September  7th 2016. Community Impact Coach Paul Lwanga blogged about working with CAC and FHPU Enterprise in Kigali, Rwanda.

    Coaches Across Continents, in conjunction with Football For Hope and Unity [FHPU], conducted a wonderful training program for community coaches in Kigali. 23 coaches from Kigali turned up for training from the 22nd to the 26th of August 2016. Coach Markus Bensch was in charge of the training. He was assisted by Coach Nico Achimpota, CIC from Tanzania, and Lwanga Paul, a CIC based in Rwanda.

    It was exciting to work as a CIC in a new community and the games implemented increased my understanding and that of all the participants. The social messages covered a wide range of issues namely; Child Rights, Health and Wellness, Gender Equality, Life Skills, Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Problem-Solving, team-building, Environmental Awareness, and Social Inclusion, while pointing out role models like Neymar and Mia Hamm,

    The training also offered opportunities to all participants to observe other coaches coaching. What inspired me the most was how coach Markus create fun education through play and added more playing time with less talking. He also made the players feel the challenge and social message as they played different games.

    The fun and energy from all the participants was exceptional to me. I am indeed privileged to have worked with all of the coaches in Kigali. They were so innovative and creative especially when they coached CAC games or their own adopted games. The CAC team offered guidance and feedback which will help spread the CAC message across different communities here in Kigali.

    Many community coaches were whispering to me that IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE and all CAC games can offer new energy and will to coach social change through football.


  • Rwanda: The Country of a 1000 Hills and 1000 Stories

    August 18th 2016. Returning volunteer Earl Strassberger discussed his experience in Rwanda with CAC and Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

    Rwanda is a beautiful country. I have been to many countries in Africa including living in Liberia for over three years, and Rwanda is different! The roads are good, some potholes, but the roads are otherwise very smooth. The people work hard, as best as I can tell without complaint. The hard work takes many forms.

    On the main road to Rubavu, where we worked our first week, there were women all over sweeping the road. There were even more sweepers in Rubavu itself. Then there was a young man holding a small can of white paint in one hand and a brush in the other. He would bend over paint the white line, about two feet long along the side of the road. Then he would walk a few steps, bend down and paint another line – over and over. At the soccer pitch, a man used a torch to put about 12 holes in fence posts. He was there at 8:00 a.m. when we got there. I came back at 3:30pm to watch a soccer match and he was just finishing. He completed holes in about 25 posts.

    There are not many trucks on the roads. Goods are transported by bicycle. Heavy loads of sugar cane, water, branches, wood, and more are carried on the bikes. When going uphill the rider gets off and pushed.

    Did I mention hills? Rwanda is called the Land of a Thousand Hills. Farming takes place in flat areas and up and down the hills. Terraces are made to have flat land on hills. But many plants are on slopes. The hills are high and often steep. The paths always have people, carrying loads, going up and down. There is little mechanization. There are simply many people on each job, working with hand tools.

    We got back to Kigali, rested a day, and then traveled to Kayonza. Even though Rwanda is a small country, it is different here. The land is mostly flat. It is dustier, a little warmer. It is only a one minute walk to our soccer pitch here. But I miss the beautiful two kilometer walk along Lake Kivu on the way to the pitch in Rubavu.

    What is not different is the enthusiasm of the coaches. They listen and do their best to learn our games. There are always smiles on their faces. Many, of course, are serious players too. Watching their speed, quickness, and teamwork is a joy. A few of the coaches speak English very well, but our Community Impact Coach (CIC), Oscaria and our coordinator Gerard do a fine job of translating. Once I forgot to pause for translation. Everyone was still paying attention to me even though only a few understood. Luckily, Nico, our other CIC, nudged me and pointed the translator.

    Our work is about using football as a tool for social impact. We train the coaches to use our games and messages and encourage them to take our curriculum and use it with their players. Our messages are on conflict prevention, female empowerment, child protection and rights, health and wellness, and many more.

    Tomorrow will include one of my favorite activities. We call it Coach-Back. Coaches will work in groups of three or four. We provide markers and flipchart paper. They get time to plan and sketch out the CAC game that they want to coach to demonstrate and solidify what they have learned so far. We encourage participants to tailor the games to the issues of their district, their country. We know only a few of the challenges they face.

    For example, today I ran a game about what could happen if your players got drunk the night before a match!  One team, the team that partied the night before, had to walk. No surprise, they lost. Afterwards, I asked if there were other similar problems. They came up with smoking. But when I asked about injecting drugs they said no, not a problem in Rwanda.

    By the way, I have been in Rwanda for two weeks now. I came early to go gorilla trekking in Virunga National Volcanic Park. That is another story. I bring it up (it was amazing) because in these two weeks I have only seen two people smoking and one of them was a muzungu (white man). Probably the cost of cigarettes is prohibitive too. The hard working life keeps Rwandans healthy.


  • The Importance of Social Inclusion – On-Field and Off-Field

    August 17th 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Evariste Habimana wrote about working in Rubavu, Rwanda with Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

    Rubavu is the nursery for football in Rwanda. I enjoyed working with the coaches from this district. They are professional and are zealous about coaching.

