• Cliffs, Rains and Rocks

     

    CAC volunteer Charlie Crawford talks about his last CAC program of the summer of 2015 with Uni Papua in Mulia, Indonesia.

    October 7th 2015. The flight into Mulia is a journey not many make. Our plane slid 5 adults, an infant, a motorcycle, and 8 boxes of One World Futbols deep into a green valley of central Papua.

    Working again with Uni Papua, the Mulia doctor and program leader, Dr. Jepprey, welcomed us to his home that overlooks the southern valley and the one-and-only airstrip. The Doctor’s house was unique in Mulia. Designed by an American, the layout had a strangely familiar feel to it, and we were even in one of the few homes with running water! A bonus we hadn’t anticipated and a privilege we would shortly have to earn.

    Turner and I had the weekend to settle in before the start of the program on Monday. It was an appreciated time to get our bearings in this chilly surreal setting. That weekend, after a particularly harsh rain, we woke up to learn the water hose had been damaged. This naturally meant that the early afternoon turned into a hike following the hose and up the mountain to solve the problem. Some digging and climbing later we rested with our mission a success on a cliff overlooking the lower end of the valley. The steepness of some of these mountains was as close to sheer drops as possible while still being climbable. Somehow though, the soil was rich and in this seeming impossible setting we were surrounded by lines of crops. A misstep would mean a tumble to the bottom, and it was here that much of Mulia grew their food.

    As we rested with our new friends from Uni Papua, some half dozen kids joined us with a smile and disappeared into the cliffs only to return some time later with freshly picked pineapples clenched in each hand. It was a proper welcome to a new world. A welcome continued by the daily bunt cakes and casseroles from the Vice-Regent’s thoroughly hospitable and generous wife.

    As the week went on, we fell into a familiar cycle of coaching in the afternoon and working at local schools in the morning. Each morning would involve a couple of our participant coaches and a couple hundred school kids. The fields themselves were something of an experience. Between mountains, most would be at some degree of slant. Between daily rains, the grassy patches would turn to mud. But most impressively, the ground of Mulia is mainly made up of various sized shale rocks which meant navigating a playing field required an entirely other skill than most players have to deal with. Regardless of conditions, when the rains came and the rocks hurt, our coaches would smile and insist on 1 more game.

    I’ll remember the crops that came from the cliffs. I’ll remember the Vice-Regent’s wife bringing cake. I’ll remember being thankful for slipping and not hitting a rock. Most of all I’ll remember working with a wonderful group of people for my last program with CAC this summer.

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  • Rained On And Better For It

    CAC regular volunteer Charlie Crawford blogs about enjoying the rainy season in Sihanoukville, Cambodia with M’Lop Tapang.

    September 4th 2015. The rainy season earned its descriptor this week. After two weeks in Cambodia’s Capitol, our coaching staff split into two groups and went to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. As it went, Turner and Spring headed north to Siem Reap while I journeyed to the coast with Markus (or “Helga Mueller” as he appreciated being called after his favorite player’s female alter ego). On the coast, we worked with partner program M’lop Tapang and their 25 participants on one of the closest to ideal fields I’ve ever seen working with CAC.

    Sihanoukville seemed to be rolling out the green carpet for us. For the training we played our games on a beautiful roofed field. A quality astro-turf away from broken glass, mud, and the scorching sun is simply too rare to not show up each day with a smile on your face. As good as it was, there was one moment during this week that the conditions taught an important lesson. Perfect conditions just don’t exist. As we prepared to start the training on Tuesday, the Cambodian rainy season hit the switch. So much rain pelted the roof that we couldn’t hear each other shouting 10 feet away for 3 hours.

    Needless to say, our plan for the day required some last minute reorganizing, yet ended up being one of our best. A feat, in large part because of the flexibility of our three Community Impact Coaches.

    I’ll remember a number of things about this program.  The girl’s team that had better skills than the boys. The 9v9 pickup game we played with our coaches against other locals one evening. The fried noodle meals that left me wanting nothing else (an uncommon occurrence). But as impressive as these and the rain and the beach were, what truly made this a week to remember was the presence of these CIC’s from Phnom Penh. Sameth “Handsome Man”, Ranya, and Makara became more than a couple of coaches throughout the week.

