What Is CAC?
May 11th 2016. CAC’s long serving volunteer CJ Fritz wrote about his full experience with the organization on 4 continents!
Full disclosure, what you are reading is my sixth draft of this blog. After seven incredible months of working with CAC, when our program in Diadema ended, so did my volunteer trip with this incredible organization.
I asked a few weeks ago to reserve the chance to write this blog because it would be my last. I thought it would be a breeze, a little heartfelt note to CAC that would take no less than an hour to write.
Now after trying 6 times and spending far too long staring at a blank document, I realize how difficult describing CAC is. CAC is ever shifting and adapting, so getting a line on it and pinning it down would be near impossible.
Seven months ago, I was nervous — terrified, really — about what I had gotten myself into. I arrived in Indonesia in late August for my first program not knowing what was coming and seriously doubting every decision I had made in choosing to take such a crazy journey.
Now, in early April, I’m nervous –terrified, really — that nothing can possibly live up to working with CAC.
So what is this organization that had such an enormous impact on me? What is CAC? There is no one answer:
CAC is sleeping on plastic mattresses on the floor of a building with no running water and more power outages than chickens in the yard.
CAC is having one of only two women in a program give you hope for change when she speaks up in front of 60 men about respecting women.
CAC is having to leave a country before you realized that you had really arrived, on to the next program. It is rickety buses, fantastic stories, questionable bedspreads, big breakthroughs, optimism and definitely some disagreements.
CAC is coming to a community and asking what problems the participants want to solve instead of telling them what to solve.
CAC is the process of giving useful tools and then getting out of the way: letting a community use all or none of what we present and trying not to impose.
It is confronting huge issues head-on, long travel days (understatement), celebrating the little wins and bonding with inspiring people around the world.
Without CAC, I never would have experienced the pure energy Haitian Initiative coaches could introduce to a training session, or the complexity into which the Inder coaches in Medellin would delve into the issue of child abuse, or the bright smiles and positivity we would see from coaches in Iringa, Tanzania.
Most importantly to me, CAC is a chance, an opportunity. It is an opportunity to work toward something great with like minded people. It is the chance to challenge your own beliefs and to question everything.
April 15th 2016. With his final week On-Field with CAC, long-term volunteer CJ Fritz tells us about CAC’s fourth and final week in the country with ACER Brasil.
Diadema, a city just beyond the outer reaches of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has had a troubled past. For a long time it was one of the biggest hot spots for violent crime in Brazil, most notably including murders. But over the last few years, it has undergone a transformation.
Since the city government decided to restrict the time at which bars in the city could close, the murder rate has fallen by 50%, an unprecedented free fall.
Now, changing the closing time of establishments that sell alcohol did not magically reduce violent crime. The change also sprang from a city full of people ready to move forward. They were committed to altering Diadema in a positive way, and they have succeeded.
We could see this mindset in our group on the very first day that we worked with them. We had about 30 participants in all, and they brought a fantastic energy to the sessions. They were enthusiastic and willing to jump right into anything that we threw their way.
They were not the first group ever to be fun-loving; what set them apart was their ability to flip the switch seamlessly between goofy and serious. That is a difficult ability to have, but they exhibited that skill repeatedly throughout the week.
Beyond that still, they continually questioned and disagreed and discussed from Monday to Friday. When asked how many people were in their family, some volleyed back “how do you define family?” When a man stated that women should not be in the role of fireman, hands shot up around the room, eager to present their counterpoint to the statement.
These are the signs of moving forward. How can anything change if we don’t question our traditions? How can we introduce new ideas if we refuse to discuss the problems at hand? In Diadema, the participants showed clear signals of a group not content with current progress. They demand more from themselves and those around them because they are aware of what it takes to change.
By the end of the week, I was extremely impressed by this group, and if they are any indicator of the general mindset in Diadema, I see every hint that there is more positive change to come in their city.
When I asked one of our more experienced participants why her work was so important to her, she responded without missing a beat, “because we must keep moving forward.”
March 17th 2016. Long-term volunteer CJ Fritz blogs from Brazil about our recent third-year training with the Brasilia branch of CAC partner Futebol Social.
Before every program, we try to have somewhat of a plan in place for the week. In the smoothest of scenarios the sessions contour themselves exactly how we would have hoped, and the plan doesn’t have to change. This smooth scenario is also called a “fantasy.”
Every program has, it seems, at least one moment when something unforeseeable happens, and the plan shifts.
Nora and I arrived into Brasilia the weekend of March 5th, ready and raring to get back to work after an extended break from on-field work. On Sunday we sat down and met with our local contact, Karina. We couldn’t speak Portuguese and she couldn’t speak English. Not the plan. Shift. After her son served as a makeshift translator, we learned that we would have 100 participants on Monday. Not the plan. Shift again.
