• Stories

    August 10th 2016: Volunteer Lea Hinnen shares an emotional story from her time On-Field with CAC ASK for Choice partner training4changeS based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This program was supported by the Games 4 Good Foundation. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals involved.

    In my last six weeks of volunteering with Coaches Across Continents I have heard so many stories. Crazy stories, sad stories, amazing stories and sometimes even funny stories. I’ve heard stories from participants and children stories of gangsters and gangs, orphans, discrimination and the lives in poverty. But no stories would get to me like the stories of rape.

    In our second week with training4changeS we were located in the Football for Hope Center in Khayelitsha. We ran an ASK for Choice program with the male t4c staff and women from t4c partner organizations. It was a smaller group than planned, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened – and that proved on the very last day.

    The participants prepared discussions they find important to address within their communities. One of them ended up being the issue of rape within the townships and all over South Africa. And that’s where the stories began…One of our female participants, let’s call her Nare, shares the story of when she was about 12 years old. She grew up in Khayelitsha and had a best friend, let’s call her Sara. Sara and Nare were like sisters. One day, however, Sara suddenly put her hand under her friend’s skirt… Nare was confused, didn’t quite know what was going on and asked Sara what she was doing. Sara said it was ‘normal’, her stepfather would do things like that to her all the time, he would even sleep with her. ‘That’s rape, Sara! He cannot and should not do that to you!’, protests Nare.

    She tells her mother, who called social workers and Sara’s family. The stepfather denied he ever touched Sara, told everyone they were just two little girls making up stupid stories. Nothing happens and the abuse and rape goes on. Until one day Nare goes over to Sara’s place where no one answers the door. Nare hears Sara whimper and decides to burst into the house: She finds the stepfather on top of her best friend, in the middle of raping her. She cries, tries to get him off her, but he just threatens her in response: ‘When I’m done with her, you will be next!’ – that’s when Nare takes the knife and stabs him, grabs Sara by the hand and they run off.

    Fast-forward a couple of months: Sara’s stepfather survived and ended up in jail for some time. When he gets released, he goes back to the house, rapes Sara and kills her. End of story.

    Everyone is quiet. Nare is not the only one around the table struggling to hold back the tears – me and some other participants are right there with her. No one knows what to say. Everyone knows that there are too many stories like hers out there. Then Keke, a male t4c coach takes parole: ‘We as coaches can make a difference here. We have the responsibility to address that with our young, male players. We have to try to change this ‘boy-talk-culture’: A guy has two or more girls at the same time: everyone applauds. A guy says he didn’t use a condom: everyone applauds. A guy rapes a girl: everyone applauds. We, as coaches, as leaders, we can stop this. We can show them that these things are nothing to applaud for. Nothing any decent man should be proud of. We can make a difference here, and we have to.”

    So I want to thank you, Keke, for turning the moment of a terribly sad story into a new, amazing story. And thank you for creating the chance to improve the stories of so many people we encounter everyday.

  • Let us play: Congo Mothers Call for Parity

    July 28th 2016. Our third year On-Field with Malaika through the eyes, ears, and words of SDL Coach and ASK for Choice Strategist, Nora Dooley.

    “Tomorrow morning we will ask a group of about sixty Congolese men what they are going to do for the women and girls in their communities. What would you like me to tell them on behalf of you, the mothers of Kalebuka?”

    It was Thursday afternoon and I was sitting in a circle with my teammates and twenty women, all mothers of children who play at Malaika’s FIFA Football for Hope Center near Lubumbashi, DRC. We had just finished the fourth day On-Field with a fantastic bunch of participants. The group was comprised mostly of returning coaches from the two previous years of CAC trainings, the vast majority being older men with clear experience in both playing and coaching football.

    Now, to massively understate, I’ve led a few CAC programs where I am in the minority as a woman. I find confidence here – almost as if the strength of all the incredible females I’ve ever met or known is fueling me in this seemingly boundless male-dominated territory. But looking around the circle at these mothers… I’ve never felt so small. I let go of all personal doubts as to what I was doing there and dove in. I had to hear them – and not just because I was selfishly eager to know even a small part of their stories, but because all week long conversations about gender equity and women’s rights were sprouting up from men. It was past time for the woman’s voice to Mingle Mingle.