    Making strong connections with people in a short amount of time is a pre-requisite for on-field work with Coaches Across Continents. That being said, having 3 weeks instead of the typical 1 gave Markus and me an opportunity to form a bond with these three coaches even more. From Sameth’s vitality to Ranya’s massages to Makara’s sense of humor, these three have certainly become part of CAC’s and my own family.

    That roof taught me something. Our success this week wasn’t from it. What it taught me was that no matter the conditions, what pulls a program off is the people involved. Everything else can be dealt with, whether that be by huddling in a corner to be heard or huddling in the shade to cool off. Lesson learned.

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  • A Hopeful Transition

    August 7th 2014. CAC volunteer Layla Joudeh blogs about her CAC experience in southern Africa and returning home.
    7 weeks later and I’m sitting at home in South Carolina. I never thought this day would come. And by the end of the trip, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted my time with CAC to end. Back in the USA, a different life awaits- college, friends, and family. I think part of my hesitation towards my time ending was the fear of adapting to a Western life again. 7 weeks ago I was focused on transitioning from busy college student in New England to soccer coach in southern Africa. Now my focus is on adapting back to school with all the experiences I gained from CAC. The last few days in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo were a great way to end my trip but did make leaving a little more difficult.
     
    After partnering with the Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) and the FIFA Football for Hope Center in the previous week, we had the opportunity to work with GMF’s school. We played games with GMF’s students, teachers, and parents. The Monday with the students was one of my favorite days of the entire seven weeks in southern Africa. All of GMF’s students are young females, so we worked with about 60 girls that were 4, 5, and 9 years old. When we first pulled into the school, the younger students greeted us with a welcome song. Charlie, Jamie, and I tried singing along, but we didn’t sound quite as good as the girls. We spent the rest of the day playing our games with the students. The girls were a little hesitant when we started Circle of Friends- our simple, fun warm up- but as soon as Charlie and Jamie showed off their dance moves as part of the warm up, the girls didn’t stop laughing and smiling. The students didn’t know English so our main forms of communication were silly faces, funny voices, kicking around the ball, and some cone balancing on our heads (see above picture). Anything that we did, the girls were eager to try. Needless to say, Jamie’s elephant impression was a hit. At the end of our break, there was a parade of elephants traversing the field. Playing with the kids was incredibly fun. After seven weeks of coaching, I’ve never had a dull moment with children. They are eager to the play the games and are easily entertained, which makes our jobs a lot more fun(ny).
     
    The following two days were spent working with teachers and parents of the students. When I first approached one of the moms, she berated me in a fairly motherly tone about how my shorts reminded her of underwear. Most of the parents we worked with dressed in the traditional patterned cloth dresses or skirts that came down to their ankles. I realized I was a little out of place in the group of mothers. But soon after we started playing games, everyone was having fun together. We had a pretty competitive group that absolutely loved handball games. The parents and teachers were strong, athletic, and didn’t like losing. On the last day, Charlie and I participated in a few games while we were coaching. We were having a blast, and I truly didn’t want the day to end. For our last game, we brought the students, parents, and teachers on the field for a round of scary soccer- a fun adaptation of rock, paper, scissors. The girls were cheering and excited to play. The adults were getting more invested in the games as their students’ enthusiasm grew.  When a team won a round of scary soccer, the parents, teachers, and kids would all jump up and down and chant their team’s name. I watched from a far for one round of scary soccer and couldn’t help but smile and laugh about this awesome, fun, and funny experience. Different generations were working together and having fun because of a simple game. Sport gave different generations a medium to connect and learn together. That was one of my favorite parts about CAC- watching age and cultural barriers breaking down because of simple, fun games.
     