On Monday afternoon, on our way to Taguatinga for our first session, it is revealed to us that we won’t have 100 participants…that number is now 170. Not the plan. Shift.
After revising our plan as best as possible to fit our ever-growing group, we arrive at the university where we will be conducting the sessions. We are greeted by a wall of eager Brazilians ready to get started. The nerves that came with the prospect of coaching so many people dissolved in our excitement to start the program.
After a very energetic round of Circle of Friends, we move on to Mia Hamm skills. We divide the group in to two more manageably sized groups and go to get half of the balls for each group. Turns out there are only 14 balls in total. Time to shift. By conducting most of the Mia Hamm skills with imaginary balls instead of real, we manage to get more people involved in the game.
Throughout the week, although sheltered from the rain by the indoor sports courts, we were not immune to the leaks and small pools of water forming on the courts. Not safe. Shift. With mops at the ready and cones around the more dangerous wet spots, on continued the sessions.
When the Child Rights talk loomed on Thursday, there was one upcoming obstacle that we were able to foresee. Asking 170 people to participate in a discussion and hoping that we could hear from a diverse group of them was not going to happen. Preemptive shift. With the group broken down into small clusters of four to five participants, there was more discussion and wider participation as a whole.
Although there were many moments of uncertainty throughout the week, it turned out to be one of my favorite weeks coaching with CAC. The changes kept me on my toes from the day I arrived until the day we flew out of Brasilia, feeling already nostalgic for a program that had barely finished. Not wanting to let go of the Brasilia program wasn’t what I expected. Shift.
Being An Ally
February 5th 2016. Long-term volunteer, CJ Fritz, writes on his experience in Léogâne with four-year partner GOALS Haiti.
Last week in Leogane, Haiti, I helped run an ASK For Choice program for the first time. ASK For Choice is a CAC program dedicated to gender equity, and involves discussing the problem of gender inequity with groups of only women as well as mixed groups.
Heading to our Monday morning session with only the female participants I was nervous. When we got to the field I was pacing back and forth, trying to figure out how to go about coaching in this completely new scenario. As a male coach, how do I speak with a group of female coaches about gender equity? How can I pretend to understand the position that they are coming from? Would it be better if Nora and Emily just ran this session, and I sat out?
As I busied myself fretting about how to handle the situation I realized something; this isn’t about trying to be on the same team, it’s about trying to be an ally. We don’t need to share the same starting point if we are both aiming for the same finishing point.
As the week progressed I began to think more and more about why I want to be an ally.
I have a younger sister who entered high school back in September. She is intelligent, active, is incredibly funny and excels especially in keeping her older brothers’ egos in check.
I choose to be an ally because of her. It scares me to think that she might be told not to play the sport that she loves because sports are for boys. It scares me that she could make only 70 cents to every dollar that a man with the same job makes. And it scares me that she could be pressured into not doing the things that she loves to do because they aren’t “things that women should do.”
But what scares me more than anything is that there are millions of girls and women living in countries with far more inequity who deserve the same chance to achieve that which the boys and men around them are afforded.
As the week progressed, we heard some fantastic and inspiring things from the women with whom we were working. They were motivated and prepared to fight incredibly hard for their rights.
The women in the group gave me hope for change in Leogane, but we didn’t get the same fierce support of equity from the men in the group. It is a great start to have such a motivated group of women who are ready for change, but they can’t go it alone.
In congress, bills don’t become laws without people willing to work across party lines. Two improvising actors have to work together to make a scene flow. Men and women have to work together to bring us closer to gender equity.
By the end of the week, we began seeing some signs of progress. The men in the group seemed less defensive than they had at first, and the group began to come up with some ways they can start making change in the present.
If there is a rock you want moved and two people tie ropes around it and pull in opposite directions, no matter how hard either person pulls, or how badly they want the rock to move, it will not budge. It’s up to us to decide; are we going to pull in the same direction, or do we want to play tug-of-war forever?
What Does Your Puzzle Look Like?
January 25th 2016. CAC Volunteer Emily Kruger, goalkeeper for the NWSL Portland Thorns, blogs about our first On-Field Training of 2016 with the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince.
