• Bus-Bound for Busia

    July 15, 2019.  Long-time Community Impact Coach Salim Blanden from Mbrara leads a CAC training for the first time.

    I jump on a Kenya bound bus, but my final destination is Busia near the Uganda-Kenya borders. On the bus with me is Jamie Craig Tomkinson who I have ran a program with in Jinja with X-SUBA. Very tired from the last program we both slept off immediately once we entered the bus and within just two hours we had reached our destination (Busia).

    On the first day in Busia, we thought it was a local market day as we experienced a big crowd but we were told it’s a normal day because Busia is a very over populated area being a business area because of nearing the Uganda-Kenya border.

    Jamie and I are both ready to run our programs with YES Busia, one of the organizations that is partnering with CAC to implement Purposeful Play. We are supposed to run separate programs on two fields in Busia; one of the programs on the nearby local field at a primary school to be run by me and another in Masafu village to be run by Jamie. YES Busia is the only organization in Busia that is using sports to reach out to the local community to teach about the most pressing social issues which include on HIV (UNSDG3: Health & Wellness), education (UNSDG4: Quality Education), poverty (UNSDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth), and the environment (UNSDG13: Climate Action). Ongatai Amosias, the leader of YES Busia, is working with young leaders in his office to bring about the positive social change. On the program with me is Mary, Moureen, Flavia and Dorcas who are acting as co-facilitators and also helping on other logistics. Mary and Moureen are helping out in running some games because they have been teaching CAC games in primary schools that work with YES Busia.

    First day for me to run such a program on my own is an interesting day for me. There are so many women on the program compared to men, something that is not so common in most communities I have worked with. Most of these are teachers from nearby primary schools and others are locals from the nearby villages.

    Being the second year CAC is running programs in Busia, there are some returnees from the last program and they can quickly understand the games, and some teachers have knowledge about the games because Mary and Moureen, the YES facilitators, have been running these games in different primary schools. Dorcas is also one of the facilitators of YES Busia and works with Mary and Moureen to run games in schools. Dorcas is helping out with making sure we have balls, bibs and cones for use at the pitch and takes care of everything but also joins in to play with other participants after to participate. She asks questions and is very confident and in our afternoon meeting, Jamie thinks she can be a potential CIC from YES Busia.

    The participants loved the games and wants CAC to come back next year. My highlight was when we played a game about HIV Myths (Ballack Clears HIV Myths). We had a lengthy discussion about HIV after the game to learn about the myths and also teach about HIV and people requested we talk a lot about HIV. My wish to the organization to help mobilise and educate more people about HIV in the villages of Busia.

    Coaches Across Continents worked with 156 participants over 5 days, impacting 18,000 children in the Busia district of Uganda.

  • X-cellent X-SUBA (Jinja, Uganda)

    July 13, 2019.  CAC’s Jamie Tomkinson (and Michael Johnson Young Leader) is leading programs this month in East Africa.  Follow along as he implements Purposeful Play and Education Outside the Classroom in Uganda and Kenya.

    X-SUBA is in their first year of partnership with CAC, and as such our first visit has everyone full of enthusiasm. During the programme we adapted many traditional CAC games to use hands rather than feet, as most of the coaches were from a netball or basketball background. They were thankful for this and it has helped them see how they can use CAC curriculum more in their day to day sessions.  From the start, we developed a coach personal development policy which brought up some really good discussions about self-reflection and improving our own practice.  Throughout the week we focused on coaching guidelines, feedback during practice coaching sessions, and learning how to use CAC’s Workplace platform to continue developing throughout the year. We also had a great session on creating and adapting games and it’s fantastic to hear that X-SUBA will be delivering these in their own communities in the near future!

    My personal highlight was during one of CAC’s environment games addressing UNSDG#13: Climate Action called “Pick up and Get Clean.”  Once all the cones etc had been picked up, they then stated running around the field collecting actual trash from all over. While this was no doubt down to competitiveness, we used this demonstrate the impact this game can have and provide and enthusiasm to kids to ‘pick up and get clean’. Everyone was running around collecting trash, we then referenced this back to our own lives and how often do we daily walk past rubbish and not pick it up because it ‘isn’t our job’, when in fact, it’s everyone’s job. We then collected all the trash and put it in a nearby rubbish bin!  #WhatsYourLegacy?

    A total of 30 participants had their first experience of Purposeful Play and will now go onto to deliver Education Outside of the Classroom to 1.5k in the beautiful town of Jinja, Uganda.

  • Rohingya Refugees and UN SDGs

    Over 900,000 Rohingya refugees are now living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This is 3x bigger than any other refugee camp in the world.  Starting last year, renewed violence including reports of rape, murder, and arson forced nearly all the Rohingya people living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, and instantly fracturing their society.

    Imagine all the people living in Austin, Texas fleeing en masse with no possessions, money, or communication – with family & friends permanently separated… or worse.

