March 28th, 2018. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Pedro Perez, writes about his experience working with Fundación Paso Del Norte in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Imagine you’re playing a game where the purpose is create a strong competition between groups and see how they react. Suddenly and spontaneously the participants decide that instead competing they will start to work all together to accomplish the goal. Well, this is exactly what happened during our week in Juarez.
This shocked me. It was surprising that this kind of situation calls our attention and not the other way around, right? I tried to find an explanation for this phenomenon. The word resilience came to my mind.
Over the years Ciudad Juarez has been a host city of drug trafficking, violence and insecurity. Faced with this situation, people from Juarez – as it happened during the game – have created a system where they are taking care of each other, and where cooperation is more important than competition. They could choose to believe that what once surrounded them was the model they had to follow, but no, they have chosen to create a reality where the collective good is above the individual.
For me that shows resilience. The people of Juarez after years suffering from an environment full of violence came out strengthened from that period, with the creation of a collective consciousness above the average. Admirable without a doubt!
After that week working with Fundación Paso del Norte, and the teachers that are part of their program “Juarez en Acción”, I had this idea in my mind….“Do you know the feeling of arriving at a place, that turns out to be completely different from what you expected? Well, that’s Ciudad Juarez.”
October 5th, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Emily Kruger, writes about her on-field experience working with Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia.
Now that CAC has existed for almost a decade, we have a handful of implementing partners who have been with us for many years. A few weeks with these coaches and leaders feels much different than time spent with a brand new partner. These humans have met almost every single CAC staff member, they have played almost every game in the CAC curriculum, and they have already made a deep impact on the children in their weekly programs.
For us, the next progression is to challenge these leaders to do as CAC does and work with other coaches, which is different than coaching their young players. I’ve had this experience now in Haiti with Haitian Initiative, Cambodia with IndoChina Starfish, and again this week with Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia.
Coach Frans grew up in Sorong, on the island of Papua. He moved to Jakarta in 2013 to study at the University Multimedia Nusantara, and soon after became a player on a Uni Papua team. In 2015, he encountered the CAC curriculum and methodology for the first time, at a program in Jakarta with Charlie and Turner. He was convinced of something new: football is a tool with which people can learn off-field skills and knowledge. He was excited at the prospect of teaching about the negative impacts of abusing alcohol and cigarettes (as many of them were doing), about their right to good health and where to access care, about the positive implications of inclusion and equity…all through engaging activities with the ball!
Shortly after that training, he was hired by Uni Papua as a full-time head coach. Throughout 2016, he began to not only coach his youth team but also to work with coaches. When he is called upon, he leads coach trainings for new Uni Papua chapters, where the coaches do not yet know about using football for social impact. We agreed that he would like to do more of this (for CAC this is what sustainability looks like!!) so for our program in his hometown of Sorong, the foreign CAC team took a major step back so that Frans could step in and be the leader he wants to be. His two younger brothers were at the training, his Uni Papua colleagues were at the training, even some of his former players were in attendance. From the sidelines, it was evident that they all look up to him. While I am not sure what exactly they were discussing (after 3 weeks, my Bahasa is still not where it would need to be to catch the quick on-field conversations), I could see that Frans was asking them thoughtful questions, challenging them to think for themselves and solve their problems as a team.
At the end of the week, the participants expressed their gratitude for Frans and his passionate leadership, while I expressed my excitement for the future of Uni Papua…with homegrown leadership comes a kind of deeper, sustainable impact that a foreigner cannot replicate.
All the Happiness Around Me is Worth Living For
October 3rd, 2017. Community Impact Coach and Founder of Coaches Across Continents Community Partner Sparky Football, Tejas, writes about his time in Atambua, Indonesia with partner Increase Foundation and the Bintang Timur Football School.
Our time in Bali was blissful. Every day at the field I could see the lovely kites flying in the mighty blue sky while it shared many reflections from the ocean close to us.
As I wished goodbye to these kites and my new friends from the Bali program, I hoped to cherish something similar in Atambua with Bintang Timur- know as ‘East star’ in Bahasa!
