Creating Traditions of Woman-Power with Refugees in Jordan
November 13th 2017. Global Citizen, Ian Phillips, joined us on-field to work with our new ASK for Choice partner, Reclaim Childhood, and their coaches from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and Egypt.
It’s 5am in Amman, Jordan. The first few tentative rays of light are making their way through the night sky. The stillness in the air is broken by the Muslim call to prayer, and the sound echoes across the hilltops, down in to the valleys, and makes its way to my window. The chants are haunting, and beautiful, but did I mention that it’s 5am? The call to prayer rings out from mosque to mosque five times a day and, like the sound that echoes throughout the city, the influence of Islam is pervasive here. It can be heard, seen, and felt in the streets. While this influence manifests itself in many positive ways – such as the kindness, warmth, hospitality and generosity that I witnessed every day, it’s also fair to say that the traditional attitudes many people associate with this part of the world create significant challenges for the women and girls who live here.
We’re here in Jordan to work with a local NGO called Reclaim Childhood, an organization that uses sport to empower and educate girls. Often, the practices and leagues set up by Reclaim Childhood represent the only opportunity these girls have to leave their house in order to play, exercise, express themselves, and learn important lessons in a safe space. Their all-female staff and coaches are courageous, intelligent, empathetic, compassionate – and inspirational. The highlight of the week was having the opportunity to visit the coaches in action – and seeing a field full of smiling, happy, vibrant young girls. This, more than anything, shows that the efforts of Reclaim Childhood’s brave coaches are worthwhile, and that their programs are having a positive impact.
The week of training in Amman was an amazing experience. The CAC coaches and myself were able to work with a group of people who are passionate, thoughtful, and genuinely dedicated to creating positive change in their respective communities. I’m grateful for the chance to get On-Field with CAC, and to meet some of the local partners who make this work so worthwhile.
Working Towards Equality with Refugees in the Middle East
November 10th 2017. CAC Self-Directed Learning coach and Sustainability Strategist Jordan Stephenson discussed our first ever program in Beirut, Lebanon with ANERA.
This week Ian, Nora and I traveled to Beirut, Lebanon to work with our partner ANERA.
The setting for our week was on the coast of the Mediterranean surrounded by large boulders protecting the land from the sea. The length of the training was longer than what I have previously experienced which allowed us to go deeper with the work and allow for more discussions and opportunity for learning to take place.
ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) work across the Middle East providing support and opportunities for refugee communities. Our role was to facilitate learning with the coaches and coordinators and ANERA’s sport team which brought 25 people from across the country to a central location for the training. The week was so eye-opening to be able to learn from individuals who have found themselves in situations they did not chose and were able to channel their energy into helping others. My mind has been opened to what it might be like to live in a refugee community, especially those who were born in the country yet still do not have the same rights as nationals, restricting their ability to travel, work, and access education. The idea of equality is something which is often sought; however, in reality it is not practiced through discriminatory policy, laws, and culture which prevents refugees being able to choose their futures in such an uncertain part of the world.
CAC are in a unique position to work alongside individuals who are actively trying to achieve equality within the community and we’re lucky enough to bring individuals together and create a large network of individuals and organizations through an overriding strategy to contribute heavily towards the development of a better world.
Many participants identified this training as the best they’ve ever received as they were able to take practical learning away and begin to implement within their communities. Our partnership with ANERA has just started and the team are excited to partner with such a great organization over a sustained period of time. Through this partnership CAC will be able to support refugee communities to both integrate themselves within the communities they find themselves in, but also to allow individuals to reach their full potential.
As a city, Beirut is diverse and vibrant. This is a city which has faced so much turmoil over recent decades which, undoubtedly, has had an impact on society. The trip to the Middle East has been a fantastic experience allowing me to understand struggles within this area from my own eyes, not tinted from the eyes of media.
A New Experience
September 26th 2017. Michael Johnson Young Leader Jamie Tomkinson wrote about working with CAC and The Door Albania in Shkoder, Albania.
Our week in Albania was both an experience and a program I learnt a lot from and won’t forget in a hurry. We were living on a farm and were very much back to basics with no internet and being a 45 minute walk from the nearest city. Having grown up in the heart of Edinburgh, a busy capital city, this was a new experience for me entirely. We became accustomed to seeing 6 dogs, 4 cats, geese and even the occasional donkey just wandering past. I didn’t even need an alarm clock for the first time since I was kid, thanks to our friendly but noisy rooster family. And who needs a TV when you’ve got 6 dogs? They were a constant comedy show!
We also had lots of fun On-Field. As this was a year 3 program, the participants who had been before already had a great understanding and knowledge around the games and knew what types of things to expect. We had a small group who were engaging and wanted to learn. My personal highlight from the week was giving them the time and opportunity to create their own games using their experiences and past knowledge of the previous two years, and then each of them delivering it to the rest of the group. It was encouraging and rewarding to watch them all give positive and constructive feedback to each other after delivering some great games.
It was evident that this 3 year program has had an impact on these people, they were open-minded about the various social issues we discussed and had a real desire to make a difference in their own communities, using sport as a vehicle to do so.
Welcomed into the Warm Heart of Africa
July 5th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about working with the Banda Bola Foundation in Chituka Village, Malawi.