    As I try to get accustomed to life back in the United States, I can’t help but think of the people I had the opportunity to work with for the past seven weeks.They taught me that adapting to other cultures, people, and communities can be much easier once common ground was found. For the past seven weeks that common ground ranged from a dirt field, a school’s soccer field, a tennis court, and a FIFA Football for Hope Center. Maybe next time I need to adapt to a new group of people, environment, or job, I’ll ask my colleagues to find some grass or dirt to play on because that sure did teach me a lot this summer.
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  • Diverse Coaches in Harare

    July 2nd 2014. CAC 2nd year volunteer Charlie Crawford blogs from Harare, Zimbabwe. 

    In Zimbabwe’s capitol of Harare I found myself getting ready for my 3rd week of working for Coaches Across Continents this summer.  Every program is different, but some frustrations with last week’s attendance had me holding my breath as we stepped onto Queen Elizabeth School’s field.  I didn’t need to hold it long.  Right off the bat we had a majority of participants sitting in the stands waiting for us to get started.  Because so many were there so early we went around to informally introduce everyone.  Among the participants were nutrition teachers, football, swimming, volleyball and netball coaches, prison guards, sports commissioners and a dozen others, all eager to begin.  Couldn’t hand-pick a better crew.

    The week progressed as I’ve learned a program is meant to.  By the end of each session participants and coaches alike were exhausted.  Often a number of them would approach one of us after and describe how the games or a slight variation that they learned that day were just the sort that they had been looking to implement through their own sport in their own community.

    Following a full day of running around, Markus, Julie, Layla and I would walk into the city with a few members of Bulldogs to spend $2 for a healthy serving of Sadza and Fish/Chicken (or cow stomach which I mistook for slightly furry fish).  On one of these walks through the city we came out of the ice cream shop we had been indulging in as sirens blared and three police motorcycles were followed by 2 large black SUVs, a black limo with tinted windows, and two military convoys bristling with soldiers with leveled weapons scanning the crowd.  It looked like there was a government convoy passing!

    After a refreshingly fulfilling 4 days of games it was time for the Child Right’s discussion (only sit-down-talk part of our curriculum).  Ill admit to being a little nervous guiding it myself for the first time but I could not have asked for a better group of coaches and teachers.  The more universal points on general abuse were engaged in thoughtfully and powerfully.  More interesting though, for me at least, was the lengthy detour the group took to discuss the reality of and communal approach to homosexuality.  In a country whose constitution condemns it as a criminal act, creating a space where all manners and perspectives could be safely expressed and listened to was probably the most educational part of my two summers working with CAC.

    Later that night, after Germany beat the USA 1-0 (you got lucky Markus, I Believe Russia 2018), the leaders of Bulldogs took us out to enjoy a night of dancing and food.  Fortunately for those of us with two left feet, the dance floor was literally empty except for the DJs, which encouraged us to make quality fools of ourselves and even attracted a 24 cow marriage proposal for one in our party.

    It doesn’t get much better than ending a week of work with responsive coaches but Markus managed to top it off in a way only he could.  As we left Queen Elizabeth’s field for the last time, a group of teenage female students fresh from their classes drew our attention when their informal singing was interrupted by a fit of giggles and whispers directed at Markus.  Delighted by his fresh popularity, Markus approached and politely asked for another song.  Bulldogs leaders, participants, Layla, Julie, and I could only watch as Makrus and his pony tail bobbed back and forth to a beautiful rendition of John Legend’s All of Me.  It was a revitalizing week and I can’t wait to get back at it in northern Zambia!

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  • Coaches With the Cows

    IMG_3917August 22, 2013.  Coaches Kefhira, AJ, and Oti headed west to Kitale for CAC’s final 2013 Kenya program. A short mutatu ride from Eldoret found us at our new site, where we were warmly welcomed by Gichuki and Ojillo, the coordinators of the Trans-Nzoia Youth Sports Association. From the beginning the coordinators were on top of their game. “Africa time” doesn’t seem to exist in Kitale, as our trainings started every morning at 9:00 AM sharp, with coaches showing up as early as 8 AM. Some coaches came from outlying rural areas and journeyed over miles of unpaved roads each morning, and we were so impressed with their dedication to learning about football for social impact.

