• Fight for Your Rights

    December 23, 2014. Volunteer Alison Pleiman details her final week with CAC in Nepal after four weeks with us On-Field in India.

    Namaste from Nepal, where CAC and Childreach Nepal combine forces. Upon meeting our partners in Kathmandu, we embarked on a journey out of the city and into the mountains for a week of training up in the clouds. Together we bounced 5 hours up rocky, winding roads through quiet village life and slowly transitioned into a calmer reality. Cutting around cliffs and sliding along streams, we passed farmers with their crops, cows, goats, chickens, and smiling children. Mesmerized by the nature all around us, it seems every turn brought a new breathtaking view. Gradually rising to 2800m in the Langtang Valley region, we arrived at our destination: Yangrima Boarding School in Sindhupalchok. This school was started in 1986, bombed in 2006, and rebuilt/reopened in 2009. This establishment has huge potential to impact the community, with many teachers and students traveling hours each day to attend.

    It quickly became clear that we were a great match with Childreach. Their current project ‘My School, My Voice’ is working to create a Child Parliament that gives young leaders in schools the chance to come together and speak out, seeking solutions for the main challenges they face in their community; Childreach aspires to cultivate a population of child leaders by increasing education and spreading awareness for child rights. Many of their objectives fit nicely into CAC’s self-directed learning model, so we were excited to work together this week and add an extra level of help through futbol.

    The main social issues identified at the onset of training helped us zero in on their top priorities. When the participants were propositioned to vote privately for what they felt was the biggest issue in their community, child labor was the resounding response, closely followed by corporal punishment. (Gender discrimination trailed just behind, as did child marriage and child trafficking.) Given this feedback, our curriculum this week would be devoted to child rights, in addition to our usual mix of games covering life skills, conflict resolution, problem solving, and health.

    Specifically targeting child labor and corporal punishment, this focus enabled us to have strong discussion throughout the week about types of abuse and their negative effects. For example, with our Right to Fair Punishment game, the winning team gets to choose the punishment for the losing teams– so after observing punishments become harder and harder, more physically demanding, we were able to talk about ‘when is it ok to be punished?’ Some responses were ‘when you make a mistake.’ Others were ‘repeat mistake.’ One participant tried to explain that beating is ok if kids are lazy and need a push. This opened the floor up for some negotiation. Does beating have to be the only way to get the point across? Fortunately someone suggested maybe by doing work around the school or extra activities, the child can learn the same lesson without the abuse. ‘One problem, many solutions’ is a key CAC phrase that everyone was shouting out by the end of the week. Also, they were able to experience how CAC uses dancing as a fun form of punishment in our games, as long as it’s not humiliating the child, and this new idea was very appealing to several members of the group. Mainly, these discussions allowed us to closely examine how some punishments can harm a child mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

    Similarly, our Right to Play game opened up the floor to talk about why kids should have this right. When asked why, the group had difficulty answering beyond ‘physical strength,’ so again we were able to address the importance of mental and emotional development, and why boys AND girls need and deserve the right to play.

    These are just 2 games among the many that were successful in widening perspective and harnessing the encouragement to ‘fight for your rights’. We covered a lot of ground this week with the help of our dedicated partners from Childreach. They were engaged every step of the way, showing their passion not just for the program but also for life. They were eager to share bits of their culture with us, and it was such a joy to experience the great stories, meals, and music with our new friends. Nepal is truly a special place with people as beautiful as its countryside, and I can’t wait for the chance to come back.

    It’s been an incredible ride with CAC– working together across India and Nepal in pursuit of social change. This opportunity has been a privilege that’s brought so many amazing people and so much value into my life, all in just a matter of weeks. Thank you CAC for this life-altering experience.

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  • The Great Chamwino

    December 12, 2014. Volunteer Coach from Germany, Frederick Schwarzmaier, joins fellow countryman Markus Bensch as well as Kelly Conheeney in Tanzania. He writes about his first experience On-Field with CAC in Chamwino. 