    We laughed, we listened, we danced. And I carefully noted.

    The intense week with the coaches charged my emotions in this session. In four days we had explored ideas about different cultural possibilities, different organized religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and new and different ways to venture into these types of vital discussions on the football pitch. The participants were given the opportunity to identify a specific social issue and adapt or invent a game that would create space to discuss solutions. We danced through the struggles and vulnerabilities of coaching for social impact that – in my opinion – inevitably produce more beautiful music. One of the key conversations was unpacking the coaching toolbox that the participants could make use of if they so chose. A particular tool that came up repeatedly on and off the field was the use of a coach’s ears. And how as leaders we have the option to lecture or listen. The movement from the former to the latter over the course of the coaches’ practical sessions was profound. Our model, demonstrated not forced: their choice.

    They chose and chose and chose.  And we listened. After two years of Child Protection Policy trainings (bearing in mind the bulk of returning participants) and the outspoken passion these men demonstrated as they brought up gender inequalities as problems, it was time to shake things up for some localized policy design.

    The final day began with small group discussions:

    Imagine a future where women and men are treated equally: what does that look like for you?

    What is preventing this future from being reality?

    What must we do to achieve this future? What would you include in a policy/action plan for gender equity – for the rights of women and girls in your communities?

    They vehemently engaged, discussed, shared, listed, debated, agreed to disagree on some things, unanimously agreed on others. They had big ideas and some steps in mind to realize them. But there was still an essential missing piece. I told them about our meeting the previous afternoon with the mothers. I told them we had something to add on behalf of those women. I asked the men if they wanted to listen.

    They chose, once again, to use those brilliant ears and I was given a most humbling and thrilling honor of channeling the voices of these Kalebuka mothers, echoing thousands (millions?), as I read aloud their call for parity.

    “We women have all the same rights as you.”

    “Come with us, men and women together, into the community to share knowledge about girls’ and women’s rights.”

    “Let us play! You need to create space and opportunities for us and our daughters to play. If you get two days on the field… we get two days!”

    “Encourage us, and include us!”

    “We are strong, too.”

    And if I may be so bold to add… We are women, and we ASK for Choice!!!

    photo 4


  • A Glimpse at the Future

    Friday, August 7, 2015. The Malaika Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the first program partnership for our new ASK for Choice curriculum for female empowerment.

    Every day this week we had local street children watching our trainings at the FIFA Football for Hope Center in Kalebuka, DRC. This is not unusual. However one young girl caught our attention. Not more than five or six herself, she was carrying her infant brother on her back the duration of the week as she intently watched our trainings. She was the caretaker of her infant brother despite being a young child herself. But what was happening On-Field during the week will begin to address cultural change for the future in terms of gender equity and community responsibility. The Malaika Foundation is our first ASK for Choice Partnership and will be using sport to bring gender policies to life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The interest in our ASK for Choice partnership was tremendous from the Malaika Foundation which is led by Noella Coursaris. Both the total overall attendance and the female attendance were the highest achieved for any program in CAC’s history. 238 coaches participated in our training, with 140 of the participants being women. Together the men and women learned from our ASK for Choice curriculum.   ASK for Choice aims to use sport to bring gender policies to life.

    Based on comprehensive research, thorough M&E and 25 years of experience, CAC has developed ASK for Choice which aims to enhance the Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge of women and their communities to educate them to be drivers of change. ASK for Choice will strengthen the roles of women in sport and society and create a generation of leaders with community responsibility.

    As an ASK for Choice Center, the Malaika Foundation is expected to work with CAC and deliver measurable results. ASK for Choice will increase partners’ capacity to bring about sustainable, tangible change with regard to gender equality and women’s rights. Along with our program this year, we also were able to meet with Thérèse Lukenge, the Minister of Sport in Katanga Province. Alongside the government, we will be working together to bring gender policies to life in Katanga Province.