The small flight to Atambua gave me a rollercoaster ride. I experienced turbulence close to 30 minutes from the 1 hour flight journey. I even remember the woman who seeked air sickness bag in the flight- it was a rollercoaster in its own way!
Atambua was very hot and dull as I looked outside the car. My location on the GPS muddled my thoughts and I said to myself, “I am very far from India”. I regained my sense of belonging when I arrived at the Bintang Timur academy- I saw a huge football field and a futsal pitch surrounded with many mountains. Alma, our coordinator from the program showed us the academy with a small tour. In the evening, I had the opportunity to share some of my freestyle football skills with children also got to play 11-aside football with them. After Sun went behind the mountains Emily, Frans, Alma and I sat down at the dining table to plan for the day one on-field.
The Government head arrived an hour late delaying the morning session and some more with his speech. He said a lot about becoming the best football coaches but nothing he knew of the program being football for social impact. We turned that frustration into motivation for running the best social impact program possible. There were about 50 coaches, 4 soldiers and 5 Government officials in the hall. The session kicked off at 10am with Circle of Friends and all the coaches carried great energy in the intense heat. They celebrated ’ole ole’ and ‘mingle mingle’ for a long time but games like Marta for conflict resolution, know your rights, old Trafford tag were thought provoking.
Alma was a great host; late in the evening he took us to eat corn. He has charming Italian accent for English. He spoke 8 languages including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and some local. He was raised in Atambua, where once he was forced to be a church priest but escaped from the situation to be a university professor. The night at the dinner me, Emily and Alma shared our thoughts on the idea of religion and I was pleased to know that we all were to lean on the same belief that higher spirit is same for all and we share the same air, Sun, moon, water, star and things like that. This was some thought provoking to me in a way.
On the second day, participants addressed their local social issues such as alcohol abuse, gambling, trafficking, stealing etc. Emily, Frans and I took responsibilities to adapt CAC games to help them solve/tackle these problems. I strongly believed that we three were a good team. Frans spoke less English but tried his best to participate in our off filed meets. He also supports us and takes responsibility in times like photography, airport check in, finding a taxi or a hotel. Emily and I call him ‘dad’ often for that. He always laughs at it!
Some of the games which we chose to address their social issues were Gazza support system, Indonesia for choice, Say no to trafficking and Emily’s new dice game- it’s a cool one!
By the third day, participants continued to sing mingle mingle as nasi nasi (rice) has their humming song. There was laughter everywhere and the expression of wisdom from the after game talks. The ambition to learn and to make a difference was quite evident. I see them has the change makers, very few of them spoke English but they listened to us, smiled often and participate with their entire being in the heat. While English didn’t help them much as a language they instead took pictures with us- a lot. I have heard somewhere that “We can’t build a society purely on interests but we need a sense of belonging” and I think this is what I found in here.
After a intense three day coaching program, Alma had planned to take us and the academy staff to a picnic on the mountains which was a 2 hour drive from the academy. We went with the academy minivan and a car. The roads were slushy, curvy and hilly but the drive was very thrilling. As we reached the location, we could see the wide mountain plains and with a small hike, we were able to identify the border of the country, East Timor. The place was wide and beautiful. Everyone was excited and took a lot of pictures together. Surprisingly the staff had carried lunch for 20 people. We all housed under a tree and feasted the delicious food with the beautiful Mountain View.
After we were back, we played some more football with children in the evening and settled for the next day’s agenda which was to visit two schools from which teachers participated in the program.
In the morning, we visited Don Bosco and SMP Negsi School. The purpose of the visit was to meet the School head, watch the sport teachers implement the games with children and if they needed any help with it. They did a good job on coaching. As the sport teachers introduced us to children, Emily, Frans and I had the privilege to share our journey and the importance of education outside classroom. It was motivating to have us say this to them. I also took the privilege to showcase some of my freestyle football skills to give them a new perspective on football learning. I received some great response and cheer for this!
