• Oh Yes, We Made a Plan!

    November 14th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard Alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson blogs from Nagpur, India about our groundbreaking partnership with Slum Soccer

    I’ve been so lucky as a CAC Global Citizen in so many ways, including having the opportunity to work with longtime partner Slum Soccer here in Bokhara, Nagpur, India. As an outside observer, it struck me that the comfort, familiarity and understanding that CAC and SS have developed together over 8 years, as people and as organizations, created an environment of trust and openness that allowed for real progress to be made this week.

    A common phrase you’ll hear whenever a decision needs to be made is “We make a plan.” This applies to almost any decision that I saw made this week incl: when to leave for Shakti Girls (Girl Power) practice; where to go for delicious Southern Indian dosa and tea; who is going to drive/be a passenger on which motorcycle (all of which read below empty on fuel) and of course which direction to take and grow an organization. Often the decision can take some time; that’s what happens when you have a lot of bright people with different ideas, and/or a lot of bikes and passengers to organize.

    And many plans were made, executed and/or in progress. Highlights include:

    Serious strides in professional and organizational development for Slum Soccer using CAC’s process consultancy framework. It’s not often easy to take the “right” next steps to grow and mature as an organization; the insight and knowledge CAC leaders provided this regard was invaluable and those next steps put into place.

    Development by senior female staff of 3 brand new games for Slum Soccer’s female health & wellness initiative, focusing specifically on menstruation. It was amazing to see the girls open up, voice frustration with, and ask about the verity of, cultural traditions and listen to the SS senior staff support, educate and inform them. You know it’s working and trust exists when the day’s program is ended, and 15 girls are circled around still asking questions and getting answers.

    42 games played with 35 coach/mentor participants, including those designed to address HIV, LGBT, Child Rights and ASK for Choice (Female Empowerment.) It’s truly rewarding to see those girls too shy at the beginning of the week to say anything or even look up from the ground, raising their arms up and shouting “I am strong” or “I have a voice” by the end of the week. Yes change can happen in 5 days.

    An amazing street food tour (once we figured out who was actually on which bike) led by senior SS staff. That “We make a plan” took some time to make following an outing to the cinema featuring Thor, my first Hindi 3D movie, but was so worth it. Thank you Slum Soccer friends and family!

  • Welcomed into the Warm Heart of Africa

    July 5th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about working with the Banda Bola Foundation in Chituka Village, Malawi.

    In case you have ever asked yourself what the world would look like if people just be nice to each other, I got an answer: it would look a lot like Malawi.  With a nickname of The Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi is a tiny country located in Southern Africa.  Living up to its “notorious” nickname, Malawians are so friendly and loving they are known for always being willing to help family, friends, and even a stranger.  In fact, the welcomes, the meals, and the human interactions that I got here were so warm and earthy, and I certainly have been spoiled by them.  I mean I was going to do my laundry at the community well for the first time in a month.  And then a neighborhood guy on a bicycle sees me, stops on the road, throws his bicycle off, and starts helping me like my house just caught  fire.  It’s just another lovely day in Chituka village in Malawi.

    Chituka village is the hometown of CAC’s Malawi partner, Keni Banda and the Banda Bola Foundation.  Keni moved to the States from Malawi when he was 14.  And, he played and coached soccer professionally.  After decades of a successful coaching career in U.S. NCAA women’s soccer teams, Keni founded  Banda Bola Foundation in 2010 and launched Chituka Village Project to bring social changes in his hometown area in Malawi.  As much as he has an inspiring and passionate personality, breaking into chants of “Solve Your Problem!” and “Let’s Figure It Out!” multiple times a day, he is also a funny and kind guy like your typical favorite uncle.  His family in Malawi are all deeply involved in social impact as well.  His sister, Sekani, is a board member of Banda Bola Foundation and an aspiring social worker.  Her two sons, Manyanda and Patici are also passionate about social entrepreneurship.  I thought it was very interesting that Manyanda is a social impact music producer going into rural villages with artists, listening to the village people’s issues, and turning them into beautiful songs (Check out Amplified Movement – Bring Them Back on YouTube).  The Banda family provided incredible cooperation, food, accommodation, and friendship during the two-week schedule in Malawi.