    Before any coaching session could start on Monday morning, we visited the District Executive Director of Chamwino, a highly respected woman. After introducing ourselves, Markus took a few minutes to talk about Coaches Across Continents as an organization and our approach in this community. As expected, she gave her consent for the program and we headed towards the local soccer pitch on motorbike-taxis with great anticipation and a box of new footballs. At arrival, reality quickly tempered us as only eight coaches showed up. Nico, the Community Impact Coach of Chamwino and an amazing go-to person, confirmed that eight would be our total number for the day. Given the low number of participants, we decided to play a fun game of soccer and start with the program on Tuesday. Afterwards, we went to meet the Chairman of Chamwino in order to introduce ourselves and explain what we are going to do in the next few days in his district. For us, this meeting was very worthwhile because the Chairman introduced us to the history of Chamwino as well as Tanzania, including a proudly presented story about the nation’s first president, Julius Nyerere, who visited Chamwino on several occasions. In order to make it a successful day over all, we coached over 40 girls from a local secondary school several CAC games including Ronaldo Skills for Life, Mingle Mingle and Pairs Soccer. The girls were visibly proud that their male fellow pupils were all along gazing at them while practicing their new soccer skills.

    Gratefully, on Tuesday twelve coaches showed up, hence, we decided to begin the program. Although, the number of participants was low, we had a very intense but fun week. As there were some returning coaches from previous years, they occasionally stepped in to teach their new peers certain games or moves on their own. This also showed us the impact of our program in this community on former participants. Besides, we set the focus on Child Rights and Gender Equality as this was requested by the community and regarded as one of their biggest current challenges. This issue especially arose when we were having a discussion about the rights of a child, as this is done within every CAC program and every community. Nearly half of the participants justified hitting their pupils or other children if they weren’t paying attention in class. An additional issue was the local coaches’ cheating manner. It took several attempts to announce fairly played winners in many of the conflict games, as it seemed that they cheat out of instinct. I felt as though this challenge was successfully tackled by us in a fun learning environment. Especially for me as a newbie at CAC, these circumstances made me contemplate the local culture. I tried to slip into the coaches’ shoes in the hope that I would find the root cause to their behavior. My explanation – you could also name it presumption as I do not have a scientific proof of it – for it is that they treat their children the same way as they were treated when they were young. Having this in mind while during our program in Chamwino, I was putting myself under too much pressure in order to transform the whole community into a better place and flood it with my ideas for improvement. I quickly realized that this approach is not working out and I should rather ask questions instead of giving possible answers as the CAC curriculum suggests. This method simply proofed to me the power and sustainability of the CAC approach. Combined with the uniting power of football, this program is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined before experiencing it myself. Besides, it is not only the local coaches but also me who are learning a lot.

    On Thursday, the local coaches taught the children the CAC games they learned this week. This was a great success as one could witness the drive and joy the coaches spread during their short and individual sessions with the kids. Their attitude created a setting where children could learn, laugh, play and fail without being afraid of consequences, no matter if girl or boy. Solely, one could criticize their urge to solve little problems for the children instead of letting them gain some problem solving experience themselves, e.g. fixing the human circle when playing Circle of Friends. Overall, it was fantastic seeing them teaching the kids.

    On Friday, after the last session of the program, we handed over the certificates to each participant that turned out to be more like a closing ceremony than a simple duty. Before we handed out the certificates, a representative of the local Education Office was the guest of honor and delivered a speech about the importance of implementing the CAC games in the learning curriculum of each school. After the ceremony, the participants surprised each of us with a shirt of Tanzania’s national soccer team – a great ending of a tiring but joyful week. Shortly afterwards, under pouring rain, we headed to Dodoma City to prepare for the upcoming program.

    To put it in a nutshell, although struggling at the beginning of the week to get a sufficient number of local coaches for this year’s program in Chamwino, the week turned out to be a great success for all of us. We are confident we have made a sustainable impact on Chamwino’s community.

     

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  • Go, Slum Soccer, Go

    December 10, 2014. Volunteer, Billy Hawkey, writes about the first of two weeks back in Nagpur, India with long-time partner, Slum Soccer.


    We landed in Nagpur a little after 9 pm on Sunday night. I had heard about Slum Soccer mostly through the 2014 CAC documentary, but still knew very little about who they really were. Sophie told me that we are in the fourth year of our partnership, they have completed the Hat-Trick Initiative and are in many ways a model program. But what did that mean? I needed to see it for myself.