The week was very tiring, however the sense of satisfaction to keep up the week productive and to make an impact in the Atambua community is a fulfilment.
At the end of the day, I recapitulate the week in my mind- my heart fills up with all the sincere laughter and joy participants shared on the pitch. Sometimes, I miss being a kid and that little happiness from the PE classes in school.
As we grow up things change, we change and start to like that way.
My personal reflection is to love what I do every day and to be grateful for all the happiness around me that is worth living and fighting for.
TERIMA KASIH (Thank You)
ISF Coaches Take the Lead!
I went to Cambodia with a very open mind and was excited to see how CAC used football as a tool for social impact. I really liked the self-directed learning model they had in place. I have always felt very passionate about sport and I know from personal experience how life-changing sport can be. I wanted to learn more about the social messages that football has taught in the Cambodian community. I realised that Cambodian people face a number of social issues and it really hit home how many messages through football help people facing these social challenges. Not only face these challenges, but allow the coaches that Coaches Across Continents has been training to take these games and teach them in their communities, making a real difference to so many lives.
On the first day of training, all the coaches from ISF (Indochina Starfish Foundation) were very welcoming and friendly. We had some younger players from a local program that works with young people who have been affected by HIV. CAC coaches, Mark and Emily, ran games on the first day alongside Nara and Panya who are two experienced coaches that have taken part in the CAC programme for the last few years. It was great to see all the coaches having fun – their love and passion for football was evident. Mark and I visited a disability session at Rabbit School in the afternoon and the session was great as it was very inclusive, fun and the coaches had a great relationship with all the students varying in disability.
On the Tuesday we returned to the training field where some of the experienced coaches who have been in the programme with CAC before, were asked if they would like to run a game. A few of them put their hand up, and ran games that they knew and had used in their community before. Many were CAC games but some were games they had created in their local community addressing social issues, inspired by the Coaches Across Continents Self-Directed Learning Model. In the afternoon we visited one of the ISF schools for kids whose parents are unable to provide their kids education. We met with some of the staff and students who were really friendly and we watched an afternoon football coaching session led by a some of the coaches from the CAC programme.
Unfortunately Mark was unwell on Wednesday so the ISF coaches were asked to run more of the games. I also ran my own game too which was a trust exercise where we used blindfolds and I asked the coaches to guide one another through an obstacle course. In this I was also able to get the coaches to run as fast as they could with blindfolds on, which was fun for all. In the afternoon we visited another IFS school, which was much smaller than the school from the day before – but, all the teachers and students were very friendly and they welcomed us at the gate with hugs and lots of questions. They asked us our names, where we are from and whether we would play with them. It was really nice to hang out with the students, watch them play sports with one another and see them having lots of fun.
After the training on the Wednesday, the ISF coaches were asked to plan and run the activities for the Thursday. As we left after the training the coaches were all in discussions, planning the next day. When we arrived at the training field on the Thursday, the ISF coaches were all ready to go and beginning to set up their activities. They ran a morning of some CAC games but what was most impressive was that they came up with their own games too that had social messages. The training ran smoothly and was really well organised. In the afternoon we visited a school where the ISF coaches worked and there were four football sessions happening with both boys and girls of different age groups. The sessions were fun and it was great to see so many talented footballers at the school.
On Friday, it was CAC’s turn to run some games and a lot of the activities were game orientated so the coaches were very tired at the end. But, they had good fun and can now implement some of these games in their coaching programmes. I ran a game too which I really enjoyed called Child Rights: Right to Education game. I really appreciate the impact of the social messages that these games provide. After training we headed for some food on the roadside with some of the ISF coaches and kids from a community hub supporting youth who have been affected by HIV. We went to their community and the ISF coaches ran a great session with around 50 kids using some of the HIV social impact games. It was great to see the ISF coaches working with the kids and the amazing laughter and excitement the kids had playing these games.