    Team Malawi was comprised of two amazing veteran coaches, Charlie C. and  Ashlyn, and two Global Citizens including Charlie O. and me.  Besides me, they all were collegiate soccer players.  After their athletic careers, they joined CAC to contribute to making the world a better place, using soccer as a messenger.  Although they sometimes made a fun of my soccer skill, I loved the team very much for making such good balance and harmonious vibes.  Charlie O. even suffered from Malaria in the first week, but he completed the schedule with a smile on his face the whole time.  When we arrived at Malawi, it didn’t take us more than two days to find out that corruption and power abuse are the major social issues that Malawi had been facing.  Radio and newspapers constantly reported about corrupted politicians and nonsensical policies.  People gave a sigh of resignation about losing precious natural resources to foreign corporations as well as jobs to those who got power and connections.  Limited access to education coming from poverty also seemed to be a serious and urgent issue.  The CAC team and Banda Bola Foundation agreed to focus on addressing those issues during the training sessions, with openness to listen to participants own social concerns.

    We spent the first week getting familiar with Chituka village and trying to get accepted by the people.  Chituka village is located right by the beautiful Lake Malawi, surrounded by majestic, evergreen mountains.  The area is very underdeveloped, and most of the people there walk around barefoot and live without electric power.  First, we met a grand chief lady who oversees about 60 local chiefs’ daily responsibilities.  The “zenness” emitted by her was truly amazing.  She warmly welcomed us, and it was one of the coolest moments of my life.  After that, we visited one of the primary schools where Chituka Village Project originated from.  We hung out with the current students who would be benefiting from our program for the next 3 years and got inspired by their innocence and simplicity.  Finally, we had a meeting with about 20 local chiefs to discuss what CAC and Banda Bola were trying to bring to the community.  It was interesting that some of the chiefs were having a hard time understanding the significance of adopting sustainable solutions.  They wanted an immediate help with food, clothes, and money rather than long-term solutions such as implementing Self-Directed Learning skill.  It was like we were trying to teach how to catch fish, dried them to save, and sell the rest at the market, but they just wanted fish.  After a long discussion, the meeting ended well, and the chiefs officially welcomed us.  I will never forget the moment when a prince said, “Now, you are one of us.  Don’t be afraid of exploring our village.  You are one of us, and we will take care of you.”

    The training week was fantastic.  We had 64 participants from 33 organizations, which was considerably more than I had expected.  Not only that, it was remarkable that 19 of them were female, marking about 30% of the total participants.  The participant mix consisted of local teachers, sports coaches, social workers, and volunteers.  We delivered lots of games related to gender equity as well as child rights and democratic conflict resolution style (anti-corruption).  The participants quickly understood the program and started using their voices to express their own colorful opinions.  Keni supported the participants not only by providing an amazing training venue, great snacks, and transportation money but also inspirational speeches.  At the end of the training week, I observed participants embracing the importance of Self-Directed Learning and looking to incorporate it into their teaching practices.  We estimated a total of 4346 children (2129 girls and 2217 boys) would benefit from the program immediately.  Moreover, we anticipated a lot of these girls and boys would become Bonda Bola Foundation volunteers after graduation and transfer the impact to younger children, multiplying our impact radically in future years.

    One of the random facts that I came across when I did research on Malawi was that, out of Madonna’s 6 children, four of them are adopted, and all of the singer’s adopted kids were from Malawi.  She also has put on many concerts and events to raise global awareness towards Malawi’s social issues.  After experiencing Malawi for 2 weeks, I now could understand why the singer has been so married to this tiny country: Malawians are incredibly loving and warm-hearted.  The capacity of their love is so big that I want to have them around me all the time.  Well, although I’m not a superstar singer, I now have a Malawian family in Chituka village.  Hoping to come back to this beautiful place some day, I said goodbye to the warm heart for now and departed for Kenya.

  • Nothing Is Black And White

    June 12th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Charlie Overton writes about his 1st week with CAC in Livingstone, Zambia with New Hope Waves.

