• My Return to Kenya

    July 11th, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Salim Blanden, writes about his experience working in Migori with Youth Empowerment through Sport, also known as YES Kenya.

    24th June 2017, on a sunny Saturday, my journey from Kampala to Kenya began. On the bus along with me was my colleague and first time ever Community Impact Coach, Nicholus Achimpota from Tanzania. I was so excited to learn I was going to spend the next five weeks on field with Nico. This would be my return to Kenya after running the first program in 2015 in Mbita, Homa Bay with Boychild Agenda.

    On the bus however, we missed our team leader from the USA, Mark Gabriel because of weakness due to a sickness. Mark stayed in Kampala and would travel the following day.

    Our on-field training with Youth Empowerment through Sports (YES) in Migori started immediately on Monday morning with about 30 participants from Migori, and some others from neighboring areas around Migori County.

    Due to Mark’s absence on-field, it was very clear myself and Nico would run the program on our own. This was therefore the first ever Community Impact Coach ran program. A participant said, “I enjoyed this program so much because I really see myself in you.” This showed the value and power of having a CIC led program. The experience was great because we managed to take charge and everyone believed in us. Mark also motivated and encouraged us throughout the whole week.

    This was an example that local coaches (Community Impact Coaches) can make an impact and run programs in different areas, independently and bring about positive social change in communities where they work.

    It was evident there was an impact created because of the cooperation of the participants. Especially with games reflecting gender equity, communication and fun, there was a message that CAC games and participants would continue bringing about positive change even when CAC has left the local area.

    The excitement I got from slaughtering chickens for our lunch on two separate occasions and the confidence I gained from running the program as only a CIC, made me forget the cold night we spent in Kisumu Town Roads before we traveled to Migori one early morning. This taught me a lesson in life, to never stop moving despite the different challenges on the road!

  • Webale Nnyo, Kampala!

    June 30th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Kimaya Cole blogged about our partnership with Watoto Wasoka in Kampala, Uganda.

    Traveling away from the roosters and fresh fruit in Ndejje, we found our way in the roaring streets of Kampala. Very quickly we learned that once the thick, gray cloud moves overhead and drops a few raindrops, it’s time to run for cover to escape the heavy down pour that will soon be upon us. Fortunately, the storm only lasts about twenty minutes, and despite the newly formed mini mud rivers in the streets, the town resumes their hustle and bustle.

    Our partnership with Watoto Wasoka would kick off the first year program in Kampala, Uganda and I was excited and ready to start coaching games on my own. But, I was not prepared for how much of an impact the participants would have on me. While hearing their answers and explanations to one another, I found myself being challenged as well. One woman in particular was very tiny, but her voice was powerful. She was not afraid to stand up for herself and the other few women there, reinforcing that women are just as strong and capable as men. Without even knowing it, she inspired me to have more confidence in my voice and abilities as a woman and encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities I have as a global citizen to try and make a difference – whether that is in the world or just impacting one person in my community.

    I had an amazing, unforgettable time in Uganda as a first time CAC global citizen. Since it was my first time traveling outside of the United States, and especially to a low income economy country, I had no idea what to expect, nothing to compare my experience to. And even after having time to digest my weeks in Uganda, I still cannot fully describe all of my emotions. Besides the periods of no running water and unreliable electricity in our hotel, most importantly, I will miss the people – how they are the real life “energizer bunnies,” never getting tired, always ready for the next task, how they fed me food until I couldn’t possibly take another bite and then proceeded to look at me as if I barely ate anything, and how they welcomed me into their home and country with open arms. I am leaving Uganda with opened eyes, a full stomach, and a happy heart. All I have left to say is: “Webale Nnyo” (Thank you very much)!

  • From Nshima and Dance Parties to Burning Trash and Bumpy Roads

    June 26th 2017. Global Citizen Charlie Overton wrote about CAC’s partnership with Zanimuone Black Stars in Lusaka, Zambia. 

    From eating Nshima (pronounced shima) and having dance parties to burning landfills of trash and very bumpy roads, my time in Lusaka Zambia will be with me for a lifetime. It was life changing as well as memorable. Furthermore, it was humbling and gratifying. Living in Lusaka was unlike any experience I’ve had in my life up until now.

