• Experiencia con CAC

    April 26, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Lina Restrepo, shares thoughts about the first On-Field training of our Nike and Postobón partnership in Bogotá, Colombia – this one with Colombianitos in Ciudad Bolívar. Lina has participated in CAC programs for several years as part of our partnership with Inder Medellín.

    En ciudad bolívar se resaltan frecuentemente historias de violencias a través de los medios, vías de comunicación que reproducen constantemente mensajes cargados de estereotipos con adolescentes, delincuentes, abuso de sustancias, hurtos, discapacidad cognitiva, entre otros; y compartir con personas de Bogotá, Francia, Inglaterra, estados unidos y Medellín en este lugar, me hace vivenciar diversidad cultural, componente necesario para la reconstrucción del tejido social en Colombia y en diferentes lugares del mundo con una situación similar.

    En algunos momentos llega la pregunta ¿Qué tiene Colombia, que se hace invisible para los colombianos y tan llamativo para los extranjeros? En esta primera experiencia en un hostal, compartí el cuarto con una persona que venía desde Holanda a trabajar como voluntaria por tres meses para estudiar las aguas del Lago Tota, el cual mencionaba como un recurso fundamental del ecosistema no sólo para Colombia sino para el planeta entero.

    Este es un ejemplo del interés en el territorio colombiano de personas de otros lugares que reconocen en nosotros cualidades y potencialidades que por momentos dejamos de ver y vienen a recordárnoslo.

    Dentro de las personas participantes al entrenamiento resalto los entrenadores (con experiencia en el fútbol profesional colombiano) y deportistas (jóvenes y adultos, líderes de cambio de diferentes fundaciones en Colombia, que hacen uso del deporte y la recreación como herramienta de transformación social.

    Una de las preguntas que movilizó a la imaginación y la creatividad dentro del grupo de líderes, ¿Es posible jugar un partido de fútbol sin balón? En especial para los entrenadores que a veces se quedan en metodologías tradicionales. (95% Fútbol 😊)

    Agradezco a CAC los espacios de Juegos y Diálogos alrededor de conceptos de equidad, igualdad, género, cultura, fenómenos, violencias, problemas, problemáticas entre otros. Se amplía pues, la caja de herramientas al recibir los currículos de CAC y ASK for choice con una variedad de juegos por compartir.

    Experience with CAC – Bogota, Colombia 2017 

    In Ciudad Bolívar stories of violence frequently emerge through the media, manners of communication that constantly reproduce messages charged with stereotypes about adolescents, delincuants, substance abuse, theft, mental disability, among others; and to share with people in Bogotá, France, England, USA, and Medellín in this place, allows me to experience cultural diversity, a necessary component for the reconstruction of the social fabric in Colombia and in different places in the world with a similar situation.

    In some moments the question arrives: What is it about Colombia that makes it invisible to Colombians and so attractive to foreigners? In this first experience in a hostel, I shared the room with a person who came from Holland to work as a volunteer for three months to study the waters of Lake Tota, that which was mentioned as a fundamental resource of the ecosystem not only for Colombia but for the entire planet.

    This is an example of the interest in the Colombian territory of people from other places that recognize in us qualities and potential that we, at times, stop seeing and they come to remind us.

    Among the participating people in the training were coaches (with experience in Colombian professional football) and sports people (youth and adults); leaders of change from different foundations in Colombia that make use of sport and recreation as a tool for social transformation.

    One of the questions that mobilized the imagination and creativity within the group of leaders was: “Is it possible to play a game of football without a ball?” Especially for the coaches that sometimes rely on traditional methodologies. (In reference to CAC’s 95% Football)

    I am grateful to CAC for the spaces of games and dialogue around concepts of equity, equality, gender, culture, phenomenons, violence, problems, and issues, among others. The toolbox expands upon receiving the CAC and ASK for Choice curricula with the variety of games to share.