    With the week coming to a close, so does my first week in Africa. We left Livingstone this morning and arrived in Lusaka the capital of Zambia early in the afternoon. As we enter the weekend and look forward to the Champions League final tonight, I am also looking forward to my second week being a Global Citizen with CAC. I am looking forward to being able to have something to compare with my time in Livingstone. I had an amazing time in Livingstone, it was a great way to begin my experience working with CAC. It was also my first time in Africa and a “developing” country. This made it difficult to describe my emotions, whenever anyone asked me what I thought of Livingstone or Africa in general. Everything was new to me, so I was just taking it all in.

    Now that my week is over, I am able to sit back and think about my experience. As I said before I had an amazing time in Livingstone. I loved and still love the people of Livingstone, they are all extremely friendly and welcoming. We stayed in the Jollyboys campground, which felt like our own little compound, because for the majority of our time their Ashlyn (the CAC team leader) and I were the only ones there. A great part about this was that the employees working there were much more relaxed, especially at night. It was great to watch movies with Daniel, the man who works at night. He always watches movies at night, depending on which movies were being shown on the movie channels. We watched the James Bond movie Skyfall the first night and two Transformers movies the following night. Also, a perk of having a hostel to yourself is that when Ashlyn and I wanted to exercise we did not have to worry about being in anyone’s way, or worrying about the showers being occupied afterwards. I highly recommend the Jollyboys campground, when you are the only guests there.

    Furthermore, staying in the campground, as opposed to the backpackers lodge more in town, was beneficial, because most of the time the Mzungus (white people) who come to Livingstone do not really go into the surrounding areas and see the real side of Livingstone. However, our week with New Hope Waves and the founder Aldridge required us to work at a field that was in a neighborhood called Malota, which is one of the more impoverished areas in Livingstone. As we would walk back to town some days, because usually everyone walks to places in Livingstone, we would walk by markets selling second hand clothes, garbage piles falling into nearby rivers, and smiling children running up to us, because they were very excited to see a white person. How were we supposed to go out and see these impoverished people and places, and return to the touristy hostel where people are busy getting drunk and only interested in going to touristy places like Victoria Falls. Do not get me wrong seeing the Victoria Falls was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life. It was without a doubt the wettest experience I have had. An absurd amount of water falls on you as you try take a picture of a natural wonder. However, coming to Livingstone just to see the falls and party at your hostel I don’t believe counts as a way to truly experience Africa and its people. They are missing out on learning some of the local language and seeing the smile on the people of Livingstone’s faces when you say, “zikomo,” which means thank you. In my opinion those smiles matter more to me than any drink I could have had.

    In a time when the relationship between black and white is very tense, my time in Livingstone shows both the effects of a positive relationship and a negative one. As people coming from the “west” we have to be careful of our role in African life. Africa is not our playground. It is not a place where we can come, stay in a lavish hostel, see some wild animals, go see a natural wonder for a week or a few days, and then say we have been to Africa. I do not think this constitutes as Africa. Did we talk to the people? Get to know any of them? Where are they from? What do they do for work or for fun? What are their dreams and aspirations? In many places around the world I think it is okay to be a tourist, and only go to the touristy places. However, in Africa or other places where colonialism and western powers have caused many issues in the development of these countries we need to be careful and sure about our intentions when we visit these wonderful places. Because do not get me wrong these places are truly wonderful. Colonialism has definitely caused many issues by creating the foundations for unequal distribution of power. And although colonialism is technically over some of those foundations are still around. Colonialism is still being blamed for the poverty in Africa, but although I saw many people living in poor conditions with garbage all over the places and kids playing soccer with ripped shoes or no shoes I also saw that there were places and people in Livingstone with money and wealth. They may not have been millionaires, but they were well off. Therefore, unlike the way it is commonly perceived, Africans are not all poor. It is not black and white. Livingstone is a wonderful place with both rich and poor living very close side by side. Hopefully with the work CAC is doing with New Hope Waves the people of Livingstone can help the less fortunate to grow and everyone can prosper in this amazing place.

  • Using Sports to Unlock the Conversation

    June 9th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo blogs about working with the Ministry of Sport in Pemba, Tanzania.