It has been a great first week on field in Cambodia, it has been great meeting with all the coaches and seeing their coaching styles, and learning new coaching ideas from them. Seeing the close relationships with the kids they coach was the biggest take away for me. I am looking forward to seeing the ISF coaches coach more next week and personally learn more of the games CAC uses to help social change.
Oh The Things To Do In Juarez
April 18, 2017. Process Consultant Emily Kruger reflects on the week with CAC partner Fundación PDN in Juarez, Mexico.
Exploring the modern children’s museum, check.
Exquisite breakfast with Board Members, check!
Meeting with the local men’s professional club, check!!
On camera interview, check!!!
20-minute presentation at the “Impact Hub” in front of a live audience…check?!
Tasting tequila in the bar where the “margarita” first got its name…check?!?
Did I mention that we worked with 40 participants, introducing them to CAC’s sport for social impact curriculum and Self-Directed Learning methodology?
What an incredible whirlwind of a week! Luckily our hosts were logistical wizards, calmly whisking us from place to place with laughter in between. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of these highlights.
La Rodadora, children’s museum, (let’s be real, this is play time for adults too!) in the center of Juarez, was built in 2004 as a space for families and communities to gather, play, and learn together. I had never thought of a museum as a place CAC would find such similarities, but of course it is: “Education Outside the Classroom”…obviously! A few leaders from the museum attended our training, and they were excited to bring CAC games and Self-Directed Learning into their work with youth and families at the museum.
FC Bravos is the newest iteration of a men’s professional soccer club in Juarez and so far they have seen huge success in terms of community support. From the get-go, the club has prioritized the community over results. Their primary goal has been to bring something beautiful to Ciudad Juarez, something the city can be proud of and rally behind together. From the Chief Exec to the Marketing Director to the coaching staff and players, the organization is committed to being a staple of the city, not just a professional sports team looking for more money and fame. After having dinner with two representatives from the club, they brought a handful of the players to our “Hub Talk” as they wanted to learn more about CAC and how they might be able to get involved with the teachers and schools who we worked with!
Which brings me to my final highlight of the week, the Hub Talk. When Fundacion first asked Mark and I to speak at a TED Talk-esque event, we were excited and jumped at the opportunity. Then, as the day drew near, we realized what we had gotten ourselves into and became much more nervous than excited, especially because we thought we might have to deliver it in Spanish! When they assured us that we could speak in English, some of our nerves were calmed but still, neither one of us had ever had an experience quite like that. We spent hours planning what we would say and how we would deliver it so it would not be standard and boring. We agreed that the best way to make it interesting (and make ourselves feel way more comfortable) was to do what we do best, lead an example of a CAC game! In the end, we felt prepared and absolutely loved speaking to the crowd (and the live video feed). What an honor to to be given such a platform to share our stories from CAC! Thanks again to everyone we met in Juarez for showing us such a lovely week!
Crossing Borders, Finding Home
April 13, 2017. Emily Kruger continues on working with FESAC in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico after time in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico (Part 1).
PART 2: Home
We found ourselves in Nogales after a full day’s bus journey north, from one end of the Mexican state of Sonora to another. We traveled so far north, in fact, that we were basically in the United States. Within moments of arriving, our host Alma was describing the unique nature of a city on the U.S-Mexican border. She told us how in the morning we would notice the difference between the homes on the hillside of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. Our historic hotel sat on the main strip of downtown, imagine Old Town in classic “Westerns”, with a view of this hill and the jarring wall that splits the hill into two sides. We spent some of Sunday just watching the flow of traffic through border patrol, people’s cars being searched inside and out, some with search dogs. The line to go across into the U.S. was backed up quite long and seemed like it would take hours to get through.