  • Every CAC Week Is Different

    June 7th 2016. Cameron Hardington writes about his 2nd time volunteering with CAC in Colombia with Colombianitos

    I arrived in Colombia for my second time volunteering with Coaches Across Continents feeling much more confident than I did for my first stint in Africa. I’ve been through the program and am aware of what to expect, and also know how CAC operates on the field. What I was quickly reminded of, however, was that each experience with this organization is a unique one. This is not just because I’m in a different country or culture than my previous time, but that each community we work with has their own needs and interests. Rather than having a rigid structure of what to do each week, CAC adapts to the needs expressed by each community which makes for a more dynamic coaching and learning experience. It’s one reason why I enjoy volunteering so much.

    This past week, unsurprisingly, brought new challenges to overcome in regards to scheduling and organization. We scheduled a program with Colombianitos in Barbosa. They were less familiar with our work than previous programs. This to me was an advantage as we got to teach a wide range of our games to show what CAC does.

    The group we worked with was small but they were all passionate and eager to learn. One game that I particularly enjoyed coaching was a game called Earth, Wind, and Water. It’s a simple game of football with three goals, but when a team scores a goal, it gets taken away. The game is meant to show how pollution (the ball) can pollute your resources, and once you lose your resources, they are gone for good. The group was very receptive and this game, and one coach named Cesar particularly enjoyed it and used it to coach to his kids on Friday.

    It was a joy to see these coaches willing to incorporate some of the games that we taught them so quickly, and hopefully we will get the chance to work with them again next year in greater depth. For me this week was also a perfect example of how there is rarely a similar week with CAC.

    It’s refreshing for me to experience that, and it’s why I came back.


  • Shared Enjoyment of the Human Experience

    CAC volunteer Bobby Zolper writes about hospitality in Manizales, Colombia with Colombianitos.

    May 27th 2016. As a first time volunteer with CAC I have found the connections made between ourselves and the people of the partner programs to be profound and quickly formed. On-Field connections with participants transcend the language barrier through the universal language of football. Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or social status, people all over the world can relate to a shared love for the beautiful game. This is a phenomenon I have experienced before and was happy to experience once again in Manizales, Colombia. Although I expected to bond with the members of Colombianitos, the organization we worked with in Manizales, I never expected equal connections to carry over to the host family, whom we would stay with for only a week.

    Our team, consisting of myself, two other volunteers (Cameron and Taylor), a Community Impact Coach from Peru (Pedro), and two full-time CAC staff members (Markus and Ruben), was lodged in a flat directly above our host family. Below us lived Jimena, her husband, a taxi driver named Miguel and her two sons Rafael and Nicolas. We spent most of our down time with the family finding out about each others life in a different country as effectively as our language abilities allowed us to. Most of these questions provided little insight into the lives of one another but rather gave a sense of each others personality and made for enjoyable and incredibly funny conversations. The strongest bond I formed within their family was with 10 year old Nico. Nico shared the same love for the computer game FIFA as I do and, considering my Spanish ability, was the person I was able to communicate best with! Nico loved to play football and was quite the player too. He also emulated his idol, Colombian superstar James Rodriguez. Nico was quick to extend an invitation to play with him and I enjoyed his company as much as he did ours.

    After a week with the family, we departed for Medellin. Shortly thereafter, we received a phone call from Jimena who had come home to her son crying from missing us being there. This was a touching thing for us to hear and I had not realized how much we had meant to Nico. We had left him with t-shirts from our respective universities and he had left us with a lesson to learn from. If the world was filled with people as genuine and as willing to accept a stranger as a friend as Nico was, we would all live in a much better place. If all people were to connect based upon the shared enjoyment of the human experience the same way we connect over the love of football, CAC would have a lot less work to do! The members of our team thank Jimena and her family for the incredible hospitality and I hope they know they will never be forgotten.


  • Very Real Challenges In Santafé

    May 23rd 2016. CAC volunteer Taylor Diem writes about his first CAC experience in Bogota, Colombia with Colombianitos.