    From Unguja, Nico and I made the short trip to the island of Pemba (also part of the Zanzibar archipelago), where we joined Markus for the next week’s program. From living in Tanzania, I’d heard of Pemba to be one of the most exotic and remote vacation destinations imaginable: a remote tropical island, unblemished by the tourism industry that has overtaken parts of the busier Unguja island. When I told friends in Tanzania that I was to spend a week in Pemba, I saw the jealousy in their eyes, assuming that I was off for nothing more than a beach holiday. While it’s true that Pemba is among the more comfortable CAC program destinations, it, like any CAC program, is no holiday.

    On Pemba, it is not uncommon for men to have multiple wives, many of whom are married as teenagers. The average woman bears at least 6 children. Though a man may have dozens of children depending on him for support, there are few economic opportunities available to make that possible. In keeping with religious-based tradition, women are sometimes not permitted to leave the home – the husband does all the family’s external business. For the women who do go out in public, it is unusual to see anything more than their faces and hands. Domestic abuse of women and children is seldom seen and even less openly discussed. Sexual abuse of children is known to exist in theory, but rarely traced to a specific person or institution (school, mosque, etc). It is safe to say that Pemba has its share of social issues – issues that, over the course of the week, our participants became more willing to acknowledge and discuss.

    On Monday morning, though nearly a quarter of our 40 something participants had attended our program in a previous year, there were many among the remaining fraction of attendees who seemed unsure of what they had shown up for, some perhaps even a little bit skeptical of what they could possibly gain from the three of us. For some, tactical football instruction seemed to be the priority, rather than any sort of social impact coaching. But despite this, throughout the week, I admired the groups’ receptiveness to our discussion and their increasing willingness to listen and participate in the program. Of course, the curriculum itself is the key to opening our discussions and drawing people into the whole program. It is what makes CAC’s work possible anywhere: using something as fun and engaging as sports to direct a group’s energy to focus on heavier topics that, like sexual abuse of children, can be considerably less fun to engage with. The group began to appreciate the subtle ways that sports can be used to teach valuable off-field lessons. I observed several knowing grins and nods of understanding every time we pointed out the ways that the games reinforce using your voice, as the idea of encouraging children to use their voice seemed to be one that appealed the most to our group. At our closing ceremony on Friday, some of those who had been the least involved on Monday vociferously expressed their satisfaction with the program and their gratitude to the coaches for working with their group, and I was proud to have witnessed their transformations over the week. Though Pemba still has a number of social issues its leaders continually grapple with, I am confident that with every class of CAC participants, there are a few more voices in the community who have the confidence and inspiration to push for the changes they would like to see on their island.

  • From Buckingham Palace to Gomoa Palace

    June 2nd 2017. CAC’s Jordan Stephenson blogs on working with Gomoa Sport for Change in Gomoa, Ghana.

    This week the training took place in a tribal village of Gomoa Benso within the Central Region of Ghana. The partner we are working with is Gomoa Sport for Change who are based in a government school and specialize in Football, Handball, Volleyball and Athletics. Among the team from CAC was  myself, JK (one of our Global Citizens this summer) and Oti (a legend within the CAC community and a Community Impact Coach for the Ghana partners this year).

    Upon arrival we were welcomed by the Queen Mother of Gomoa at the Palace where we would be staying. She sent her apologies that the Chief was out of the country and therefore would not be able to welcome us personally. Within the Palace there were staff to cook our Ghanaian traditional food (fu-fuo and banku were our particular favorites), the family of the chief and the queen mother as well as ourselves. It was tough to get a moments rest as after two minutes of arriving back at the palace we have dozens of children outside of our room wanting to hang out with us!

    The day before the training we were taken to watch an FA Cup 4th round match between local team Proud United FC and national giants Ashanti Ktoko, we were hoping to see a giant killing game typical of that of the English FA Cup however that was not to be the case. For the second half we stood next to a commentator for a National Radio Station: Accra FM and he asked myself and Oti to be pundits and comment on the key moments of the game, which was something we grabbed at the chance to do! The experience of exiting the stadium whilst negotiating our way past the disappointed and frantic home supporters was something I will never forget – somehow it is always the referee’s fault!

