Living Off The Land
CAC volunteer Lea Hinnen blogged from Kumba, Cameroon and our partnership with Cameroon Football Development Program.
July 20th 2016. Monday morning, 6am – Kumba, Cameroon: You might ask yourself why anyone would get up at 6am, if in reality they could sleep in until at least 6.45? Well, if you ask yourself that question, you clearly never had “Beignets”…
Week four in Cameroon, we were located in Kumba, the base of our partner Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP). While it was nice not having to translate everything from French to English anymore and being out of the dusty and busy city of Douala, we soon found ourselves with one small problem: There seemed to be no breakfast place open before we would get picked up at 7:15am for the session. No breakfast place except a little stand on the side of the road with a ‘Mama’ setting up her pots.
As we sat down at the improvised table every morning watching the rooster march around and wake up the neighborhood, ‘Mama’ would scoop some sort of raw dough out of a bucket to then drop it into a pot of boiling oil. Round, light-brown doughy balls soon filled up the entire pot. A few minutes later, there they were: ‘Beignets’ – or ‘Pof Pofs’ – as they call them here. For non-French and non-Pigeon speakers, beignets are fried dough balls of to us unknown ingredients, which taste especially amazing when you add sugar or put a piece of dark chocolate on the inside to melt. You could almost compare them to Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins – just triple the size, double the taste and take them straight out of the vat…With the motto ‘eat when you can’ and their amazing taste, the number of beignets in the morning soon jumped from three to six.
While beignets were adding on to our hips, our lunches made us feel less bad about it – especially at Ashu’s place. Ashu, who is also known as ‘the General’ and is in charge of finances for CFDP, lives in a beautiful compound with his whole family. Their house is surrounded by all sorts of plants, trees and crops from which his sister and mother prepared a big feast for us. From corn over yams to plantains, everything came straight out of his garden or their nearby farm. Even the chicken and milk were probably straight out of his yard: As we see only two or three chickens, he tells us he has well over 30, including a bunch of roosters.
On top of that, a bunch of goats along with their kids would jump around and drive ‘Rocket’, one of Ashu’s four dogs, crazy. As cute and innocent as all of these animals looked, the General thinks differently: He says that they would mercilessly make sure that he is up and wide awake every morning around the same time as we would be sitting down to have our beignets. My take on solving this problem? I think he should have himself some beignets ready when the noisy chaos of chickens, roosters, dogs and goats commences at 6am…
Empowering The Youth
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.
Small Group, Big Impact
Boston University student and soccer center-back, Rachel Bloznalis blogs from Kumba, Cameroon
June 18th 2015. After my third week in Cameroon with CAC I am realizing why they call Cameroon “the melting pot of Africa”. We started the journey in Yaounde, the nation’s capital, which is in the Centre Region. Then we traveled to Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Region, Dschang in the West Region, and the town that we are in now, Kumba, in the Southwest Region. Each destination has such a distinct culture that it makes them each feel like a different country. The landscapes, climates, religions, food, languages (over 250 dialects in Cameroon), tribes, traditions, and people are unique in every one. Our partner program in Kumba, Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP) is made up of incredibly smart, eager, friendly, funny, and talented people that make Kumba unique.
CFDP is unlike the other programs that I have been a part of because it was week one of a two-week program. In week one we had the chance to work with the full-time staff, which is about eight fulltime men and women. The second week we will be working with community coaches and young leaders in addition to the direct staff totaling about 40 educators and coaches. Working with a small group of full-time local coaches dedicated to using soccer for social impact was extremely insightful for me. Getting to know the coaches personally, while also being able to have serious in-depth discussions about important issues in their community made this week very productive. At the beginning of the week, we had them brainstorm a list of issues that they thought were prominent in their community so that we could adapt games to fit exactly what they needed. The biggest issues in Kumba that they identified included tribalism, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual health and HIV, child labor, domestic violence, corruption, and school dropouts. It was a successful week because we had time to learn from them and listen to them so that they could learn from us.
The CFDP staff has the people and the motivation to make a long-term impact on their community. I could see and feel the direct CAC impact in all of the coaches when they were able to adapt games to teach about a specific community issue. A moment that stuck out to me was when one of the young leaders who attended every training session this week was able to create a game and coach it to the group. He chose to address the issue of school dropouts, which he knows first-hand is a big issue being a 15-year-old schoolboy. He created a simple game that involved foot skills and agility, while teaching about the negative influences that cause kids to drop out of school, which they defined as negative peer-pressure, child labor, alcohol and drugs, and financial issues. He taught this game confidently and proficiently to a group of coaches who were all older than him, some by 20 years. This was rewarding because he used what he learned from the CFDP curriculum and coaches with the help of CAC and applied it to make a direct impact on his young peers.
Another perk of a two-week program is being able to build strong relationships with the coaches and learn more about the local culture. A few of the coaches took us to Kumba’s crater lake on Saturday and we got to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake with them. I also got to experience more Kumba culture when one of the coaches brought me to church on Sunday morning. English is the first language in Kumba, which is another reason it feels like we are in a different country. Speaking English has helped me get to know the coaches better and more importantly it has allowed me to coach a few games after seeing them coached by Nora in French for two weeks. The local’s speak Pidgin English so it has been fun learning some phrases and words that sound like slurred broken English.
I am looking forward to the next and my last week in Cameroon with an excited and smart group of coaches!
Thank You, Goodbye Cameroon!