    The UNHCR has taken the monumental task to lead the care for this population, including feeding, housing, and other basic needs. But these services only address so much. Refugees are coming from an instantly fractured society and arriving at a place where they might not know anyone.  Many have been permanently separated from families, neighbors, and friends.  Individuals, especially children, single women, the elderly, and the disabled are at increased vulnerability to suffer additional harm. It is here that other organizations, oftentimes NGOs, look to work with the UNHCR to provide vital services including Community Based Protection.

    Coaches Across Continents, supported by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF), have started a 6-month pilot program to use football to create Community Based Protection.  Our program is using football to rebuild that fabric of society, and those networks, so that people are able to care for their families, their new neighbors, and each other – so that everyone is better supported and better protected, and therefore at reduced risk for experiencing additional harm.

    Our On-Field interview with Adam Nord (UNHCR Community Based Protection) explains this concept further in this 3+ minute video.

    “I see that this program… is a very important part of this as well.  It’s about using a very strong community-based approach to train new young refugee coaches who are then going to go back into their community to work with and to support other youth / other individuals in a way that engages and strengthens those society ties.  That’s complimented within CAC’s trainings on child protection, violence, and other issues, allows them then to engage through sports… in discussing those issues that are affecting their communities”

    “It’s an excellent example of a community based approach”     – Adam Nord, UNHCR Child Protection

    Over the course of the 6-month pilot supported by the AFC, Coaches Across Continents has trained 75 local Rohingya refugees to become soccer coaches across 25 different camps/districts within Cox’s Bazar. Equipment has been provided by the AFC and BFF so that they can engage boys and girls in their community on a weekly basis, and begin to impact some of the 500,000 children under the age of 17 living in the camps.  Throughout the year the newly minted coaches will receive communication, mentoring, and support from the BFF and CAC.  The 6-month pilot will culminate with a Football Fun Festival in May, 2019, with an eye towards continuing and expanding this program as funding allows.

    To support or learn more about this initiative, please contact CAC Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz at

  • From Cambridge to Port-au-Prince

    January 23rd 2017. CAC Global Citizen Jessica Li writes about her experience with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This partnership is supported by USAID.

    Sitting back in my dorm room in Cambridge, I can’t quite believe that I’ve just come off an absolute whirlwind of a week in Port-au-Prince. Last week marked the fourth year CAC has worked with the Haitian Initiative (HI), a program that uses soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty for Haitian children. In the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, children face a high risk of gang violence, hunger, and HIV/AIDS. Children must consistently attend school and have passing grades to participate in the program. The program includes six days a week of practice or games as well as English class and a hot meal. For the majority of the children, that meal is the only one they get each day.

    While CAC has partnered with HI coaches for four years, this year’s program included 150 new participants, including students, national team players, and coaches of all ages. Luckily, the HI coaches were familiar with many of our games and could help us manage such a big group! Our sessions were conducted at the Haitian National Stadium, a real treat for both us and many of the participants. During our drives to the stadium in the morning, we’d see people carrying objects of all shapes and sizes on their heads, pigs and other live animals roaming the streets, and all types of street art. The other thing we noted was that music was playing everywhere, whether from buildings, cars, or random speakers on the street (this fact made for some interesting moments during the week when we’d be hanging out with Titanic music playing in the background). The stadium itself is located near the foot of a mountain range, providing a bit of a respite from the chaotic streets and making for incredible background views. Upon arriving on the first day, many participants were already waiting for us, several of whom excitedly greeted Emily, who had worked with them last year. Jordan, Taylor (another Global Citizen), and I smiled when we saw this and eagerly anticipated forming our own connections with the participants.

    Throughout the week, I was struck by the incredible energy the Haitian participants brought to each session. They never hesitated to break out a dance move, and many a time I found myself suddenly engulfed in crowds of cheering and chanting coaches. They also never failed to make us laugh; once, when asked to find creative ways to cross the Circle of Friends while touching a partner, we not only saw coaches carry each other in all sorts of ways but also holding each other’s noses and ears. However, the coaches were also able to combine fun with serious conversations about ways in which they hoped to change their communities. They envisioned a Haiti with increased opportunity, equality, and hope. A particularly powerful conversation occurred after playing India for Knowledge, a game where teams label each cone as a women’s right and then race to the corresponding cone when the coach yells out that right. Although the group consisted predominantly of men, they came up with women’s rights such as the right to a voice, an abortion, equality, and respect. When asked whether women in Haiti currently have these rights, they all said no but that this fact should change. They genuinely wanted women to be their equals and saw them as integral members of society. Later, we used this list to start a conversation with just the women about creating and implementing a women’s rights policy. It filled us with hope to see the women creating a WhatsApp group, a network of support among strong and intelligent women who didn’t know each other prior to the program. We hoped they would continue to discuss ideas and inspire one another moving forward.