    During the training we had a combination of coaches and teachers as well as Mr Afried who is the Director of Physical Education within the Ministry of Education for the region of Gomoa Central who has jurisdiction over 250 schools. He was very interested in the work we were doing and will subsequently write a report of his findings to share with the Director of Education – a great advocate of the use of sport for social impact within physical education.

    A big highlight of the training was delivering on Thursday when we showed that being exposed to the elements (heavy heavy rain) was no obstacle for playing sport and being active; especially in a country which has a rainy season lasting for 7 months!!

    A big focus of the training was looking at traditions, and which traditions have been in place for a long period of time which hold the community back. Therefore it seemed quite ironic that we were staying with the Chief and Queen mother (the cultural leaders of the community) at the palace, whilst at the same time asking what they thought the impact of having cultural leaders was on their society.

    The training was a success and resulted in more coaches and teachers who are highly motivated and upskilled to start to be an agent for social change through sport; whilst being supported by Gomoa Sport for Change who can support them to achieve community change.

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  • Free On The Field

    May 30th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo returns to work with CAC and the Ministry of Sport in Unguja, Zanzibar. 

    This week we were back on the largest island of Zanzibar, Unguja, for what is now the fifth consecutive year. Community Impact Coach Nico and I participated here for the first time, though Nick has been here almost every year. With nearly eighty participants, a pristine turf field at the city stadium, adequate cones, and a horde of One World Futbols, we could not have asked for a better setup for our program. The end result did not disappoint – we dodged (almost all of) the rain, played over forty different games, and capped off our excellent week with a much-hyped full-field match between coaches and teachers. Though we ran the program at a fast pace, we did not sacrifice depth: we had a number of substantial discussions about opportunities for girls and women – on and off the field – the rights of children, and how the prevailing Islamic culture in the Zanzibar archipelago underpins local attitudes on these topics. All around, we had a fantastic week.

    One of the best things about the week was just another simple reminder about why the sports field is such a special place.  On the field, people are free. Free to express themselves in the way they play each game. Despite a language barrier, I’ve often felt like I get to know each participant personally by watching how they play; the way they run or approach the ball reveals something about a player’s personality. It is nothing short of beautiful to assemble a group of men and women of widely ranging ages and watch each of them light up when they receive the ball, or solve a problem, or, most brilliantly, when they celebrate scoring, and to witness them shed some of the restraint they may exhibit off the field. Ultimately, stepping onto the field grants players the liberty to be themselves. It is a form of expression, and the games we play make this joy accessible to participants of any age or ability. For many, sports can be an outlet or a refuge from anything else in their lives; once they take the field, nothing outside of the field matters anymore. While football has this power in all corners of the globe, somehow I never get tired of recognizing it.  

    Realizing this anew underscored for me the significance of a major focus of our program: the value of offering all children – boys and girls alike –  the opportunity to play sports, and secondly, ensuring that those children are protected from all forms of abuse on the field. When communities and families can be rife with conflict, violence and abuse, the opportunity to play freely and safely is ever more valuable to children. To deny that to any child, whether because of their gender or ability or by allowing the field to become an abusive environment, slims the chance that any of those children will grow up to escape the cycle of violence. In our program, we spent considerable time discussing the ways that adults abuse children, how to recognize this abuse, and, most crucially, how to find other ways for our coach and teacher participants to discipline their children. We devoted several other conversations to discussing how and why girls are excluded from sports, finding that the often strict Islamic culture discourages people from allowing girls to play sports, football in particular. Though opposing a dominant religion can stir controversy, as the participants seemed to decide that their girls did in fact have the right to play sports, we explored ways that they could offer girls the opportunity to play without contradicting religion. There remains a significant cultural resistance to overcome, but we tried to avoid pitting girls playing sports against our participants’ religion.

    The Ministry of Education also plans to implement CAC curriculum in all of the schools in Unguja, so we can now see how the five years of CAC programs have been appealing to people, and that the discussions we’ve begun on the field have spread off the field throughout the other 51 weeks each year. Excited to see what this program will look like in its sixth year!