    A 6am flight and two connections through Dallas and Miami and I touched down in Bogota, Colombia.  I arrived a couple hours before our group leader Markus, a full time staff member with CAC, who has been with the organization for a little over 2 years.   Beatrice or “Betty” for short, greeted us at the airport.  She works for Colombianitos, the organization we’d be working with in Bogota and Manizales over the next few weeks.  Her English was a bit better than my Spanish, which, after taking only a year in college, barely permitted me to ask where the bathroom was.  No worries though, Markus had spent enough time working in Spanish speaking countries in the last year that he was able to communicate pretty well.

    Later that night we were joined by Ruben, another full time SDL Coach with CAC, and Pedro, a Community Impact Coach out of Lima, Peru.  The three of them had just their trainings  in Peru.  Another volunteer, Bobby Zolper flew in Monday afternoon.

    I was amazed at the population density of the city and especially the area we were in, Santafé de Bogotá (specifically Ciudad Bolívar).  Houses with cement walls and tin roofs lined the hillsides as far as I could see, and the streets were filled with people, motorcycles, and dogs.  Santafé is considered one of the most dangerous parts of the city, and we were later told that the futsal court we had played at while staying there was the site of 10 deaths over the past three or four weeks.  Scary stuff, but these are the areas where CAC does it’s work.

    Where do you start with an experience like this?  I joined CAC as a volunteer, knowing this would be a life changing experience, and after only one week into my four week stint with the organization, it was clear to me that I had underestimated the impact this would have on my life.  Throughout the week, we worked with coaches and youth leaders from Colombianitos and other organizations from surrounding areas, spending the first few days playing games intended to help them understand how the sport that means so much to their community, could lead to social change.  On the last day, we challenged the participants to put what we had learned throughout the week into practice by running their own sessions with local children.  It was incredible to see how much they had learned in such a short amount of time.  The passion they have for their community and the determination to make things better for future generations was and is truly inspiring.

    I was Face Timing a friend from back home, telling her about my experiences so far and we started talking about the differences between these cultures and our own.  In the United States, children are sheltered from the real social issues in their communities in an attempt to protect their innocence and ensure their safety.  In Santafé and similar communities, drugs, violence, disease and scarce financial resources are very much a part of their daily lives.  Their challenges are very real.

    After the week was over, I was totally conflicted.  On one hand, I didn’t want to leave this community and these people behind.  It’s never easy saying goodbye to friends, especially if you’re fairly certain you’ll never see them again. The relationships we’ve created over the past three days are ones I will hold forever.  Incredible, considering we spent a mere 18 hours together.  But, that’s the power of this sport and this organization.  I came here with as much information as the  field manual for Coaches Across Continents could provide, but I’m walking away knowing I’ve learned more from these people than they could have ever  have learned  from me.

    At the same time, leaving this place we’ve called home for the past week is exactly what Coaches Across Continents is all about.  We came to this community to provide tools they could use to support their efforts to promote the change they feel is needed.  We taught them some games, but more importantly, we challenged them to create a safe and healthy environment that encourages thought and collaboration for and between members of their community and to think about how the games we played might be used to teach and provoke change in the cultural norms of their community.

    A HUGE thank you to our host family, the Cortés.  They were incredibly hospitable and kind throughout our stay.  They made us feel welcome, supported our efforts and secured a place in my heart forever.


