• 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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  • Thoughts From Cameroon

    IMG_1374May 9, 2013.  By Earl Strassberger, Amanda Ferguson, and Brian Suskiewicz.  During the last two weeks the three of us have worked in Buea and Mamfe, Cameroon with our partner organization, United Action for Children.  Also heavily involved and participating were our other two Cameroonian partners, AVFAL (Limbe) and Cameroon Football Development Program (Kumba).  Both weeks were great.  UAC is a tremendous host organization, building a FIFA Football For Hope Center, running two private schools that reach 1,000 kids, and running sports programs in various communities.  They also have a great outreach and support program for other groups which we witnessed.  Anyone who needs assistance in Buea or Mamfe reaches out to UAC, and if it is a good cause then they will find a way to support it.

    As we had such a great two weeks together, here are some individual thoughts from our time working here with UAC:

    IMG_1395Amanda:   Never in my life did I think I would be learning and coaching soccer simultaneously…at the base of an active volcano…in Africa.  I find new experiences to be so much more rewarding if you are open to anything that may come your way – and this is no exception.  I was also told that this would be an experience that would change me.  This was grossly understated.  I will be honest and admit that my soccer experience up until this point in my life is extremely limited at best.  Okay, let’s be more honest.  I’ve never played a game in my life.  Gulp.  We’re teaching coaches how to foster a voice within their players; a vital quality in building their confidence.  How appropriate that on our fourth day of work, we were able to see their voices.  The coaches taught us the games we’ve worked on all week and I couldn’t be happier to feel their energy, hear their enthusiasm and SEE their voice.  These coaches and the people here have enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined.  I’m looking forward to another week…or weeks?

    IMG_1159Earl: Mamfe is my 5th (and final) location on this trip.  While there are many similarities, each location had its own uniqueness.  Mamfe’s started with getting here.  We got a ride in a Toyota Land Cruser with six passengers plus the driver, Antoine.  Plus a lot of baggage, a case of soda pop, and 25 bananas purchased on the way.  While the seats were comfortable, there was no room to move our feet.  The ride started out easy on a nice paved road.  But after a few hours the pavement ended.  The dirt road was hilly and full of gullies.  Antoine was marvelous but we were tossed around like rag dolls because of the car-sized craters.  We got the ride in the SUV because we came down with Mr. Orock, the creator of our partner organization, United Action for Children.  Mr. Orock is well-known and generous and we were treated like royalty.  With him we observed a big community football match, while sitting in the front row under a tent. Brian performed the ceremonial kick off and Amanda presented the award to the Man of the Match.  The interest in our training was evident, as we were interviewed by a radio station and even got our picture in the newspaper.  What was the same in all five places were the wonderful coaches.

    IMG_0491Brian: This was my second year coming back to Cameroon.  It is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in Africa.  The people are warm and inviting and the landscape is beautiful as you can see from our pictures from Buea and Mamfe.  Most of the Southwest province is rain forest, and Buea is situated on the slopes of Mount Cameroon, an active volcano and the third largest mountain in Africa.  UAC is a well-run organization that reached out to anyone who needs assistance, making an immediate impact in their two communities.  The coaches are all excited to be involved and then do a good job implementing what they learn to the local kids.  Working with great groups like UAC, in outstanding locations like Cameroon, is why I love working for Coaches Across Continents.

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