• Connecting Kenya and Ghana

    June 13th. CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Charles Otieno writes about working with DUNK Grassroots in Accra, Ghana. Charles, a long-time CIC from Kenya traveled to Ghana to help us run the programs.

    In our last week in Ghana we visited DUNK Grassroots, an organization located at Jamestown, Accra. The town is one of the oldest places in Accra and it’s known for fishing and colonial history. The light house is the land mark of the place and if you climb to the top you will have a glance of the capital city, Accra and the fishing harbor.

    The organization has a center that acts as a safe space for many kids, since they have opportunities to play, learn and grow to be change agents in their respective communities. The organization main sport is basketball, so we (Jordan, JK and I) had to be creative enough to play the games using basketball skills. It was a week of fun and learning moments for the participants and the organization coaches. It was my first time to teach games to participants who are basketballers. We delivered the curriculum to the U12, U14 and Girls teams and had a cohort of coaches who were the key part of the training.

    Though we are not professional basketball players we aimed at achieving our goal using thematic games to teach our participants. It was a success since the participants were able to learn and have fun. Looking at the smiles in their faces and how they responded to the open questions really made me happy because I believe there is nothing better than putting a smile on someone’s face and adding knowledge to them.

    In the end the participants were able to review and reflect the games we played in the real life situation and the majority promised to share what they have learnt. And that was my last work in Ghana as I had to say good bye and leave the Ghanaians with a big smile and knowledge. I hope they will take it to the next level by teaching more people and making Ghana an even better place.

    It was exciting travelling with CAC miles away from my country Kenya. I learnt lots of things personally. Coaches Across Continents has really made me grow. I want to thank CAC for this life changing opportunity to go to a different country to teach sport for social impact games. Not forgetting the wonderful team that I worked with; CAC staff Jordan Stephenson and Global citizen JK Cho.

  • The Universal Language

    April 5th 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach Charles Otieno blogs about his second week On-Field with CAC in Mbarara, Uganda with Mbarara Sports Academy.

    It was a four hour bus ride from the capital city of Kampala to Mbarara, a beautiful town located in the west of Uganda. I liked the environment that the Mbarara Sports Academy created there. Being the second town I visited in Uganda, it was another good experience. I met new people and the fun of it was people speaking a different language from what I speak in Kenya, but we had one thing in common, and that was soccer. Soccer plays a vital role and it made the communication easier, as we all know soccer is a universal language.

    The turnout of the five-day training was high and fairly well gender balanced. The active coaches were very interested in playing soccer so we got to play some of our more competitive games this week. It took a while for some of the coaches to realize that you can use soccer to teach on how to combat social issues, but it was impressive to see once they did. The highlight of the week was playing ASK for Choice games with female coaches for two days consecutively. The women were really committed. They arrived early in the morning at a different training field and then continued on with the rest of the coaches in the original site for extra hours of CAC games. The majority of the girls were students in college and were studying in different fields so that they can have as many opportunities as men. They believe that women should have equal opportunities as men and through that, the community will grow economically and socially. They want to be more independent, have more freedom to play sport, to education, to employment, to property ownership, and to make personal choices.

    The One World Futbols have played a big role in the On-Field sessions. I have been able use them to train and create a learning environment for young men and women. Having soccer balls is one of the challenges communities face and these ultra-durable balls have been the answer because they last longer and can be played in any type of pitch be it grass field, turf field or dusty field. With the One World Futbol’s being all over the world, it tells us how soccer speaks to people in a language they can all understand.

    They say “play with the best and be the best”. I take this opportunity to thank CAC for the great opportunity and also the gentlemen that have been my backbone for the two weeks here in Uganda. It has been great working with David Neaverth, Markus Bensch and Charlie Crawford and I’m happy I managed to grasp some On-Field and Off-Field skills from the team.

    One Football…. One Game….One Goal…. One language…. One World.

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  • Soccer Is More Than A Game

    March 21st 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach Charles Otieno, from our partners VAP & Green-Kenya in Nairobi, writes about his trip with CAC to Uganda to work with Soccer Without Borders Uganda.

    It was a long journey from Nairobi to Kampala. I left Nairobi on Friday at 7.30pm only to arrive in Kampala at 10am the next morning. This was my second time in Kampala, but it was my first time traveling internationally with Coaches Across Continents to teach games to coaches. It was an exciting week in Kampala since it meant meeting coaches who were welcoming and eager to learn. Some of them traveled from far to the training venue, only to be part of the training in a dusty field, under the hot sun. Their commitment and hard work really inspired me. I also got a chance to visit the Kampala based CAC partner organization Soccer Without Borders .The organization works in the Nsambya neighborhood of Kampala. Through soccer and educational programming, SWB creates a space for urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, and Somalia to integrate with their Ugandan peers.

