• 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…

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  • The Wonder of Motobikes

    CAC returning volunteer Mike Mazzullo blogs about getting around Dschang, Cameroon with Breaking Ground. Thanks to the Taiji Branding Group who support this project and bring CAC to life with their incredibly creative designs! Check out this website and our Annual Review for proof of their excellence.

    June 30th 2016. Our partner for the week is Breaking Ground, who specializes in sport for social impact and emphasizes female empowerment. I, along with many others, have written blogs on the power of CAC’s curriculum in confronting problems. Although Dschang’s participants warrant plenty of praise, this blog post is about something off the main path: motobikes.

    It’s a great value: about 20 cents a ride, to anywhere in town.

    As you enter the town of Dschang, Cameroon, the bus depot buzzes. Kids hawk peanuts and plantains, drivers honk to signal “let’s go!,” and hands slap the back of buses to say “stop there!” The cacophony of shouts and honks and claps is steadied by another, more constant buzz: motobikes.

    When I say motobike, it’s useful to think of a cross between a dirt bike and a bare motorcycle. The long seat extends to fit one, two or more passengers. I have not encountered their kind in the States. Motobikes and their operators have a tricky job.

    The clientele varies, and one must be prepared to transport nearly everything and everyone. Most locals of Dschang get around by popping themselves onto the back of the nearest moto, cargo in tow. Some fares involve the carrying of wooden planks, bundles of bananas, or a Western volunteer with his duffel bag and backpack.

    The terrain requires dexterity; red earth hardens into ruts and ridges with the sun, and dissolves into puddles and potholes with the rain. Riders must be nimble enough to maneuver the twisty turns and sturdy enough to slog through steep climbs.

    Motobikes compete with cars for space on the inside shoulder,  and the whir and whoosh of the motos ensure pedestrians don’t wander too far from the outside shoulder. The rules tend to be followed, if not enforced.

    Dschang is bumpy and hilly. As you snake from the high center of town, glimpses of farmland and villages pock the distant green. A layer of clouds sits on the waist of the hill-line, providing a latitude of fog cover. One of the great things about beautiful places is the way your eyes can surprise. Riding a moto can be exhilarating, practical, scary. As a foreigner, there’s a slight impulse to treat it like a scenic tour/roller coaster. Glimpses turn into stares. It’s a bit like taking a peek out your cab window and realizing the Empire State Building is before you. Landscapes can have that effect. A casual glance en route invites a momentary break from the world.

    Spedometers are an aesthetic accessory. One moto’s spedometer was stuck at 0 kph, another’s at 50. You get the sense everyone is speeding, but no one is in a rush.

    How to ride on the back? Do you embrace the driver, grip the side handles, or spend the time texting? Most put their hands off the back fender, as if they were really relaxing in the rear seat of a car. I clutched the driver’s shoulders, almost out of worry he’d forget I was there. Also, if I got lost looking into the hills and clouds, I might forget I was there.

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  • A Train Heading North

    June 24th 2016. CAC SDL coach Charlie Crawford writes about working with Breaking Ground in Ngaoundere, Cameroon. This program was supported by our partner Taiji Brand Group in 2016. Taiji have provided world-class branding and communications services to clients for almost 30 years. They have brought CAC’s work to life through our Annual Reviews, this website and our various logos and we want to thank them greatly for that.

    Picture a train heading north. To reach CAC’s next program required a 14+ hour rail trip through countryside and jungle. Ngaoundere, Cameroon has many things going for it. One would be the appreciation that comes from arriving after a long journey. Another has to be how the region is built around a boulder topped mountain that gave the town its name, strangely accurately meaning ‘belly button’.

    Our partner this week, Breaking Ground, is a Cameroon based NGO that specializes in using Football for Social Impact to address issues of Gender Inequality and Female Empowerment. Paul Zangue, Director of Breaking Ground, joined throughout the week providing camaraderie and much needed translation into French. After some weeks off-field, jumping back into work in a French speaking, primarily Muslim community was just what the doctor ordered.