    As I was working with them I learned many things about coaching styles. But most important to me was watching them enthusiastically learn the CAC games.  Before I joined CAC I thought coaching football was to create professional players.  But now I realize that coaching can be a lot more.

    All football teams around the world play games for technique, tactics, and endurance. With CAC we play these same games, but combine them with messages for social impact. These messages are about gender equity, female empowerment, conflict prevention, child rights, HIV prevention and more.

    My favorite game in Rubavu was “Child Rights: Social Inclusion”. Some groups of children are excluded, such as females, disabled, or for religious reasons. Our coaches will begin to change this. Here is how the game is played.

    It is like regular football, there are two teams. The only difference is that players have to stay in their own zone. The pitch is divided into three equal zones. The forwards must stay in the attacking zones, midfielders stay in the middle zone, and defenders stay in the back zone – in front of their goal.

    Not allowed to leave your zone is like being excluded. In football a defender often scores a goal. Midfielders are expected to score goals and defend their goal besides controlling the midfield. Forwards often have to help defend their goal too.

    Just to give coaches the feeling of being excluded compared to being free to play we make a change to the game. One team is allowed to move wherever they want and the other team is restricted to their zones. At the end, we ask, “How does that feel?” The team that was restricted was not very happy and complained that the game was not fair. We knew: they understood the message of the game.

    Just like footballers must be allowed to play the whole pitch, all who want to play football must be allowed to play. It does not matter if they are old or female or disabled. This applies to all activities, not just sports.

    I expect that our CAC trained coaches will use our curriculum in their regular program. And that it will make a positive social impact for their communities.

    Through my time as a CIC in Rubavu I got to meet new coaches and share with them my knowledge and experience. I feel encouraged by the CAC coaches to now even approach and educate coaches in my home community in Nyanza who never participated in CAC training nor use Sport for Social Impact. I now feel confident to create games myself and implement them at the school I teach.


  • How Can An Empty Beer Glass Stimulate Self-Directed Learning?

    CAC’s Markus Bensch blogs from Tarrafal, Cape Verde on our partnership with Delta Cultura.

    October 28th 2015. Can you imagine how an empty beer glass, a penny and a beer-mat can be related to Self-Directed Learning? Hopefully you will understand after reading this blog.

    It is Saturday night and Frederick and I are sitting in “Burg Pappenheim”, a Bavarian restaurant in Munich. We just returned from our program in Cape Verde and now we are celebrating Bayern Munich’s 4-0 victory against Cologne in the German Bundesliga that we witnessed in the Allianz Arena earlier that day. After many months I was craving some Bavarian food and Frederick, who is a local, took me out to this place. We finished our delicious meal and I am sipping my “winning beer”. As I look across at the table next to us I witness a boy offering a challenge to his friend: on top of an empty beer glass he places a beer-mat and a small coin. He asks the girl if she can get the coin into the glass without touching it. The girl simply takes the beer-mat, tilts it slightly sideways and the coin slides into the glass. She looks happy. The boy is astonished, but after a second he realizes what happened and says: “No, no, no! I didn’t mean like that. That is too easy. You should also not touch the beer-mat!” In the following minutes the two children try to find ways to get the coin into the empty beer glass without touching the coin nor the beer-mat. The whole situation makes me smile. To see these two kids makes me even happier than Bayern’s victory against Cologne.

    Change of location and scenery: just a few days before we are on Delta Cultura’s Football for Hope Center pitch and the coaches are separated into two groups. They are given tasks and they compete with each other to finish them as quickly as possible. First I asked them to keep the ball in the air and everybody has to touch the ball at least once. Both groups start to juggle and pass the ball to each other with their feet. It is very difficult for them to complete the task. Finally they succeed. When I asked them why they didn’t use their hands they said: “We thought we have to use our feet.”

    Is there any connection between these two incidences? I could say that the girl in the restaurant has simply better listening skills than the coaches from the program in Cape Verde. But I think it goes deeper and the situation in the restaurant made me again realize why I love the work I do and why it is important. I want to encourage people to question and challenge tradition, religion and culture. I don’t want them to just assume what might be expected from them. The boy and the girl in the restaurant were facing a problem and then tried to find solutions to it. The adults that were around them didn’t tell them how they have to do it or what the best solution is. I think this is the biggest difference between these two kids and the people in Cape Verde and many other places in the world. I want to encourage those people who live in places with a culture of authoritarian control to find creative solutions to their problems instead of repeatedly trying to make solutions work that they have been told to use. My work is challenging, but often also very rewarding. The coaches in Cape Verde are on the right track as they have been very creative while developing their own games during the partnership. Their games address important social issues in their community such as robbery, social inclusion and female empowerment. As it was the third year of our Hat-Trick Initiative with Delta Cultura the coaches are now able to create and develop their own curriculum which will positively impact the next generation of children.

    Who knows in 20 years I might go back to Tarrafal and while I am sitting in a bar and sipping my beer two children might be sitting at the table next to me and will use an empty beer glass, a coin and a beer-mat to develop their own little challenge.


  • Evaluating Coaches Across Continents’ 2015 Impact So Far

    “The best thing about working with Coaches Across Continents is the unique and special impact of the CAC program.”