    As a CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) I had the opportunity to engage with more than 20 community coaches who are leading incredible organizations and soccer teams making a difference through sport. Being a CAC Community Impact Coach has really influenced my personal journey in life. What I think makes soccer so incredible is its potential to help change the world outside of professional leagues and international tournaments. Also Coaches Across Continents brings out the picture clearly with the games that we learn, adapt and create. CAC helps grow the game by creating a platform for us to be more creative and come up with games that directly impacts our own communities and the rest of the world.

    I felt happier when on one of the training days I got a chance to play a game I had created. It was my highlight of the week and I thank Coaches Across Continents for their Online Education Program that has really shaped me as a CIC and the first hand experience I have gained from working alongside many CAC teams. Football has provided me the self discipline, leadership skills and confidence that continue to shape my life on and off the field. I feel fortunate to be a Community Impact Coach in Kampala. With this role I have been able recognize the power of sport to make a difference, and would like to be defined not only by my knowledge, but by my ability to bring out the best in every partner organization I go to. It is our duty to attempt to make the world a better place than it was when we found it. To realize this dream many of us are happy to go through endless hours of traveling and personal sacrifice. I love soccer but the side of the sport that I love most is one in which success isn’t defined by goals or medals, but instead by community impact and social change.

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  • A Vision for Local Sustainability

    August 14th 2015. Léogâne to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Nairobi to Marsabit, Kenya. Tacloban to Baybay, Philippines. Nyanza to Kigali, Rwanda. Tanzania to Uganda. Uganda to Kenya. Cambodia to Philippines.

    These are some of the movements of our Community Impact Coaches (CICs) so far in 2015. We have had 16 CICs from 9 countries, directly impacting 28 CAC programs, and consequently nearly 100,000 children.

    The locations and numbers are compelling, but the stories behind those facts and figures are far more inspiring.

    So who are these CICs? How have they enhanced our work? And what have they brought back home to their communities?

    The CIC program pulls in the best of the best from our implementing partners. These are the coaches who have demonstrated their commitment to using sport for social impact at home with their local organizations, On-Field during past CAC trainings, and in year-round communication with CAC staff. These coaches, once selected as CICs, are part of On-Field teams for 1-3 weeks in various locations in their country or internationally. They assist us with the training of other leaders while learning more from our SDL Coaches, and soaking in everything they believe will empower them back home.

    We kicked off the year with a CIC exchange of sorts. Our 3rd-year partners, GOALS Haiti in Léogâne sent two coaches to work with our team in Port-au-Prince with 2nd-year partners The Sanneh Foundation’s Haitian Initiative (HI). The following week two coaches left the city to join our staff for the third year of the On-Field component to our partnership with GOALS. These two weeks are a great representation of what the CIC program is all about. The GOALS coaches were essential in helping us train 173 leaders in Cité Soleil. The HI coaches visited Léogâne and were able to see how far along a third-year partner is, while learning from them and being challenged to advance beyond the work we had done in their community.

    2015 also saw the return of our first-ever CIC, Nico Pota, who traveled from his home in Tanzania to help us run three programs in UgandaWhile in Uganda, Nico met the second-longest serving CIC, Salim Blanden. Soon after the Uganda programs, Salim traveled to meet our team in Kenya where he helped us train two sets of leaders. After his final week with us, one of the participants had some encouraging words to say about the CIC program: “It is very good for us participants to learn about other cultures and it can help to improve the life of the people in the community. It also encourages members of our community to try to achieve that as well, because when you have been in another community you come home with new ideas. To see Salim also encourages me to do my work and help to improve my own community in Rapogi.” – Michael Ouma, Migori County, Kenya.

    In early May we had some fiercely empowered Filipino women join us for our first time working in Baybay, Philippines after our second year with partners Football for Life in Tacloban. Hazel and Patty were running the show with a group of physical education teachers, and we hope to get one or both of them assisting us internationally in the near future.

    One of our Zimbabwe partners has finished the Hat-Trick Initiative, and after the third year several of the coaches applied to the CIC program. Of these candidates, Frank Chivawura was selected and joined CAC On-Field near his home in Harare with a first-year partner, helping us introduce our methodology to the new participants.

    One of the most incredible stories from our CICs takes us back to Kenya. David Mulo and Charles Otieno have been CICs with us for two years, helping us train leaders in various parts of their country. These inspired leaders work with long-time partners Vijana Amani Pamoja in Nairobi, and since joining us as CICs, they’ve wanted to do more. They started their own NGO called Green Kenya where they use CAC games to teach youth about all sorts of social issues, i.e.: “teaching participants how to conserve the environment using CAC environment games.” Another such issue is the empowerment of women. We have just been informed by David that they recently launched their new Girl Up initiative where, among other things, they are having men go out and buy sanitary towels to better understand and support women. David was part of our training in Marsabit, Kenya with Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) – a program that needs little introduction when it comes to empowering women and girls.

    An excerpt from David’s blog sums it up beautifully. After witnessing the gap between men and women in Marsabit and learning of certain human rights violations, David writes:

    I decided that I want to do something for the girls when I get back to Nairobi… I will assemble the girls in my community and let them talk about the issues that they are facing and how they think we can tackle them. I want to let them have a voice to be heard. This idea would not have grown in my head if I did not get the chance to be a Community Impact coach (CIC).