CJ explained the second game of day one in Port-au-Prince to the group of 45 Haitian coaches who are in their third year with CAC. He asked them to get into groups of three and spread out around the field, well, actually Denni our incredible translator asked them. As a first timer, I was just participating in the game myself. I got with two others but as I looked around, I saw some pairs standing together. I thought to myself, “how do we solve this problem?” I decided that I could abstain and my two friends could each join a pair. So with few words and lots of gesturing, I made the groups of three happen. I looked to see if Nora, our lead CAC coach, noticed what I’d done, wondering if she would take note of what a good problem solver I was i.e. good coach, right?! Then, during this game of tag where the chase-ee can save themselves by stopping at the side of any trio thereby sending the opposite-outside player of the three to become the chase-ee, the chaser had been chasing all these rotating chase-ees for a long time. It was so hot and I felt for her so I thought to myself again, “how can we (I) solve this problem?” On an impulse I ran towards her to relieve her of her duty, when CJ stopped the activity (I awkwardly just kept running like I was minding my own business). He asked the group, “does anyone see a problem?” Through Denni, the coaches explained that yes, she had been running forever. He then asked, “what can we as coaches do to fix it?” One coach suggested switching her out, as I had thought, and another coach offered adding another chaser to help her. And then it struck me, CAC is all about Self-Directed Learning…being a good coach means supporting others as they create their own solutions, not telling them what you think the solution is. Woah! It was staring me in the face. This was an awesome moment to say the least, and it kept me thinking for the rest of the day.
We are so wired to tell others what to do and to do what others tell us to do, as well. Parents, teachers, politicians, bosses, coaches, the media…it is rare that we are encouraged to think for ourselves, to be creative, to challenge all of the spoon-fed ideas. And isn’t that the root of so many of our problems: mass groupthink and brainwashing so that we struggle to break the mold? Or maybe it’s human nature to obey, to try to fit the mold. I don’t know. However, I do believe that Self-Directed Learning is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle! For me, the puzzle is the creation of more just and more equal societies where unnecessary human excess and unnecessary human suffering are not commonplace. Hmmm. What does your puzzle look like? And what do you think some solutions could be?
Hot, Humid and Happy
September 10th 2015. CAC’s newest volunteer CJ Fritz writes about his first week in Indonesia with Uni Papua.
Landak, West Kalimantan was the setting of our first week of coaching in Indonesia. A two-hour flight and four-hour drive saw us arrive in Landak on Sunday evening ready and raring to go. That night, I was introduced to the idea of a bucket shower. On only my second night abroad, this foreign concept was quite a shock to my system. But, we played the cards we were dealt.
Every morning during the week we spent two hours with energy-filled primary school students who were convinced that we were famous. The David Beckham Effect from the children continued throughout the week among kids, coaches and practically everyone else who came across us. I signed I-don’t-know-how-many notebooks, t-shirts, and took so many photos with strangers that for a moment I thought I really was David Beckham.
I was very impressed with the level of excitement among the 60-some coaches with whom we worked. The children had equal – if not greater – zeal, but that is to be expected from children. The coaches started every session in high spirits and rarely experienced a dip in energy.
Both the children and coaches were quick to learn the games; Mingle Mingle – a dancing game that requires participants to create groups of varying sizes on-command – was a universal favorite. The coaches particularly enjoyed Adebayor Hands Against HIV, which involves participants in a small circle around one person. The ball represents HIV, and the person in the middle tries to avoid being “infected” with HIV as those on the outside try to hit them below the knee with the ball. Then, once they grasp how easily they can be “infected,” means of protection are introduced in the form of other participants entering the circle to try to block the ball. These forms of protection represented things like condoms or a one faithful partner.
The coaches were all very respectful, positive and willing to work. By the end of the week we had created a bond with the coaches who seemed appreciative and content with the week’s work. I was asked by multiple coaches for my contact information in order to keep in touch and to communicate about more games that they can teach their players. These exchanges left me with an accomplished feeling about the work we did in Landak and the memories we created with the coaches.
It was difficult to form a connection with any of the children since we had a different group of kids every morning, with each group consisting of 60 to 90 young players. Although we couldn’t connect with them easily, it was probably for the best, as we got to coach more than 400 players over the course of the week.
I was disappointed with how few female coaches there were – only two of 60 – but not surprised based on what we saw during the morning sessions. Teachers would bring groups of boys and girls to the field and wanted to have the girls sit out and watch the boys have all the fun, but with a little bit of persuasion soon the students were all happily involved. Seeing the girls laughing, smiling and enjoying the session gave me hope that Landak can create a community that supports women on and off the pitch.
There was a particularly special moment during the afternoon session on Tuesday while we were covering gender equity and female empowerment with the coaches. One of the two female coaches who was in attendance spoke up about how adults discourage girls from playing football and sports in general, and that we as coaches and members of the community need to work to change that trend. Her comment got a hugely positive reaction from the rest of the coaches and made me believe that we witnessed a bit of change that day.
The intense humidity was not enough to dampen the collective spirit of the participants, and by Friday night, a bucket shower was a gift that I gratefully accepted.
We left Landak somewhat sweaty, slightly stinky and supremely satisfied.