  • A Lifetime of Learning

    CAC’s Kelly Conheeney talks about learning a little from everyone after week 2 in Mokopane, South Africa with the Red Cross Society.

    July 14th 2015. I try to learn as much about people as I can when I’m moving around the world with CAC. I think that’s part of being a good coach, getting to know your players- even if it’s only for one or two weeks. Because you can learn something from everybody you meet. I like to hear what people are passionate about, to pick their brain and hear their stories. I didn’t get to talk much to Sean, but I was impressed mostly because he was the only 13 year old in a pool of over 25 adult coaches who attended the two weeks of training. His actions spoke more than the words he said.

    This past week in Mokopane, South Africa was our second week of working with the same intelligent hard working group of participants as we worked with the previous week. The Football For Hope center made playing 4v4 every morning a nice treat, as we waited for all the participants to show up.

    The thing that really stuck with me this week that reminded me once again why I love CAC was how eager the coaches were to coach one another at the last session of the training. We gave their innovative brains time to collide with one another in pairs and adapt one of the games they learned from this years CAC course as well as last years course. The outcome was impressive. It was coaching filled with passion, personality and energy! It’s always fun to watch the coaches come alive in their transformation from player to coach.

    With the work we do, we focus on putting the tools and the power in the hands of the community and take a step back as they use what we have given them to work on making their community a better place.

    We believe in people and we believe in change for the better.

    We are not quite finished in Mokopane, we have another year to go, but this group has shown so much progress over the past 2 weeks. They arrived willing to work and play everyday, soaking in the knowledge and taking the social messages home with them at the end of the day. It was apparent by the end of the second week that the participants were ready to put their 60 hours of practice to the test.

    Next year we will work on creating entirely new games with them. This year they were challenged off the field both weeks, in groups, individually and as a team;  talking about issues of the world that were important to them, and local issues in their community that they want to see change.

    At the end of the week Sean asked if it were possible for him to take a One World Futbol back with him to his community. He just started a boys team and would like another ball so he can teach his peers CAC games. We gladly sent him home with one.

    It will take the older leaders like the ones we worked with this week to continue to challenge and encourage each other to teach the children of the community CAC games.

    And it will take young committed leaders like Sean to teach his peers the skills he has learned on the football field to build their character in life and create a better Mokopane future.

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  • All Work and All Play?

    July 4th 2015. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, blogs from South Africa about the first of two weeks with the Mokopane Red Cross Society and their Football for Hope Center.

    Back to South Africa. Back to pap, braai, incredible dance moves, teasing football skills, Chiefs vs. Pirates disagreements, learning words I’ll never be able to pronounce but trying anyway, and rooibos tea. I love it here.

    After living in Kimberley for a year in 2012/2013, I am returning to South Africa for a third year in a row to run programs for CAC. I have toured and worked all over this massive country, but as it is so, this is my first time to Mokopane. We are working at the FIFA Football for Hope Center operated by the South African Red Cross Society. After a successful first year, we are back for a second and taking the next big step in sport for social impact. For two weeks these participants from various communities in the Mogalakwena municipality will learn many new games with the ultimate goal of adaptation: taking one game, changing it, making it their own, and adding layers and different social messages.

    For this first week of training we kept that goal in mind but began our slow but steady trek to the top. Each morning we played new games from Messi dribbling to Hope Solo goalkeeping with some intense afternoon classroom discussions to complement the on-field activity. These discussions were all designed bearing long-term impact in mind; what do we want the participants to discuss that will provoke sustainable positive social change?

    Instead of diving straight into the negatives in their various communities, we approached the ascent from a different path. We asked the participants to form smaller groups and discuss various questions collectively. They began simply with “What do you love about Mokopane?”, “What do you want the world to know about South Africa?”, and more generally, “What do you want to learn?”. Over the course of the first week the questions evolved into, “What makes you angry?”, “What do you wish was different?”, and “What does your perfect world look like?”. These discussions built the foundation that allowed us to openly discuss solutions. Our key solutions come through football, but within that pivotal game there are infinite choices. So from here we capped off the first week breaking down what the participants chose as some of the biggest issues they face in their communities and attempting to better understand these issues in order to create new games to teach about them. It was brilliant. The participants surprised themselves with their curiosity, they challenged each other with different ideas, and they blew us away with their commitment to a different, hopefully better, future for their beautiful but troubled country.