    ‘Eggs-Spaghetti’ became a morning staple after realizing that a friendly street vendor was making vegetable omelettes with noodles and throwing it onto a French baguette for less than a dollar. France has influenced Cameroon to a strong degree. Nowhere (in my opinion) is that influence more reliably expressed than in a majority of meals coming with a crusty baguette. Someone once told me that my blog posts tend to revolve around food. I’d freely admit that. What experience isn’t highlighted by the meals you share and the people you share them with?

    On the final day of our program the public field we were using as a venue became the grounds for an impressive cooking competition. With a dozen bright colored tents and scores of chefs preparing their stations, our space for the week took on a new vitality. Only slightly disappointed in not being asked to judge this competition, Paul and I set off for the station and moved on to the next program.

    Picture a train heading South.

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  • Evaluating Coaches Across Continents’ 2015 Impact So Far

    “The best thing about working with Coaches Across Continents is the unique and special impact of the CAC program.”

    Paul Lwanga, Football for Hope, Peace & Unity participant, Rwanda.

    August 17th 2015. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) plays an important part in everything we do at Coaches Across Continents: baseline/endline surveys involve every coach, and quantitative and qualitative data is collected at every program. CAC uses its data and statistics to evaluate current practice as well as to inform future developments.

    Comprehensive needs analysis allows CAC to identify the greatest social impact needs and priorities and to design locally relevant programs for partners. Baseline statistics demonstrate the initial attitudes, skills and knowledge of the coaches, including what they know about child protection, their understanding of football for social impact, or their inclination towards gender equality in sport.

    For example, only 15% of participants had ever coached a game of football for social impact before working with CAC in 2015 and only 7% of coaches have had training in how to protect children on the sports field. In many communities, less than a third of local coaches were coaching or planning on coaching girls prior to working with CAC in 2015. In some programs, none of the participants were coaching or planning on coaching girls.

    CAC’s WISER M&E model makes it possible to follow the growth of the organization as well as to identify the successes and impacts programs are having year-round in communities.

    Since the beginning of 2015, 19,376 On-Field coaching education hours have been dedicated to local communities. CAC has worked with 51 implementing partners, 823 community partners, and 2,225 local coaches. In total so far, CAC has reached 180,879 youth in 2015. At this time of year in 2014, CAC had only worked with 42 implementing partners, 685 community members, 1,859 local coaches and had reached 132,375 youth.

    In addition to On-Field coaching education, CAC delivers year-round support to partner programs such as Online Coaching Education, curriculum development, strategic planning, M&E development, social media support or sharing of best practices. This maximizes social impact and allows for the incredible impacts our partners achieve in their local communities.

    Some of the successes so far this year have included:

    – local coaches implementing the CAC curriculum with indigenous children to educate on drug abuse in Mexico.

    – the launch of a menstruation awareness and sanitary towel collection campaign to “encourage men to be more involved in what the adolescent girls and women go through in their menstruation cycle” in Nairobi, Kenya.

    – the creation of an entirely new NGO, ‘Green-Kenya’ for better implementation of the CAC curriculum in Kenyan communities with a specific focus on the environment.

    – the expansion of implementing partner Uni Papua to 28 communities in Indonesia.

    – the start of numerous new female empowerment through sport initiatives in Cameroon, Kenya, Zanzibar, and India.

    – the incorporation of CAC HIV games into daily trainings in Hyderabad, India, a topic that was previously avoided due to cultural sensitivities. Local coaches are now openly discussing sexual education in Hyderabad through sport for social impact.

    – the Mbarara community in Western Uganda working to build primary and secondary schools with playgrounds in order to provide children with sport for social impact education.

    For more information on Coaches Across Continents’ impacts in developing communities, you can read the ‘2014 In Review’ report.

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  • 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.
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  • 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!

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