    Ashlyn and I stayed with our organizer, Betty, her husband of five years, Felix, and eight children ranging from ages 1 to 18. Now, if you think that Betty had all these children herself in some kind of “octomom” fashion, as well as working as a secretary, taxi driver, and starting a not for profit organization, then you would be wrong. She does work as all those things, but not all the children are directly hers. Three of them are her own, and the others she has welcomed into her home and they come from all different paths. Chikondi, who is around thirteen, is from Betty’s sister who passed away. Miriam, whom I apologize I do not know her exact age, but I believe is around seven or eight, came from Betty’s brother. He kept dropping Miriam off with Betty and then at different times coming back to pick her up. Betty saw this as very disruptive to Miriam’s growth as she kept being pulled out of school, so eventually she said enough was enough and that Miriam was going to stay with her. Then there are Moses, who I believe is around nine or ten, Chard, who we called Chadrick, eighteen, and his sister Jessica, seventeen. They all came from the surrounding area. Moses from one of Betty’s friends who she saw was unable to feed him. Chadrick came to Betty looking for work and Jessica came a little later when Chadrick told Betty that their parents did not want Jessica to go to school anymore. They all work very hard cleaning and cooking around the house in exchange for money, accommodation, and education. The three that are Betty’s own are named Bright, one, and Felix Jr., four, they do not do much but waddle around and ask for the football. Betty’s oldest, Alisha, aged ten, loved Indian soap operas when she was not at school, I am sure working hard! This was the setting we lived in for one week, and it taught me a lot about the value of hard work and working for everything you have. That is what these kids are learning in Betty’s household, because as she said, “they need to work hard, because life won’t be easy,” that is a very valuable lesson. It is one I can remember my parents trying to get me to understand, but I was not very receptive to it. I suppose I had to travel to Zanimuone West in Lusaka, Zambia for it to really hit home.

    As in any place there are always not as nice things that go along with the nice ones, and Lusaka was no different. These things included that near the field we did our training at there was a massive landfill that was constantly burning their trash in order to make room for the even more massive amounts of trash coming in. On one of the days the wind shifted and caused the smoke to come and hang right over our field, this caused breathing to be very difficult. Furthermore, Zanimuone West, the district of Lusaka we were staying in, was an up and coming area, therefore, the roads had not been paved so it was very rocky and bumpy and in many places. However, this also created some funny moments, such as pushing Betty’s car off of a huge bump that it got beached on. With the good and the bad, Lusaka proved to be extremely life changing, and I am very thankful to Betty and her family for housing us and feeding us. The experience will stay with me forever.

     

  • Connecting Kenya and Ghana

    June 13th. CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Charles Otieno writes about working with DUNK Grassroots in Accra, Ghana. Charles, a long-time CIC from Kenya traveled to Ghana to help us run the programs.

    In our last week in Ghana we visited DUNK Grassroots, an organization located at Jamestown, Accra. The town is one of the oldest places in Accra and it’s known for fishing and colonial history. The light house is the land mark of the place and if you climb to the top you will have a glance of the capital city, Accra and the fishing harbor.

    The organization has a center that acts as a safe space for many kids, since they have opportunities to play, learn and grow to be change agents in their respective communities. The organization main sport is basketball, so we (Jordan, JK and I) had to be creative enough to play the games using basketball skills. It was a week of fun and learning moments for the participants and the organization coaches. It was my first time to teach games to participants who are basketballers. We delivered the curriculum to the U12, U14 and Girls teams and had a cohort of coaches who were the key part of the training.

    Though we are not professional basketball players we aimed at achieving our goal using thematic games to teach our participants. It was a success since the participants were able to learn and have fun. Looking at the smiles in their faces and how they responded to the open questions really made me happy because I believe there is nothing better than putting a smile on someone’s face and adding knowledge to them.

    In the end the participants were able to review and reflect the games we played in the real life situation and the majority promised to share what they have learnt. And that was my last work in Ghana as I had to say good bye and leave the Ghanaians with a big smile and knowledge. I hope they will take it to the next level by teaching more people and making Ghana an even better place.

    It was exciting travelling with CAC miles away from my country Kenya. I learnt lots of things personally. Coaches Across Continents has really made me grow. I want to thank CAC for this life changing opportunity to go to a different country to teach sport for social impact games. Not forgetting the wonderful team that I worked with; CAC staff Jordan Stephenson and Global citizen JK Cho.

  • 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.

  • Planting Self-Directed Learning Seeds in The Garden City

    June 5th 2017. CAC Global Citizen JK Cho writes about working with Rescue Sports Foundation in Kumasi, Ghana.