In case you have ever asked yourself what the world would look like if people just be nice to each other, I got an answer: it would look a lot like Malawi. With a nickname of The Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi is a tiny country located in Southern Africa. Living up to its “notorious” nickname, Malawians are so friendly and loving they are known for always being willing to help family, friends, and even a stranger. In fact, the welcomes, the meals, and the human interactions that I got here were so warm and earthy, and I certainly have been spoiled by them. I mean I was going to do my laundry at the community well for the first time in a month. And then a neighborhood guy on a bicycle sees me, stops on the road, throws his bicycle off, and starts helping me like my house just caught fire. It’s just another lovely day in Chituka village in Malawi.
Chituka village is the hometown of CAC’s Malawi partner, Keni Banda and the Banda Bola Foundation. Keni moved to the States from Malawi when he was 14. And, he played and coached soccer professionally. After decades of a successful coaching career in U.S. NCAA women’s soccer teams, Keni founded Banda Bola Foundation in 2010 and launched Chituka Village Project to bring social changes in his hometown area in Malawi. As much as he has an inspiring and passionate personality, breaking into chants of “Solve Your Problem!” and “Let’s Figure It Out!” multiple times a day, he is also a funny and kind guy like your typical favorite uncle. His family in Malawi are all deeply involved in social impact as well. His sister, Sekani, is a board member of Banda Bola Foundation and an aspiring social worker. Her two sons, Manyanda and Patici are also passionate about social entrepreneurship. I thought it was very interesting that Manyanda is a social impact music producer going into rural villages with artists, listening to the village people’s issues, and turning them into beautiful songs (Check out Amplified Movement – Bring Them Back on YouTube). The Banda family provided incredible cooperation, food, accommodation, and friendship during the two-week schedule in Malawi.
Team Malawi was comprised of two amazing veteran coaches, Charlie C. and Ashlyn, and two Global Citizens including Charlie O. and me. Besides me, they all were collegiate soccer players. After their athletic careers, they joined CAC to contribute to making the world a better place, using soccer as a messenger. Although they sometimes made a fun of my soccer skill, I loved the team very much for making such good balance and harmonious vibes. Charlie O. even suffered from Malaria in the first week, but he completed the schedule with a smile on his face the whole time. When we arrived at Malawi, it didn’t take us more than two days to find out that corruption and power abuse are the major social issues that Malawi had been facing. Radio and newspapers constantly reported about corrupted politicians and nonsensical policies. People gave a sigh of resignation about losing precious natural resources to foreign corporations as well as jobs to those who got power and connections. Limited access to education coming from poverty also seemed to be a serious and urgent issue. The CAC team and Banda Bola Foundation agreed to focus on addressing those issues during the training sessions, with openness to listen to participants own social concerns.
We spent the first week getting familiar with Chituka village and trying to get accepted by the people. Chituka village is located right by the beautiful Lake Malawi, surrounded by majestic, evergreen mountains. The area is very underdeveloped, and most of the people there walk around barefoot and live without electric power. First, we met a grand chief lady who oversees about 60 local chiefs’ daily responsibilities. The “zenness” emitted by her was truly amazing. She warmly welcomed us, and it was one of the coolest moments of my life. After that, we visited one of the primary schools where Chituka Village Project originated from. We hung out with the current students who would be benefiting from our program for the next 3 years and got inspired by their innocence and simplicity. Finally, we had a meeting with about 20 local chiefs to discuss what CAC and Banda Bola were trying to bring to the community. It was interesting that some of the chiefs were having a hard time understanding the significance of adopting sustainable solutions. They wanted an immediate help with food, clothes, and money rather than long-term solutions such as implementing Self-Directed Learning skill. It was like we were trying to teach how to catch fish, dried them to save, and sell the rest at the market, but they just wanted fish. After a long discussion, the meeting ended well, and the chiefs officially welcomed us. I will never forget the moment when a prince said, “Now, you are one of us. Don’t be afraid of exploring our village. You are one of us, and we will take care of you.”
The training week was fantastic. We had 64 participants from 33 organizations, which was considerably more than I had expected. Not only that, it was remarkable that 19 of them were female, marking about 30% of the total participants. The participant mix consisted of local teachers, sports coaches, social workers, and volunteers. We delivered lots of games related to gender equity as well as child rights and democratic conflict resolution style (anti-corruption). The participants quickly understood the program and started using their voices to express their own colorful opinions. Keni supported the participants not only by providing an amazing training venue, great snacks, and transportation money but also inspirational speeches. At the end of the training week, I observed participants embracing the importance of Self-Directed Learning and looking to incorporate it into their teaching practices. We estimated a total of 4346 children (2129 girls and 2217 boys) would benefit from the program immediately. Moreover, we anticipated a lot of these girls and boys would become Bonda Bola Foundation volunteers after graduation and transfer the impact to younger children, multiplying our impact radically in future years.
One of the random facts that I came across when I did research on Malawi was that, out of Madonna’s 6 children, four of them are adopted, and all of the singer’s adopted kids were from Malawi. She also has put on many concerts and events to raise global awareness towards Malawi’s social issues. After experiencing Malawi for 2 weeks, I now could understand why the singer has been so married to this tiny country: Malawians are incredibly loving and warm-hearted. The capacity of their love is so big that I want to have them around me all the time. Well, although I’m not a superstar singer, I now have a Malawian family in Chituka village. Hoping to come back to this beautiful place some day, I said goodbye to the warm heart for now and departed for Kenya.
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.