheating and fouling going on that he decided to do nothing about. Instead, he let it continue until one of the older coaches took leadership and finally made it stop. The creativity he displayed to adapt this game was great to see, and is promising for the future, but the maturity he displayed was what really struck me.

    I do not want to be naive and say that the coaches showed measurable change over the two weeks, as the young leaders were extremely confident and bright from the beginning, but I will say that the extraordinary confidence and capability of the youth is a testament to what our partner program CFDP is doing in Kumba. If there truly is going to be generational change, it has to start with the kids, and CFDP are doing a great job empowering the youth to do so.

  • A New Style of Learning

    CAC volunteer Cameron Hardington, student at Amherst College, blogs about his first week in Cameroon with Breaking Ground. This program is part of our great partnership with the Games 4 Good Foundation, who we thank for all of their support.

    June 10th 2015. There are three passions that have categorized my early years: my passion for football, a desire to see and experience the world, and a love for people. It was these three qualities that inspired me to volunteer with CAC, so heading into Cameroon I was excited, but was also unsure what to expect. After a day and a half of plane flights, a night in Yaoundé, and an 8 hour bus ride we finally arrived in Dschang, the city that we would be working in this week.

    The first day of training brought many difficulties for me including nerves, culture shock, and the most obvious obstacle, the language barrier. Nora had told Rachel ( the other volunteer) and me before the session that we would not be coaching that much this week as neither of us could speak French, but that we could hop in on games and do demonstrations. Not being able to speak or understand the language turned out to be one of the best blessings for me. I was able to see and understand the games through visual cues and was able to gauge what the coaches thought of the game by their laughs, smiles, energy, or the odd confused face here and there. Most of the time it was hard for me to follow what they were talking about in their discussions but I was able to catch the gist of it by their passion, expressions, and hand motions.

    This group definitely had a passion for female empowerment and gender equity. It was obvious to see that during these games there were smiles and laughter on the faces of both men and women, but they were also extremely intentional and serious when we got down to talking about issues and how gender issues can be resolved. The most brilliant example of how highly they valued gender equity happened during a game called Marta for Gender Equity. The basic rules are that there are two teams and half the team is sitting out on the sideline while the other half plays. It’s a regular game of football, except when a team scores, they run over to the sideline and pick a player who is sitting out and say a good choice for empowerment such as “education” or “exercise” and the new player comes in to play giving a numbers advantage to the team that scores. It was near the end of the game, and neither team had been able to score, and then finally a team scored. Nora then yelled, “Choose three players to come in!” The young boy who scored ran straight over to where his two best friends were sitting and went to the first, grabbed him and said a good choice and he was in the game. He then went to his other best friend, reached down to grab his hand, then hesitated and you could see him think, and then he proceeded to pull his hand away and grab two of the women’s hands who then came in to play. This boy’s action was a perfect sample of this group’s attitude. They are passionate, courageous, and most importantly they are not afraid to adapt a game to show a different lesson than the one that Nora had intended.

    I have a great hope and expectation for this group in the future. From the first day, it was evident that they were very open and eager to share issues that they faced in their community as well as possible solutions to the problem. I think that the most valuable asset that this team has is their willingness to listen to other’s ideas and feed off them to form new ones. This characteristic that they share collectively has the capability to make real change within the community, and I look forward to seeing where it takes them.

    This week taught me one of the only things I value higher than learning which is a new way to learn. I have never been in a situation where I have had to rely on some type of communication other than speaking for 5 days straight. My French got better as the week wore on, but I learned through the games that we played, and the expressions that the coaches had on their faces rather than Nora’s translations or explanations of how to play each game. Starting in a community where I didn’t speak the language has prepared me greatly for the upcoming week in Kumba where I will get the opportunity to coach a few games.