    IMG_3838When you’re working in rural Western Kenya, farm animals come with the territory. We shared the field every day with 6 cows– 4 adults and 2 babies– that lived on the school grounds. There are definite advantages to having resident cows on your soccer field, namely in the form of free lawn mowing and fertilizing services. However, there were also a couple of challenges. The classroom where we worked with the coaches was right next to the field, and didn’t have the sturdiest door. We arrived to the classroom one morning to find that the cows had spent the night inside, leaving us some “presents” on the floor. A few days later, we watched from the field as someone chased a cow out of our classroom. The cow, who was munching on the flip chart we use to write up our games, seemed unperturbed. One cow also seemed to very much enjoy knocking over cones that Coach Kefhira had just set up. Overall though, our bovine friends were a great source of entertainment throughout the week.

    IMG_3910When we weren’t working with the cows and coaches in the mornings, we were traveling to local schools to run sessions with the kids and their coaches. We had several rainy afternoons on slippery clay fields, and even though their feet and the balls were caked with mud, the kids had a great time. Coach AJ did not prove to be as agile as the children, as she took quite a fall while trying to demonstrate Marta for Conflict Resolution in flats on the wet clay. On Wednesday we traveled to a very rural school on the Ugandan border, and caused quite a stir when we emerged from the van, as many of the kids had never seen a mzungu before. We worked with about 200 kids at once, and made one of the biggest circle of friends CAC has ever seen. On our final day at the schools, Coach Oti facilitated while the TYSA coaches led the session, and did a fantastic job implementing the games they had learned throughout the week. Meanwhile, AJ and Kefhira got awesome new hairdos from the kids, free of charge. And just when we thought our week with TYSA couldn’t get any better, one of the coaches presented us with a farewell gift in the form of a live chicken. She was delicious.

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  • Meet the Coaches Working in Kenya!

    Coach Charlie in his first week in Namibia

    Coach Charlie in his first week in Namibia

    July 1, 2013.  Coaches Across Continents is returning to Kenya today for the fifth consecutive year. In total we will be working with six programs over the next six weeks, three of which are returning partners (VAP, HODI, and LCFL) and three of which are first-time partners (Sadili Oval, KESOFO, and TYSA).  Please check out our Calendar page to view the dates for each program from July 1st – August 12th.

    The team that is working in Kenya is a talented one, headed by CAC staff members Brian Suskiewicz and AJ Millet and joined by three-week veteran Charlie Crawford (who you met in Namibia), Megan Kim and Kefhira Pintos.  Since we already know about Brian, AJ, and Charlie – let’s find out about Megan and Kefhira!

    Megan is an undergraduate at Amherst College in Amherst (MA), USA where she plays forward on the women’s soccer team.  A native of Newport Beach, CA (USA) she is thinking about majoring in psychology.  Here are five fun football facts with Megan!

    1. Favorite Team– US Women’s Soccer Team

    2. Favorite Player– Abby Wambach

    3. Favorite Coach– Undecided (?)

    4. Favorite Movie– The  Help
    5. World Cup in 2014 and 2015? Spain (2014) and USA (2015).

    kefhiraKefhira is a rising senior at Harvard University in Cambridge (MA), USA.  She is studying social studies, romance languages, and literature.  Kefhira is taking this opportunity this summer to study sport for development organizations.  When she is finished she will be writing her senior thesis on the topic.  Here are five fun football facts with Kefhira!

    Favorite Team(s): FC Barcelona, Argentinian National Team
    Favorite Players: Leo Messi (no surprise there), Maxi Rodriguez, & Carlos Tevez
    Favorite Coach: Not Maradona!!!!
    Favorite Movie: Anything with comedy and action
    World Cup 2014 and 2015: Argentina (here’s to hoping!) and USA (2015)
    Why I am looking forward to working with CAC? Dedicating my senior thesis to sport-for-development organizations, I look forward to bridging the gap between all the research and journal articles and what actually happens in the soccer field- the ups, the downs, the dirt, the friendships, and the lessons.