    Growing up obsessed with superhero comics, one of my favorite characters was “Mimic” from the X-Men who possessed the power of learning other superheroes’ powers instantly.  I was fascinated by the limitlessness and versatility of Mimic to any problematic situations.  Self-Directed Learning is not exactly about copying somebody’s ability quickly but is similar to Mimic’s ability in that it’s not limited to a single skill, but it’s a skill of learning to cope with the constantly changing environment.  A Self-Directed Learner can resist the bias against doing new things, continuously scan the horizon for solutions and opportunities, and push oneself to acquire radically different capabilities.

    CAC believes installing a Self-Directed Learning mind is the most effective and sustainable way to bring social change rather than teaching a single life-skill to a student or bringing a limited amount of resources to a developing community.  CAC strategically teams up with local charities that maintain networks with local teachers and community leaders.  CAC trains them how to help their own students become Self-Directed Learners.  The training is mostly of using games of football.  CAC uses football as a teaching vehicle because it’s universally transportable to any culture and also because it’s fun.  When something is fun, people open their mind and ready to soak it all in.  Thus, children play games of football and organically become Self-Directed Learners.  I have faith in the cause and how CAC is doing it and decided to join the Global Citizen volunteer program to Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya during the summer.

    The team Ghana consists of me as a Global Citizen and the two other veteran coaches: Jordan from U.K. and Oti from Kenya.  We met on Saturday in Accra, the capital of Ghana and left for our first destination, Kumasi.  Kumasi means the Garden City.  When Ghana was colonized by Great Britain (1867 – 1957), Queen Elizabeth visited Kumasi and named so because of its many beautiful species of flowers and plants.  When we arrived in the town, our charity partner, Rescue Sports, warmly welcomed us and provided a great accommodation.  The training venue was a very notable private senior high school called Prempeh College.  We could not ask more in terms of the training equipment that they arranged and their respect towards the coaches.  We spent Sunday making a game plan for the week and getting familiar with the neighborhood where we stayed.  We immediately discovered that there were so many churches around, and it is an extremely important attribute in their lives.  We anticipated that we would have to be careful and work around the strong religious lifestyle to bring social change to the community without serious adverse reaction.

    My very first social impact coaching session began on the next day with 23 participants.  Among them, three were disabled teachers.  Going into the coaching session, we were expecting 60 participants to show up. However,  during the week there was another social event for the same demographics, which inevitably split the potential participants.  On the field, my first impression was that the participants were very shy although they could hardly hide their feelings of friendliness and curiosity.  The weather was brutally hot and humid, and it took not that long to roast my skin and spirit that were not used to the African sun and heat.  I thought California had a strong sun.  Following the lead by coach Jordan and Oti, I was able to manage to complete the first day of social impact coaching.  Although coaching is not my expertise, social responsibility and change management are something that I had been passionate and knowledgeable about.  I gave my best to support my team and facilitate the training session.

    As we proceeded with demonstrations of different games of addressing social issues such gender equity, child labor, conflict prevention, and health and wellness, the participants became more active and confident gradually.  I could see in their faces joy and excitement coming from the enlightenment towards a new way of “learning to learn” effectively and sustainably.  Each day after coaching session, we visited the participants’ schools and monitored/evaluated how they transferred to their children the knowledge that they gained from us.  It was amazing seeing the chains of social impact through the CAC’s impact model.  We estimated total 2292 children (608 girls/ 1684 boys) in Kumasi would benefit from our coaching session.  On the final day, the participants were asked to create their own games and demonstrate them in front of the coaches and other participants.  I was surprised how well the participants understood the purpose and dynamics of the curriculum and how creative they designed their games.  It was my aha moment – “yes, this thing is working!”.

    It was bitter-sweet on Saturday when we left Kumasi.  For the 7 days in Kumasi, we built an incredible friendship with the participants and Rescue Sports and suffered from endless diarrhea caused by trying many different exotic foods.  I wanted to stay longer in the beautiful Garden City, but we had to move on to the next location to discuss Self-Directed Learning.  Above all, I was happy that the first-week coaching went successful and excited to do better as a coach in the following week.  Additionally, as an MBA graduate, I was thinking in the bus to the next location what I could do to make this impact even bigger and how I could contribute to making U.S. corporations involved in this meaningful work.