    As we sat in the kitchen of our guest house, 100 yards away from the all dirt pitch, like normal we discussed a plan for the week with our partner. However, this meeting was different than all the previous meetings I had been a part of over the past two and a half months.  “Ronaldo?” we asked.

    “Did it.”

    “Marta?”

    “Yep.”

    “The new Marta for Gender Equity?”

    “Yes, we played it.”

    “Wam-”

    “Bach. Yes.”

    I thought to myself, “what are we going to do this week? They know everything!” The participants for the week had just been through a two-day training conducted by the Slum Soccer coaches in which they played all the games from our Ronaldo, Marta, and Wambach role models; they played Old Trafford Tag, Scary Soccer, and more. “So they know how to coach our games?” I asked Sophie; “Oh yes” she said in a very assuring voice, “they’re creating games.”

    I was quickly starting to get a picture of the cumulative impact that CAC has on its partners. As the week progressed I would see just how self-sustaining Slum Soccer is and how deeply ingrained CAC is in their organization. But for now, as we sat in the kitchen, we needed to come up with a fresh plan for day one. We would begin with Mia Hamm day.

    As I sat in the Slum Soccer classroom on Monday morning, as participants were filing in, I looked around the room and admired the graffiti art on the wall of Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Messi and Abby Wambach; all CAC role models.

    The participants were Slum Soccer’s second batch of first year youth leaders. They were a cohesive group, who were just as passionate in the classroom discussions and activities as they were on the field. Our child rights training/discussion during the middle of the week was quite interesting. The various forms of abuse that children in Nagpur suffer from and the extreme imbalance of power between the child-adult relationship was the early focus of the conversation. For the most part, children in Nagpur do not receive respect or support from adults, and are fearful to approach them. Sexual abuse was noted to be a major issue for women in Nagpur, which shifted our discussion to the topic of rape. One man said that if a girl is wearing provocative clothing than it is her fault if she is raped. This fired up the group, both men and women, who argued otherwise, and many voices in the room weighed in on this issue, eventually reaching the consensus that it is never the victims’ fault.

    On the field the next day we played Know Your Rights, as a follow up to the strong discussion we had the day before. Players are divided into two teams, with a large circle separating the two. Five cones are evenly spread out around the outside of the circle.  Each cone represents a different child right. The group designated them as: the right to decide, the right to play sports, the right to an education, the right to information, and the right to have a voice. Two players from each team enter the circle and jog around. When the coach yells out a right, the players must run as fast as they can to the correct cone. The first team with both players to reach the cone gets a point. We played many rounds, adding more players in the circle, more complex rules, and of course, some dance moves to replace the jogging. The game was full of energy and it continued our message of child rights and why those rights are important.

    Throughout the week I enjoyed observing the Slum Soccer coaches and staff display their knowledge and understanding of the CAC methodology. From time to time the young Slum Soccer coaches would step in and help us coach, and play some of the new games that they invented including games related to voting, traffic, and keeping the environment clean.  I was impressed by the work Slum Soccer is doing, and how they have assimilated the CAC games and values for using sport for social impact into their organization. The work they are doing with local slum children is amazing, and everyone involved with Slum Soccer has bought in to the strong culture they have created.

    On Sunday we visited a farm with some Slum Soccer friends, picked sweet limes and guava fruit from the trees, hiked to a damn, and had a great home cooked chicken lunch. Throughout the day there were cries of “Marta 1!”, “Wambach 2!”, “Solve your problem!” and lots of laughter.

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  • Work Hard, Play Hard – Week 2 in Lima, Peru

    November 4, 2014. Volunteer Coach Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family worked with us earlier this year in Colombia and Mexico. He returns to the field for two weeks in Lima, and writes about his experience during the second week of trainings in partnership with UNICEF Peru.