July 25, 2014. Volunteer Kathryn Keefe writes about her last week (and month) in Cameroon. Our last week of Coaches Across Continents programs was spent in Kumba working with the Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP). This was CFDP’s first year of training with Coaches Across Continents. Our mornings were spent on the field with close to 50 coaches, and our afternoons were spent welcomed into the homes of CFDP staff members, sharing a meal together, followed by various capacity building training sessions with the management team at CFDP. We focused on Monitoring and Evaluation, storytelling, and social media for these sessions. And, of course, our later evenings were spent watching the World cup matches!
During our Coaches Across Continents sessions, were able to have some very rich and in-depth conversations with the coaches this week, specifically those conversations around gender equality and child rights. Both topics for conversation were clearly controversial and at times these conversations became very heated. I was impressed with the young peer-educators from CFDP who were apart of the CAC training. They engaged these issues critically issues and added depth to each conversation.
Kumba exceeded all of our expectations. The CFDP team hosted a number of events during the week that we were invited to take part in. On our first night in Kumba, we were invited to the CFDP board chairman’s home for dinner, drink and conversation along with the CFDP management team. The board chairman’s name is Dr. Nzume and he along with his brother run a private, non-governmental hospital in Kumba. He shared with us his philospophy of community health and the importance of a holistic approach to development. He was approached by Justin, the founder of CFDP, several years ago and he fell in love with the work that CFDP is doing for the community. It was great to see his support and clear passion for the mission and work of CFDP and their partnership with Coaches Across Continents. This was one of several occasions that the Cameroonian warm hospitality was extended our way this week. We were sad for this week to end, not only because it meant that we had to say goodbye to this beautiful town and the wonderful people we met in Kumba, but also because it meant that we had to say goodbye to Cameroon and prepare for our departure and travels back home.
Before arriving in Cameroon, Josh had told me that it would be near to impossible to expect what was ahead on this trip, and he was right. My month spent in Cameroon with Coaches Across Continents was challenging and it was hard, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life and I would not trade it for the world. The memories I formed with both my teammates and coaches from our partnering programs are ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you, Cameroon, for the trip of a lifetime, and thank you, Coaches Across Continents, for making that possible.
The World Cup starts in Mamfe
June 29th 2014. Hello from Mamfe! We arrived here Sunday afternoon after a long, adventurous trip from Ngaoundere. We took the overnight train on Friday from Ngaoundere and arrived in Yaounde on Saturday morning. Then, we took a bus from Yaounde to Bafousam, then another bus from Bafousam to Dschung where we stayed the night Saturday night. Sunday morning we woke up and took another bus from Dschung to Bamenda, and then a private car from Bamenda to Mamfe. What an experience! I couldn’t believe how many people can fit into those busses!
Mamfe is HOT and HUMID. I dont know that we’ve ever sweated so much in one week, but not even this sort of heat could slow us down. We hit the ground running on Monday to begin UAC’s third year of CAC training. There were about fifteen participating coaches at the beginning of the week, including several returning coaches from UAC. By the end of the week we had closer to 25 coaches, both male and female. Our trainings were hosted at Mamfe’s brand new FIFA Football for Hope center. We found out shortly after arriving that our CAC training would be the first event ever held at the center. It is a really beautiful facility, equiped with a classroom, a computer room, and an office next to the football field. Wallace, a Community Impact Coach from CFDP in Kumba, joined us in leading our Coaches Across Continents training. He did a great job of leading and coaching games and was great company to us this week. We are looking forward to seeing him in a week when we head to Kumba for CFDP’s training from June 23-27.
It was fun to lead CAC program in it’s third year. For this week, we focused on environment care, HIV, child protection and gender equality. The HIV games were a huge hit with this group. These games brought out a lot of laughs and a lot of great discussions. There is a game we played called Adebayor In The Community that the coaches really enjoyed. This game represents how quickly HIV can spread and also how making good choices like getting tested for instance, can protect you from contracting the virus.
The coaches that participated in our child rights training session Wednesday morning brought a spark to the discussions that carried us through the rest of the week. The new addition to the CAC curriculum was a great opportunity for coaches, teachers, and volunteers alike to discuss, openly and honestly, some of the ways in which children in Mamfe are marginalized. We talked about how sometimes children are expected to work for their families and that those responsibilities are engrained in cultural expectations but can impede on that child’s right to play. We discussed the possibility and importance of not ignoring thst cultural norm but working within it, within reason. If a child is expected to perform chores or work for their household, some of the coaches stressed that it is important that they support these roles at home but thst they intervene if these chores become problematic for that child’s social development. It was great to hear coaches talking about how to tactfully and respectfully interact with parents and work to resolve the issue so that the child can enjoy the benefits of play and contribute to his/her household.
Another fun thing to make mention of is that the World Cup started this week! We had the opportunuty to watch it with some of the coaches here in Mamfe on Thursday and Friday night at a nearby restaurant that played the game on a big projector screen. The power went out just before the opening game on Thursday, but thankfully the restaurant was able to find a generator quickly so that we didnt miss more than the first few minutes. Cameroonians sure love their soccer!
Check out this great video Cameroon Football Development Program created!
Cameroon Football Development Program created a short video highlighting Coaches Across Continents trip working with their coaches in April. Take a look at this fantastic video and get a glimpse from what our partners think about our training sessions. Check out the video on our website, here or on youtube, here
CFDP is an organization that uses football to engage kids in health, life skills, and peace education. They have been incorporating the curriculum they learned from CAC’s staff into their programs these past few months. Once the summer break ends they plan on focusing on all the lessons through the curriculum. For more information on Cameroon Football Development Program check out their website, here.
Thanks for the great video Cameroon Football Development Program, keep up the great work making a lasting difference in Cameroon!