On the way to the field on Monday morning, Alma mentioned that many of the kids in the local public schools are in families that are transient, as they are either hoping to cross into the U.S. after traveling many miles through all of Mexico or they have just recently “returned” to Mexico from the U.S. I thought of the difficulty of feeling at home when your life is always being re-located. Once we were on-field with the new group of 50 enthusiastic and creative P.E. teachers, we learned more and more about the unique issues to Nogales that differed from those in Hermosillo and Obregon: drug trafficking, lack of economic opportunity, and the ever-changing make up of schools with children from transient families due to migration and deportation. They told us stories of kids coming to class without having had breakfast, of parents involved in drug trafficking because it is a lucrative job option, and of Mexican-American kids who do not speak Spanish being isolated and excluded at school.
Through conversations provoked by CAC games we dug deeper into these issues: why these issues exist, is this the reality that must be, and what they can do as teaches to best support their students. Notably, “Muro de Trump” brought up a discussion about misconceptions their students and the parents might have and how lack of information hurts them. There was a resounding sentiment that people in Mexico believe in the “American Dream”, that they will make money, be safe, and create opportunities for the future of their families in the U.S. The teachers were keen to adapt the game to discuss the reality of the difficulty of obtaining a visa (expensive and exclusive), and the likelihood of deportation and/or incarceration after crossing the border without one. They wanted to open their students’ eyes to the possibility of a better life in Mexico than in the U.S. because of the negative consequences of immigrating with or without a visa. They seemed to be excited about the prospect of playing the game with their students as a way to think about home and place.
According to Alma and the teachers, if better job opportunities (outside of the drug-trafficking industry) existed in Mexico, then fewer of these families would leave their homes. I wonder if less Mexican families left to the U.S. if they might be able to organize to make change in their home. It’s obviously much more complicated than that, but it brings me back to my belief that I am best served affecting change in the communities I come from. We all know that the consumer dollars, federal and state policies, and attitudes towards immigration, borders, immigrants (humans) that belong to people born in the U.S. affect all of those things belonging to people born in other countries, especially in Mexico.
Perhaps I’ll play “Muro de Trump” with some PE teachers in the U.S. I wonder what we would learn about ourselves, borders, and home?
Part 1: Borders
We arrived in Ciudad Obregón after an incredible 4 days with the Physical Education teachers in Hermosillo, who set the bar very high for the three locations in our partnership with FESAC and SEC in Mexico. Within just a few minutes of Monday morning’s Circle of Friends, it was obvious that these 50 PE teachers would bring the same enthusiasm and creative thinking that enriched the week before. This meant another week with a special flare for a Year 2 program, where CAC could confidently share ownership of the week with the participants. When asked about creating and leading their own games, participants made it clear they wanted more responsibility than they took on last year.
By Tuesday they were already working together to prepare the session for Wednesday. There were seven groups of 4-5 coaches, each one huddled around big sheets of paper on make-shift tables with markers in hand. We walked around and listened in as they collaborated: pointing, moving, deliberating, drawing, and re-drawing. Within 30 minutes, each group had a full sheet of paper with a diagram up top, description of how to play, and potential questions to ask while leading it. They were even checking the criteria: Are the games you created universally accessible? Is there space for problem solving and critical thinking by the students? Is there a social impact message integrated into the game? We asked if they would be ready to coach them the next day and there was a resounding “sí!” from everyone.
My favorite game was called “Muro de Trump” or “Trump’s Wall”. They split the groups into four teams and asked each one to pick a Mexican city that borders the U.S. When the coaches called out a city, that team tried to “cross the border” without being tagged by the border control officers. They added ways to get through border control legally, like obtaining a visa i.e. a ball. This was such a creative, locally-relevant iteration of what I called “sharks and minnows” growing up. Considering it was a new idea, the coaches agreed that there was more to the metaphor that they are going to work out because they really want to use this game to talk with their students about the realities and dangers of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. For example, what are the consequences of being caught by border police without a visa? What might happen when you get to the other side? Why do people in Mexico want/need to live in the U.S.? There is so much here to dig into! Not only is it a dynamic game, but it also creates a space for some very important conversations between teachers and students here in Mexico.
This game made me see immigration through the lens of people in Mexico. It will be an important conversation and reflection to continue as we travel to Nogales for our final week working with the Physical Education teachers of Sonora, Mexico!