    On Monday October 13th I woke up at 9:15 am, excited to start my second week with Coaches Across Continents in Peru. The first week had gone very well, so I could not wait to see what this week had in store for us. I was excited to meet all the coaches and teachers that were about to take part in this tiring but amazing weeklong course. So I made myself some eggs, grabbed some coffee, and was ready to go alongside Nora, Billy, and Mauro (Community Impact Coach from Colombianitos) to see how this week would pan out.

    When we first arrived at the school we quickly set up and asked the Baseline questions, which help us evaluate how much the participants know about sport for social impact. Then we went to the field and started with Circle of Friends, which is a game that is designed to get participants talking and feeling a little more comfortable with each other. The group started off a little tense probably because they did not know what to expect, but once they saw how we connect the games to real life the group quickly started getting more involved in the conversations.

    One game that had particularly positive impact was the Lines Game. In this game the group is split into two teams and then each team is divided into four groups. Each group on each team is numbered one through four. The two teams line up facing each other standing in lines ordered one through four. When the person leading the game says any two of the four numbers those two lines switch as fast as possible but only with their own team. The first team that gets into its new position wins the round. This goes on multiple times and depending on how fast the group gets the game we start adding new rules like no talking. It was unbelievable how fast this group picked up the game, so we decided to test them: if the person leading the game put up only one number, the two groups with that number would switch across to the other team’s side and this would change the teams. This was one of the best games of the week because it was where the participants really started to understand the idea of this training. To finish the Lines Game we asked the group if they could identify the social message of the game and they said, among other things, communication, problem solving, and working as a team. These were great answers as one of the most important aspects of this game is allowing the players to come up with their own solutions instead of the coach interfering with the problem-solving process. We hope they carry this lesson and coaching style with them into their fields of work, as it is crucial in creating self-directed learners.

    After a great first day, we were invited to stay and practice with the Escuela de Futbol Feminino, a women’s semi-professional futbol team and one of our partner programs in Lima. The girls were awesome and they put us through some of the drills they do on a regular basis, leaving me panting and out of breath by the time I was done. Then we got a chance to play with them in small-sided games, which was a blast. We got to play with these girls three out of the 5 days after our sessions, which was inspiring because in many of these young ladies’ communities they are told that women cannot play futbol. The passion and love for the game that drives these girls to play is truly amazing, and I’m very happy I got a chance to coach and play with these incredible young women.

    During one of the afternoons later in the week we went to see one of the largest impoverished communities of Lima. We went to a school where there were only two teachers working with many children. The work they were doing was amazing, it was like they were the only two people in Lima that knew about this section of the city, or that everyone else had forgotten or didn’t care about this large Brazilian favela-like part of Lima. We shared some of the CAC games with the children, which was difficult for me because I had been left speechless thinking about how a city could just forget about such a large part of its population. We ended the visit at the school with a little futbol match with all the kids. This was a truly moving and humbling experience.

    The last day of the program came so fast, and it was evident that all the participants had really learned and taken to heart the new coaching style we had taught them over the past five days. It is a very good feeling having all these people coming up to us and thanking us for coming to their community and helping them learn how they can have a greater impact with the kids they work with. I couldn’t help but think that I had learned so much from these amazing coaches that really do what they do because of the love they have for their communities, and that passion is an amazing thing to be around. I feel so lucky that I got the opportunity to work with CAC and hope to be with them again in the future to do more of this incredible work.

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  • Self-Directed Surfing and Learning in Lima

    October 22, 2014. Volunteer coach, Billy Hawkey, writes about his first week on-field with CAC in Lima, Peru. 

    This past week I began my journey with CAC in Lima, Peru, eager to see how this world operates, and how futbol can be used for social impact. On the Sunday before the program began Nora, Tomas, Mauro, and myself met with the coordinator at UNICEF, Seppe Verbist, over a delicious lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant where I tried my first chicha morado, leche de tigre, and enjoyed multiple family style platters of fried fish, sweet potatoes, ceviche, and more. Business talk was limited during the meal, but with the nature of our work being such an integral part of our lives, and with a Serie A game playing in the background, it was only natural that some of the discussion surrounded futbol for social impact, sport for development, and the manner in which CAC aims to convey their social messages and develop leaders into self-directed learners so they can breed future generations of intuitive, progressive thinkers in their respective communities. Hearing all this was exciting, but as I have heard many times until that point, I needed to see it, and be a part of it to fully understand how CAC works. We met back at the UNICEF office following lunch to discuss the plan for the week, and what both sides of the partnership were hoping to achieve.