    And now Girl Up is born.

    This is just one example – albeit amazing – of the work that our CICs are doing with us, and more importantly, without us. As David and many others have taken the time to thank CAC for the opportunities we present to them – I’d like to take this moment to thank our Community Impact Coaches across the world: Thank you for taking advantage of this opportunity and owning it; thank you for being exactly who you are and allowing it to inspire so many people; and thank you for not being afraid of the unknown.

    With a packed program schedule for the remainder of 2015, we cannot wait to unleash more CICs onto our partners. And moreover, we cannot wait to unlock more of these stories that are waiting to be lived by people who continue to dream despite overwhelming obstacles.

    To find out how you can support the Community Impact Coach program please go to this page or contact us.

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  • Can sex be safe and sweet?

    CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Markus Bensch blogs on our continuing partnership with Vijana Amani Pamoja in Nairobi, Kenya.

    May 20th 2015. What do you think is more appealing to children and youth when talking to them about sex: “You should abstain from sex to avoid HIV and sex is something to be only done by married partners, anyway!” or “Sex can be safe and sweet. Do not focus only on fear or infection, but on good feelings. Good sex requires good communication. Show what you need. Invite your partner to do the same. Be patient. It is possible to have pleasure while using a condom?” I encountered both approaches during our program with our partner Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP).

    For the fifth week of our programs in Kenya we went to the capital of the country: Nairobi. Turner and I were very curious about working with VAP, because usually life in the capital is much faster than in any other part of the country. People have diverse lifestyles, are more likely to be open-minded and usually have a higher level of formal education. Would this week be very different to the programs we ran before?

    Travelling in Kenya is challenging and takes a lot of time, nerves, and patience. We needed all three when we travelled from Awendo to Nairobi as an estimated eight hour bus ride turned out to take twelve, because of traffic jams. Trucks broke down in the middle of the road and because the road was so narrow nobody could pass and we just had to wait until the vehicle was repaired. After the hours Turner and I spent On-Field we spent the 2nd most time on busses and taxis to get from A to B.

    On the Sunday before the training started it was my father’s 75th birthday and I was a bit sad that I couldn’t celebrate with him and my family. But modern technology and good internet connection allowed me to call and congratulate him to his great day, honour the long life he has lived and wish him many more years. At least I could share an hour on Skype with him and my mom and it was very nice to see him so happy and to know that he had a great day. When talking about my work with CAC my father made an unexpected comment: “It makes me happy to see you happy and to see that you enjoy the work you do.” You have to know that my father, as many fathers are, is not very vocal when it comes to compliments and emotions. So he really surprised me with this comment, but also made me very proud. And it was a perfect kick-off for another week On-Field.

    When we got to VAP’s office on Monday morning we received a very warm welcome by Enouce Ndeche, the Executive Director, and Charles Otieno, the Program Officer. As I entered the first room in their office building the flyer with the slogan “Sex can be safe and sweet” caught my eyes. It made me curious and I looked closer at this advert. I read the sentences that I quoted above which I felt were very friendly and encouraging for youth to develop a positive relationship to their sexuality. This approach is very rare in an environment where youth mostly get told to abstain from sex in order to fulfil religious morals and to avoid contracting HIV. Later this week I should be witnessing this fear related approach again.

    As we got onto the field we encountered a very motivated group that was eager to play many different games. The women of this group were very vocal from the beginning which is rare. Usually the women are a bit shy and they are not used to speak up in front of men so they need a few days to gain confidence to participate in discussions. Not so with this group. The women were very confident in sharing their ideas, opinions and thoughts on the different social issues we addressed with our games.

    As it was our fifth year partnering with VAP we encouraged the group to develop new games for their coach-backs in order to address social issues that were important to their community. Although many freshmen participated in the course we witnessed some good games on Skills for Life, the Environment, Financial Literacy, Female Empowerment, and mostly HIV/AIDS. Those led us to a discussion on HIV/AIDS prevention. Many participants said that they emphasize abstinence as the first choice for their players. I asked if youth usually abstain from sex until they are married and if the HIV rate has dropped in the past 10 years as long as abstinence has been widely promoted in African countries. Both questions got denied by the participants and they are also scientifically proven. We discussed the importance of education and how humans usually want to find out about things that are forbidden. The same applies for sex as youth want to find out about it when the only thing they get told is not to do it. The participants supported the idea that it is important to talk with their players about sexuality in order to build their confidence to make good and healthy choices for themselves. Those talks I have with participants of our programs almost every week and flyers like I have seen in VAP’s office make me dream for a future generation that will grow up in an environment where they can talk about sexuality, express their questions, fears, hopes and dreams, and develop self-esteem in order to appreciate that sex can be ‘safe and sweet’. And coaches like we have worked with in Nairobi will help to make this dream become true.

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