  • “Time To Play” with Colombianitos

    February 17th 2015. Just over the towering hills of tiled brick and wooden homes that framed our practice field, a sad reality of gangs and child soldier recruitment exists.  But there was a feeling of security and closeness as I stepped on the futbol pitch in Barrio Paraiso, and it looked as though I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

    At an elevation of at least 8,000 feet, north of the capital city Bogotá, Barrio Paraiso was home to unbelievable views, steep city streets lined with street vendors, stray dogs and wind-burnt faces. For the second week in a row we were working with Colombianitos, a sport for development NGO that functions in several different communities in Colombia. The week before this we worked at their Cartagena location. An organization where Manchester United’s Falcao played growing up, Colombianitos is a special place for the children to learn, play, and grow because of the atmosphere the coaches, mentors and teachers at this foundation have created. It is apparent when the children come by throughout the day and wrap their arms around the teachers/coaches, that this is a place they feel cared for and loved. Living conditions aren’t the easiest in Barrio Paraiso but for the 29 mentors/participants who make sport and education a priority, and the further 1,429 children in the Colombianitos family who reap the benefits of it, they are all given something to look forward to every day.

    This week we coached games in the morning with Colombianitos and every afternoon an organization called Tiempo de Juego travelled an hour by bus to join in on the training. 10 participants between the ages of 14 and 40; young leaders and older leaders; arrived after lunch everyday with beaming smiles on their faces. It was fulfilling to watch the two communities come together over CAC games and form a bond within the short week of knowing each other.

    One morning we gave the Colombianitos coaches time to create a fútbol for social impact game to train back to their peers. I was so impressed to see how creative they got when we put them to work. My favorite of the games was a game addressing the need to clean up the environment. In the game there was a soccer field with two trash bins on both sidelines. Team A was given cones to sporadically drop throughout the game to represent trash or polution in the community. Team B could only score after they picked up all of the cones that were dropped and put them in the trash bins on the sideline. The simple message of this game is shown in that the team can only succeed when they figure out a good strategy to clean up the environment. The team who throws the trash on the ground will win more often than the team that has to pick it up because they have no trash to pick up. It is a valuable message in communities like Barrio Paraiso where trash fills the streets and pollutes the land and water sources.

    Seeing the coaches create and coach their own games is encouraging for CAC because it is evidence that our partnership is aiding in the process of creating self-directed learners. But more than anything it is encouraging for the community itself. The people to best deal with social issues in a community are the people who live there. Once they are able to adapt our games to fit their society’s needs, create games on their own, and fully embody the self-directed learning methodology, CAC’s physical presence in the community will be felt through the game of fútbol, but no longer needed.

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  • Condoms in Cartagena

    Turner “Hooch” Humphries blogs about last weeks program in Cartagena.

    February 5, 2015. Our first Colombian program began in the city of Cartagena, a city revered by tourists for its many picturesque beaches, cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture. While parts of the city possessed all of these brochure worthy features, we were able to get a look behind the curtain as to the issues facing the average citizen through our partner program Colombianitos. It was our second year working with their Cartagena program so our team was anxious to expand on the work they had previously done together.

    What was unique about Colombianitos’ Cartagena based program was their use of young leaders in the community. Rather than simply viewing them as students they recognized their potential to understand the pulse of the neighborhood and enabled them to be active in finding creative solutions to issues they deem important. The majority of the coaches we worked with were under the age of eighteen, which is fairly uncommon. Ainge (17) and Ismael (20) were two participants in particular that possessed wisdom and maturity beyond their years. Both were able to handle large amounts of energetic children by themselves and could command an audience of adults during topics on complex social issues.

    At the beginning of the week, Alfredo, head coach of Colombianitos Cartagena, identified youth pregnancy as something that was having adverse effects on his community. He was seeing far too many fourteen and fifteen year olds left to care for a child, forcing them out of school and void of most of the activities enjoyed by their peers. To address this specific community need we played a game called ‘Adebayor Uses a Condom Tag.’ In this adapted tag game players are able to avoid being tagged by going to select stationary players around the field that represent a condom. Through the game we learned the benefits of condom use, one of the many good choices available to prevent unwanted pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

    Sexual health can be a challenging topic to discuss with anyone, especially younger coaches, a few giggles and under the breathe jokes are usually common place. However this group of young leaders took the game seriously and were very vocal when asked questions on proper condom use, showing their maturity yet again. It was refreshing to see so many young coaches dedicated to a better Cartagena.

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