    On Monday, Nora, Tomas, Mauro, Seppe and I were driven to San Juan de Lurigancho, a district of Lima located about 45 minutes north of our hostel where we would hold the trainings for the week. We were stationed in a massive park with tons of courts, fields, a boxing gym, swimming pool, and a BMX track. On the drive in I got my first glimpse of a more realisitc side of Lima. We are staying in Mira Flores, a fairly wealthy and touristy area of Lima, sheltered away from the disproportionate distribution of wealth that looms over this region making it one the most unequal cities in the world in terms of socioeconomic status. I observed mountainsides packed with small houses, stacked one on top of another, that looked as if they were constructed out of the earth. I learned that very few of these homes have running water or electricity, and those that did were not receiving those luxuries on a consistent basis.

    When we arrived at the park we met the program participants for the first time. The group had representation from ten different groups, spanning from Lima to the Amazon. We were very grateful to have representation from implementing partner CARD-PSB, a USAID funded NGO located in the Amazon. There were futbol coaches, basketball coaches, volleyball, boxing, and a chess teacher. There were professors and representatives from the Olympic Committee. It was a diverse group, and overall fairly futbol oriented, but we enjoyed discussing and having volunteers demonstrate adaptions to the games we played to fit their respective sports. Throughout the course of the week the message was stressed that as a coach, you also can perform the role as an educator. What I am learning is that CAC uses the field as a place to learn not only about futbol, but about life, and the coaches have the power to educate their children about much more than the game . We covered a wide range of topics throughout the week inlcuding gender equity and female empowerment, violence, sexual health and good decision making, conflict resolution, communication, teamwork and child protection. After each game, and sometimes before and during, a discussion was held in which the participants had the liberty to say what messages they took away from the game. The messages derived from the games were unique for each person which made it extremely important to create a safe space for discussion where all voices could be heard. As the week progressed, everyone was seeing more and more the parallels between the actual games and the greater social impact that they have.

    One game in particular that was very successful with this group was Child Rights: Right to Education a game focused around the power and importance of education. The format of the game was simple. Two teams played a regular game of futbol to goals. When a team scored a goal, they were granted the oppurtunity to construct a smaller goal anywhere along the outside of the field that they could score on. Each team could set up a total of four smaller goals around the field, resulting in a total of five goals to score on. Only after all four additional goals were set up could the teams begin to count their points. Before the game began we asked the participants what each goal would represent with regards to education. They said that each additional goal would represent a new level of schooling: initial, primary school, secondary school, and universities. The game was fun and dynamic, and lots of goals were scored. In our discussion following the game we asked the participants how this relates to life. They said that with greater levels of education, the more oppurtinuties you have in life. When each team was limited to only one goal, it was much harder to succeed on the field; similarly with only a very low level of education, or with no education at all, your oppurtunities are limitied. It was pointed out that for some children, school is not an option for a variety of reasons. However, what arose from the discussion was that as coaches, we can educate children on the field. We can motivate children to stay in school and help open their eyes to the value of an education.

    By the end of the week myself and the participants grasped what it means to coach sport to have social impact. I believe also that they and I learned a great deal about what it means to be a self-directed learner. The participants heard many times throughout the course of the week “resolver sus problemas”, “solve your problems.” The participants did not need the CAC coaches to hold their hand and show them the answer. It was up to them to find the solution on their own or as a team. Children do not need coaches or teachers to spell out every little detail for them and simply asking for the answer is taking the easy way out. By providing individuals with the freedom to explore all options, and to come to the solution on a path that they devise themselves, they are learning so much more than being told a finite solution. This approach challenges people to solve their problems on their own, taking personal acountablilty and learning through their actions, experiences and listening to others. It was clear that many of the coaches embodied this style of leading by the end of the week when they coached games on their own as part of our Coach-Back process.

