• 2015 Begins in Haiti

    Volunteer Coach,Turner Humphries – formerly of CAC partner Soccer Without Borders Uganda – writes about his first experience On-Field with CAC in Haiti.

    January 16th 2015. My first week with Coaches Across Continents started in Port-au-Prince, Haiti working with the Sanneh Foundation and their Haitian Initiative. The program kicked off in Cite Soleil, an area of Port-au-Prince rife with poverty, violence and with little access to health care and education. Despite the obstacles facing the community over 150 coaches from the area and beyond came out to participate in a week long program designed to give them an intensive look at ways soccer games can be used to combat the very social issues they are trying to stem.

    One of the days of our program began with a group discussion about the ways in which women are marginalized across the globe. We spent time focusing specifically on some of the issues women face in Haiti: violence, poor health services and lack of educational and professional opportunities. It was a lively conversation that included many varying viewpoints and opinions. As we left the classroom for the pitch it was clear everyone understood that gender inequality is something that is prevalent in their community, but not everyone believed it to be an issue of vital importance. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce the CAC games centered around the adversity women face.

    In the first activity the coaches were asked to mimic how each gender does different movements. When asked to run like a man both male and female coaches took off in a charged sprint. When asked to run like a woman everyone took on much more of an exuberant style of running. Upon further discussion it was realized that in fact both women and men run, walk, dance, jump and throw much alike. With the similarities between men and women extending much farther than that, we then wanted to know why then there is still such an imbalance between genders in society. In one particularly powerful moment one of the male coaches addressed the group to say that the difference in gender is irrelevant, that the mere fact that we are all human beings should alone be enough to justify equal treatment.

    In another exercise we had half of each team stand stationary while the other team members attempted to score on goal. The stationary players could play the ball but were not allowed to move from their position. As you would imagine this becomes incredibly frustrating not only for the players able to run freely, but also for the players stuck in one spot as they are prohibited from helping their team in a meaningful way. In this game the stationary players were a representation of women in a society that impedes their involvement. It shows that in a society with unequal rights for women everyone suffers.

    By the end of the training session the importance of gender equality was felt by all. As we wrapped up the coaches were asked to run like a girl, the group took off running all in their normal stride. As it turns out we are not all that different.

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  • Back to School with The Sanneh Foundation

    August 25, 2014. For some people, being a professional soccer player who represented the United States in the 2002 World Cup would be enough of an accomplishment to relax in retirement. Tony Sanneh, however, has worked tirelessly to increase the impact of The Sanneh Foundation (TSF) that he founded in 2003. Our first partnership with TSF occurred in January in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After the success of this first training, we have expanded our partnership to include working with their Dreamline Corps, which combines soccer and education in eight high schools in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

    This past week we worked with over two-dozen Dreamline and TSF coaches who will be implementing the Coaches Across Continents curriculum throughout the next school year. Dreamline looks to engage and energize underserved and under-engaged students so they take ownership of their own success in academics and life. They provide academic support during school hours, as well as an after-school enrichment program that includes sport where the coaches look to continue their work to increase student self-efficacy and leadership by integrating education and sport.

    It was an extremely intensive three days which included off-field theory on our Self-Directed Learning model which is based on our Chance to Choice philosophy as well as other talks on Child Rights, coaching skills, and monitoring & evaluation. Both On and Off-Field the coaches learned to allow players to “solve their problems” through experiential learning without the coaches immediately providing the answers.

    But On-Field provided the most fun and fireworks. The community of St. Paul and the schools in which TSF operates are very diverse, including recent immigrants (many from East Africa and Asia) as well as a broad mix of ethnicities. On the second day we played a game from our Peace Day Curriculum (free upon request) that addresses stereotypes by restricting specific players to various zones on the field. Besides the clear analogy between the soccer game and stereotyping, it led to an intensive discussion focusing on the current events happening in Ferguson, Missouri. In a civil but passionate discussion, various points of view were brought up. The biggest learning point however was that sport could teach On-Field and also stand as a catalyst for intense dialogue within a safe space off the soccer field.

    The school year begins in two weeks, and Coaches Across Continents is proud that our curriculum will be used in eight high schools around St. Paul (MN, USA) and in camps throughout the year that are hosted by The Sanneh Foundation. We look forward to our continued multi-nation partnership with TSF and the impact that Tony is having on both communities through his Foundation.