    A similar realization came during one of the on-field games. After learning some goalkeeping skills the participants were playing a game of handball and bringing those techniques into a game-like situation. They were then asked to find a partner on their team and hold hands with one another. The game of handball resumed but the pairs had to maintain the hold while trying to catch and throw a football. When they understood the challenge, they stared at me in disbelief. They genuinely did not believe such a task was possible, but after only hearing a repetition of the rules from their coach, onward they marched. Once again, they surprised themselves, they shared ideas, and they blew me away. It is seriously amazing what people can accomplish when given the opportunity to struggle, collaborate, and solve their problems without authoritative interference.

    And solve they did, day after day, all while playing a game we share as a passion, dancing because we can, and laughing as much as we please. South Africa, Mokopane, thank you for welcoming me back in the best way possible. Yes, there are issues; yes, we have work to do; and yes, we will most definitely have fun (and eat way too much pap) while doing it. Let’s see how much we can accomplish with a second week here at the Football for Hope Center – stay tuned!


  • A Week to Remember

    December 5, 2014. Volunteer Coach, Keren Lavi, from Israel partner, Mifalot, joins CAC On-Field in Iringa, Tanzania and write about her first experience with CAC outside of her country. 

    I always knew my first time to Africa would have to be an unforgettable one, after traveling around 3 continents “IT’S TIME FOR AFRICA”.  I arrived to a motel in Dar es Salaam where I waited for Nico (CAC’s local partner and first ever Community Impact Coach) to pick me up for an amazing field week at the new ‘Football for Hope Center’ in Iringa. The morning we left to the bus I happen to fall down the stairs with my suitcase and twist my ankle! How am I going to get through this week now?! I stood up and walked with Nico to the bus, I was ok. The bus station was full with people and buses, I have no idea how he found the right bus but I guess every country has its own order they follow. We get to the bus and Nico goes down to find a cold water bottle for my ankle, after a few seconds I realize the bus starts to leave with no sign for Nico! “Nico, where is Nico” I shout in the bus, the bus has already left the station, I get to the driver “please stop! Nico is missing!” as if he knows who is Nico and that this is my first time in Africa and I have no idea where and how to get to the place I am supposed to get to. The bus driver stopped on the side road, meanwhile I start to panic and cry having no idea what to do. After 5 minutes of total panic Nico arrives hitchhiking on a motorcycle sweating with a cold water bottle in his hand!

    I started my visit at the peak which only continued to climb higher and higher. I met Kelly and Marcus, CAC’s team, when we arrived to Iringa – both seem to be born to the field of football for social impact! I was honored to see them coach and to coach with them! They immediately made me feel part of the team and I am thankful for that! As I already mentioned Nico took great care of me, I must say he is the best local partner an organization could ask for, not only does he organize the coaching seminars and talks to all local partners he is an inspiring coach and person that really connects with CAC’s vision! Working with such awesome people this week was a real treat! The local coaches we met were all part of Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) which hosts the FIFA Football for Hope Center. We had a week full of games, laughs, serious talks, coach-backs, and dancing mingle mingle at any chance of the day! One of the most memorable parts for me was having kids around the field almost 24/7! They will not leave the place till it was dark! It is amazing to see how a football field becomes the center of a community and the safest place for kids to play. I am loaded with energy to get back to my organization in Israel –

    My name is Keren Lavi and I work for Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises which is an NGO located in Israel. We also work globally in order to create social change via the football field. After training with CAC twice in Israel it was my time to join them in another country in order to learn and feel the work CAC does across the continents… My role at Mifalot is to develop the international programs. We provide educational curriculums and share our best practices, this is why partnering with CAC in order to exchange knowledge about football for social change is not only a privilege but an opportunity to grow and spread the love we share to the game and to the impact it can have on people all around the world. Mifalot share with CAC this vision and I can only hope for both organizations to keep growing and touch many coaches around the world.