    It was a fantastic week and the group was extremely appreciative of our work and similarly we were extremely thankful of their great energy, passion, and desire to learn. They will now take the lessons they learned and the games we played to their respective courts, fields, and communities to educate and lead Peru’s youth.

    Side note: On our day off I went surfing for the first time. Lima, and Peru in general, is home to a rich tradition and culture of surfing so I figured it was about time I gave it a go! No lesson, just put on my wetsuit, grabbed the board and dove in. I guess you could say it was self-directed surfing.

     

     

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  • The Real Stellenbosch: CAC Hits the Futsal Court with t4c

    October 4th, 2014. Cape Town, South Africa, famous for its mountains, beaches and beauty, neighbors some of the best and most stunning wine farms in the world in the very location of our latest program. This training took CAC Senior Staff member, Nora Dooley, to the mountainous farmlands of Stellenbosch – a tourism hotspot, a world-renowned wine oasis that is, like most vacation destinations, so often only seen and heard about through that narrow lens. Having been to the region as a tourist herself while living in South Africa, Nora was eager to learn more about the area, beyond the bubble that shields tourists from life’s difficult realities.

    Our partner in Stellenbosch, training4changeS (t4c), is a young organization that has chosen futsal as their game of choice. They are tapping into a world of opportunity in South African youth development and have lured in the National Futsal Coach – Quinton Allies – as a member of the staff. The training was a last minute addition to our 2014 schedule so the group was mostly t4c staff with a few participants from local partner organizations in t4c’s expanding network.

    We trained the 16 coaches in games from our year one curriculum and were able to push them in all aspects of our work – football (futsal) technique, fitness, and knowledge of the game, and most importantly social impact – how we coach sport to achieve a greater end of youth and community empowerment. This group was small, but each one of them proved day in and day out how committed they are to learning from CAC and putting what they learn into practice in their lives and in their sessions with children.

    On top of our core modules we taught the coaches all 5 of our Peace Day games since the training began the day after September 21st, as well as games from our Female Empowerment, HIV, Child Rights, and Financial Literacy curricula. One of the games that had a particularly resounding impact was our “Peace Day: Understanding Stereotypes and Challenging Them” game which, as per the title, addresses the problem of stereotypes and what we can do to solve that problem. Before we began the game we had a conversation about what stereotyping someone means and what are some examples of stereotypes in their community. We talked about people with dreadlocks (one of the participant had dreads), stereotypes pertaining to religions – particularly Muslims, as well as skin color – a huge issue in the Stellenbosch area and the country as a whole. The group itself was made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures, and we made sure to create a safe space for us all to discuss these serious issues. Then we played the game.

    The futsal court was divided into three zones – in a regular futsal game it would be for defense, midfield, and strikers but in this game the zones represented different stereotypes and we used three of the examples that we already discussed – physical characteristics (like dreads), religious affiliation, and skin color (a physical characteristic but so serious that it demands its own zone). For the first round players on each team must stay in the zone they are placed in and cannot leave. The teams go to goal. Then we play again where one team has the freedom to move anywhere and the other team is still confined to their zone. Then the third time – everybody is free to move.

    After the game we discussed more in depth about how it felt to be restricted to a zone in the game and how it limits your team, how it is a disadvantage when the other team is unrestricted. Then we related the game to the context of life and the participants discussed how imprisoning people in a box in your mind limits their ability to ever be anything else in your eyes, and closes your mind to the possibility of understanding and acceptance. If we get rid of the zones, if we get rid of the stereotypes, we are all free to play and make our own choices; we will score more goals and work better as a team, as a community, as a nation and a world.

    This is just one example of the amazing games and discussions that occurred throughout the week with these participants. They were wonderful people to work with and we could not have asked for a more open-minded, energetic, thoughtful, and talented group of young South Africans. After a few days Coach Quinton praised our methods saying, “It’s amazing how you use the ball as the connecting point.” We very much appreciate having such an established coach understand the importance of our methods. South Africa is one of the most difficult countries for us to work in because of various aspects of the culture and history – but groups like t4c break the stereotype and make our job incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. We look forward to a prolific partnership with training4changeS and the Stellenbosch community, the beautiful community beyond the wine lands.

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    Quinton Allies showing off his Skills for Life