    Too Much Fun at TSF!

    Too Much Fun at TSF!

    A fun little tug of war

    A fun little tug of war

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  • “Rezoud Konfli”

    IMG_4510January 30, 2014. The first thing I realized when I landed in Haiti was that for some reason Haitian kids always wanted to fight me. At first I thought a Japanese man like me was probably not welcome in Haiti, but then soon I realized that they thought I was Jackie Chan and always thus expected a display of martial arts skill. For that reason, I was kind of popular in Haiti and it was easy to be friendly with Haitian people.

    And like that, my life in Haiti started. After the amazing first week we had with GOALS Haiti in Léogâne, we moved to Port-au-Prince, where we worked with Tony Sanneh of The Sanneh Foundation and their Haitian Initiative for a full week. Tony is a former professional soccer player who played for the US in the 2002 World Cup and had an assist against Portugal. He founded The Sanneh Foundation when he was still playing as a pro in order to help the urban kids learn life skills through playing soccer, and decided to extend the program to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

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    The week with the Haitian Initiative was very overwhelming but also fun. In the mornings from 9:00 to 12:00, we taught our drills to about sixty of the local coaches, and in the afternoon from 2:00 to 5:30 we observed the coaches using our drills to train the kids. The sessions were really long and because I was under the sun for a long time every day, I got the coolest T-shirt tan lines ever, which people actually have been telling me are the worst. However, it was totally worth working with the local coaches for that long period of time because I was able to learn three big lessons about life.

    One lesson is the importance of conflict resolution. From the first day of the week, we let them play games that were designed to simulate conflict. At first, I always wanted to get in the middle of the argument and re-explain the rules and offer a solution. However, Nora always pulled me aside and told me “let them solve their own problems” and just yelled out, “rezoud konfli!” which means to solve conflicts in Créole. By the end of the week I started to observe more leadership within the group and efforts to solve problems independently. It was a huge step forward for them, especially because the ability to think critically and solve problems is crucial for developing countries like Haiti, and until that point I never knew there was such an educating method as stepping back and observing without interfering, which had a pretty impressive effect.IMG_9488

    The second lesson I learned was that, yes, soccer is a language of the world and you can easily make tons of friends by just playing soccer, but knowing some of their language and culture gets you much closer to them. For example, I literally knew only four sentences in Créole, which were “bon travay” (good job), “san balon” (without the ball), “bay non” (give me your name) and “ou pare? on ale” (you ready? Let’s go). However, with only these four sentences, I was able to make them laugh, smile, and happy. In addition, we learned one of the Haitian traditional dance moves in the first week, and we showed it to the coaches in Port-au-Prince, and they absolutely loved that we did it. Looking back at my own life, I was always happy when random people talked to me saying “konnichiwa,” or even when they were big fans of Pokémon. I thought that when I got a chance to go abroad next, I should learn some fun sentences and dances from the country before visiting, and now I know that will definitely help me make friends.

    IMG_9867Finally, working with the Haitian Initiative made me realize that I could influence so many other lives. After working with the coaches for a week, it was obvious to my eyes that they not only had become better coaches, but also had become better educators. In the afternoon sessions where we got to observe the coaches training the kids, I could tell the way they interacted with the kids had started to change. They were encouraging kids to be more vocal, have respect for others, treat everyone equally regardless of gender, and have more fun. The funny thing is when they would shout out “rezoud konfli!” to kids when they were arguing. It was amazing to see that what we teach is directly reflected in what they teach. Because each coach had about twenty kids, that’s more than a thousand kids we had impacted. To think that we had influenced more than a thousand kids in just a week, and that we had potentially helped create a positive outlet for Haiti’s next generation of leaders is simply mind-blowing.

    Going to Haiti and working with CAC and Haitian Initiative has definitely become a life changing experience to me. This trip gave me a chance to reassess my values in life along with my future goals. These past two weeks I was always asking myself questions, but did not know answers to most of them. This trip made me really want to go back to school, and study to become a better critical thinker so that I can be better at rezoud konfli. So now I am happy that I am back at Harvard to start a new semester, but man, it is freaking cold here. I already miss Haiti and mangos.

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