    This week has given me an incredible glimpse into the power of sport to transform communities. The HI coaches could discuss ideas for their own games or how to adapt our games with us, and we loved that they could help lead their fellow Haitian coaches. This week we were able to include 150 more coaches into the movement and know that many of them will also become leaders in enacting change.

     

     

  • 2016 Volunteer Application Released

    September 7, 2015.  Coaches Across Continents has just released our 2016 Volunteer Application.  By applying you have a chance to volunteer using sport for social impact in developing communities, and to travel the world in a life-changing experience!  It’s simple:

    1. Read our Volunteer Application Guide 2016
    2. Complete the 2016 Volunteer Application

    That’s it!  Once received, we will set up a Skype interview with a CAC senior staff member, and you can begin planning your trip.  Volunteer opportunities are limited and given on a first-come, first-serve basis.  You are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as you know you are interested, in fact we already have some summer 2016 commitments!

  • The World Away from Home

    September 1st, 2015.  CAC intern and first-time traveler Emily Zwierzchowski blogs about her two weeks in Cambodia.

    My first, and by no means last, adventure abroad has officially come to an end, and  although I may physically be leaving the country of Cambodia and the city of Phnom Penh, I will forever be changed by the people I met and the things that I saw.  I learned that you can bookend the beginning of your trip, but never the end, because although you may have left you only continue to grow and be impacted by what you saw and did.  It was sobering to realize that there is a “real world” with real problems once you leave your home, and the safety of your small New Hampshire town. A part of the world that many try to sweep under the rug and pretend doesn’t exist. A part of the world where people still live in unimaginable poverty.  A part of the world where a roof over your head isn’t guaranteed, and quite often not there. A part of the world where electricity is too expensive for a vast majority of the population and families live in the dark. A part of the world where clean water and food isn’t always available.  And a part of the world where child and sex trafficking is a massive business.  Its sobering to see that the problems we, as U.S. Citizens, have worked so hard to eradicate are thriving right outside the safety of our countries borders.  But, perhaps what is most sobering is that this is a part of the world where humans are still people, and a smile and a laugh have the power to overcome language barriers, and this is a part of the world where football has the power to change lives.

    I first started volunteering for CAC Off-Field nearly one year ago, and when I asked Brian if I could dive into On-Field work and got the “a-okay” I was thrilled.  The computer screen was no longer going to be my classroom but the football field instead.  When I first arrived in Cambodia I was in a bit of shell shock, the sounds, smells, and sights were all new to me. I didn’t recognize the writing on the billboards, and I had never smelled such smells; sweet smells of street food wafted past me one second, then the scent of garbage the next.  Everything was a whirlwind until I stepped foot on the football field.  I was instantly greeted with hugs and smiles as coaches embraced me and in no time the country that I felt so estranged from was my home.  Few coaches could speak English, but thanks to our translator and the work ethic of the coaches, trainings went brilliantly.  Everyday new games with different themes were translated from English, to Khmer, and then signed to our deaf participants.  Coaches learned valuable lessons on the importance of having a voice, being able to solve problems they faced everyday, and how to protect themselves and ultimately their players from things such as sexual, physical, and mental violence. Days were wrapped up by discussing what we had learned that day; posters scrawled with Khmer and sketches were hung up for coaches to take notes or photographs of.  And with each passing day I felt more, and more privileged to be educating these coaches.

    However, the real reward was when we got to attend these coaches trainings and be first hand witnesses to the impact we were making.  The coaches of Indochina Starfish (ISF) were beautifully implementing the games we taught them to their players who, just like them, were eager to play, learn and most importantly have fun.  One practice in particular that I got to attend was led by a coach who went by Strey Mau.  She was coaching a u14 boys team, and despite my previous encounters with 14 year old boys, they were extremely eager and well behaved.  They were all at practice promptly at 5 pm, and out laughing and kicking the ball around before practice even began.  But, when Strey Mau was ready to start practice they were ready as well.  We started off with a game of “Circle of Friends”, we darted in and out of the circle alternating between dances and high fives we were soon all in stitches smiling from ear to ear. We were just getting a drink when the rain came, and when I say rain I mean a torrential downpour.  Everyone was rushed under the small roof covering some picnic tables where a teacher was waiting to give them a lesson on religion.  I was shocked in the most amazing way that not only did these students work hard on the field, but off the field as well, and that the messages theses games we were using on field were directly correlating to their lives and educations off field.

    My experience in Cambodia will be a mile marker in my life for years and years to come.  The people and places and experiences I had made me see the world in a different light.  No longer is it just the safe small New Hampshire town that I call home, but it’s a massive place full of a million different people with a million different stories, and ultimately, a million different problems.  I feel incredibly lucky that I got the chance to travel with Coaches Across Continents, and make an impact on those problems in the heart of Cambodia and in the minds of it’s people.

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