• Moving Forward

    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.”

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  • Small Group, Big Impact

    Boston University student and soccer center-back, Rachel Bloznalis blogs from Kumba, Cameroon

    June 18th 2015. After my third week in Cameroon with CAC I am realizing why they call Cameroon “the melting pot of Africa”. We started the journey in Yaounde, the nation’s capital, which is in the Centre Region. Then we traveled to Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Region, Dschang in the West Region, and the town that we are in now, Kumba, in the Southwest Region. Each destination has such a distinct culture that it makes them each feel like a different country. The landscapes, climates, religions, food, languages (over 250 dialects in Cameroon), tribes, traditions, and people are unique in every one. Our partner program in Kumba, Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP) is made up of incredibly smart, eager, friendly, funny, and talented people that make Kumba unique.

    CFDP is unlike the other programs that I have been a part of because it was week one of a two-week program. In week one we had the chance to work with the full-time staff, which is about eight fulltime men and women. The second week we will be working with community coaches and young leaders in addition to the direct staff totaling about 40 educators and coaches. Working with a small group of full-time local coaches dedicated to using soccer for social impact was extremely insightful for me. Getting to know the coaches personally, while also being able to have serious in-depth discussions about important issues in their community made this week very productive. At the beginning of the week, we had them brainstorm a list of issues that they thought were prominent in their community so that we could adapt games to fit exactly what they needed. The biggest issues in Kumba that they identified included tribalism, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual health and HIV, child labor, domestic violence, corruption, and school dropouts. It was a successful week because we had time to learn from them and listen to them so that they could learn from us.

    The CFDP staff has the people and the motivation to make a long-term impact on their community. I could see and feel the direct CAC impact in all of the coaches when they were able to adapt games to teach about a specific community issue. A moment that stuck out to me was when one of the young leaders who attended every training session this week was able to create a game and coach it to the group. He chose to address the issue of school dropouts, which he knows first-hand is a big issue being a 15-year-old schoolboy. He created a simple game that involved foot skills and agility, while teaching about the negative influences that cause kids to drop out of school, which they defined as negative peer-pressure, child labor, alcohol and drugs, and financial issues. He taught this game confidently and proficiently to a group of coaches who were all older than him, some by 20 years. This was rewarding because he used what he learned from the CFDP curriculum and coaches with the help of CAC and applied it to make a direct impact on his young peers.

    Another perk of a two-week program is being able to build strong relationships with the coaches and learn more about the local culture. A few of the coaches took us to Kumba’s crater lake on Saturday and we got to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake with them. I also got to experience more Kumba culture when one of the coaches brought me to church on Sunday morning. English is the first language in Kumba, which is another reason it feels like we are in a different country. Speaking English has helped me get to know the coaches better and more importantly it has allowed me to coach a few games after seeing them coached by Nora in French for two weeks. The local’s speak Pidgin English so it has been fun learning some phrases and words that sound like slurred broken English.

    I am looking forward to the next and my last week in Cameroon with an excited and smart group of coaches!

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  • “Let me do it myself and then I will understand it” (Confucius)

    November 2nd, 2014. Senior Staff member, Markus Bensch writes about his time in Cape Verde with Delta Cultura.

    I’m sitting at the international airport of Praia, Cape Verde and waiting to start my long journey to South Africa. After 7 weeks Off-Field my first two weeks back On-Field are about to end. I experienced a great program with 22 participants at the Football for Hope Center in Tarrafal which is hosted by Delta Cultura. It was the 2nd year of our Hat-trick Initiative with this organization that educates the children and youth in the community of Tarrafal to reach higher formal education and develop social skills. I was very happy that we could welcome more than 60% returning coaches who were very eager to do their next step in becoming Self-Directed Learners in football for social impact.

    The participants were very eager to learn many new games and actively participated in the conversations that very often caused controversial discussions. During the two weeks training we focused mainly on the topics Conflict Resolution, Alcohol and Drug Abuse as well as Children’s Rights and powerful female role models in football. Many conflicts in Tarrafal are still getting solved with violence by throwing stones at each other or hitting each other with them. The participants were very competitive which caused conflict in many games, even those that are not particularly designed for Conflict Resolution. I was very impressed how little cheating did happen in the games and if it happened, then people would instantly admit that they have cheated or do the exercise again to correct their behavior. We also had a very intense discussion about leadership and the question if anybody can be a leader and what makes a good leader. Both leadership and honesty are very important when looking for solutions, other than violence, to solve conflicts.

    Confucius’ proverb says “Explain it to me and I will forget. Show it to me and I will remember. Let me do it myself and then I will understand.” Following this advice we spent a lot of time during our training on coach-backs where the participants can implement their ideas and practice their coaching. Starting from the Friday in the first week, every day a different group of three or four people conducted a one hour session with social impact games for the children that spent the morning at Delta Cultura’s education center. Our 2nd year of training focuses on developing the participants’ skill of adapting our CAC games. I was very impressed by some of the adaptations that the coaches developed for their session. For example there was a group who changed our Gazza Dizzy Tag game. In this game taggers have to spin around ten times before they try to tag players in a set square which is obviously very difficult for them. It illustrates the negative effects of alcohol abuse on our bodies and performance. In the adaptation players were divided into different groups of 4 or 5 players lining up behind a cone ready for a race. Then the first player had to run to the cone which was placed a few meters away and run 10 times around this cone before he/she would return to his/her team and tag the next player that would go and do the same. Some players even struggled to finish the 10 spins around the cone. I liked this adaptation very much, because it allowed every player to experience the consequences of consuming too much alcohol or drinking at an early age.

    For the following year I hope the participants will progress with what they have learned during the two weeks and that the experience of conducting successful coach-back sessions motivates each of them to regularly implement football for social impact before we come for our 3rd year of training.

    I’ve got to go; they are calling all passengers to the gate for boarding. I’m off to my 38 hours journey from Praia through Lisbon, Amsterdam, Zurich and Johannesburg to Durban, South Africa to coach Whizzkids United and their coaches from next week Monday. This is the organization I volunteered for 15 months before I started to work for CAC in April this year. I’m really looking forward to the reunion with some of my old colleagues and I’m interested to see the progress the organization has made since I left. In June this year they finally opened their Football for Hope Center which means that another perfect artificial pitch is waiting for my colleague Kelly and me. That makes me even more excited!

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