    Paul Lwanga, Football for Hope, Peace & Unity participant, Rwanda.

    August 17th 2015. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) plays an important part in everything we do at Coaches Across Continents: baseline/endline surveys involve every coach, and quantitative and qualitative data is collected at every program. CAC uses its data and statistics to evaluate current practice as well as to inform future developments.

    Comprehensive needs analysis allows CAC to identify the greatest social impact needs and priorities and to design locally relevant programs for partners. Baseline statistics demonstrate the initial attitudes, skills and knowledge of the coaches, including what they know about child protection, their understanding of football for social impact, or their inclination towards gender equality in sport.

    For example, only 15% of participants had ever coached a game of football for social impact before working with CAC in 2015 and only 7% of coaches have had training in how to protect children on the sports field. In many communities, less than a third of local coaches were coaching or planning on coaching girls prior to working with CAC in 2015. In some programs, none of the participants were coaching or planning on coaching girls.

    CAC’s WISER M&E model makes it possible to follow the growth of the organization as well as to identify the successes and impacts programs are having year-round in communities.

    Since the beginning of 2015, 19,376 On-Field coaching education hours have been dedicated to local communities. CAC has worked with 51 implementing partners, 823 community partners, and 2,225 local coaches. In total so far, CAC has reached 180,879 youth in 2015. At this time of year in 2014, CAC had only worked with 42 implementing partners, 685 community members, 1,859 local coaches and had reached 132,375 youth.

    In addition to On-Field coaching education, CAC delivers year-round support to partner programs such as Online Coaching Education, curriculum development, strategic planning, M&E development, social media support or sharing of best practices. This maximizes social impact and allows for the incredible impacts our partners achieve in their local communities.

    Some of the successes so far this year have included:

    – local coaches implementing the CAC curriculum with indigenous children to educate on drug abuse in Mexico.

    – the launch of a menstruation awareness and sanitary towel collection campaign to “encourage men to be more involved in what the adolescent girls and women go through in their menstruation cycle” in Nairobi, Kenya.

    – the creation of an entirely new NGO, ‘Green-Kenya’ for better implementation of the CAC curriculum in Kenyan communities with a specific focus on the environment.

    – the expansion of implementing partner Uni Papua to 28 communities in Indonesia.

    – the start of numerous new female empowerment through sport initiatives in Cameroon, Kenya, Zanzibar, and India.

    – the incorporation of CAC HIV games into daily trainings in Hyderabad, India, a topic that was previously avoided due to cultural sensitivities. Local coaches are now openly discussing sexual education in Hyderabad through sport for social impact.

    – the Mbarara community in Western Uganda working to build primary and secondary schools with playgrounds in order to provide children with sport for social impact education.

    For more information on Coaches Across Continents’ impacts in developing communities, you can read the ‘2014 In Review’ report.


  • Peace Is A Process

    July 10th, 2015.  Peace does not come easy.  For every person hoping for peace there always seems to be another who is causing conflict.  This is what makes what Football for Hope, Peace, and Unity and the second year of our “Play For Hope: Rwanda20” partnership so special.  FHPU has dedicated its mission to working for lasting peace in a country that has had numerous conflicts, the most notable and recent of which occurred 21 years ago in the form of a million-person genocide in just over three months time.  Before our week in Rwamagana, the CAC team was able to visit the Gisozi Genocide Memorial which is just as humbling as the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the Killing Fields in Cambodia.  All three memorials look to educate on the past while promoting the ideals of a peaceful future existence.  To give you an idea of the scope and impact that the genocide had on Rwanda, a National Trauma Survey by UNICEF estimated that 80% of Rwandan children experienced a death in the family in 1994, with 70% of children witnessing someone being killed or injured.   This was an event that completely transformed the nation and continues to form its identity moving forward.

    How do you move on from such a catastrophic event?  And how is FHPU through their soccer initiative PFH: Rwanda20 continuing to help this process?  In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda implemented what was known as the Gacaca.  It is a community-lead, grass-roots peace process.   This allowed for victims and perpetrators to come forward and tell their stories.  Punishments were then levied towards the genocidaires, but typically a 50% reduced sentenced that allowed them to work outside of a prison cell with their manual labor benefiting the community.

    Even today, 21 years later, peace remains a process.  On Thursday we concluded our training with the coaches and teachers of Rwamagana by playing a game from our Peace Day curriculum called “Understanding Stereotypes and Challenging Them.”  It can also be easily used to discuss discrimination and segregation, both of which were factors in the build-up of the genocide.  At the conclusion of the game we were hoping to openly discuss the historical issues between the Hutus and Tutsis, but we were told that it would be better to wait one day.  Even today people struggle to speak openly about a difficult topic – they need time to put their thoughts together.  The following morning during coach-backs, one group chose to replay this game.  At the conclusion, a 30-minute group discussion was held in a seated circle on the grass. To someone who was just learning about the intricacies of Rwandan history, it felt very much like an extension of a Gacaca, where the community was able to come together to speak on difficult subjects.

    The conclusion we heard from one coach after the discussion about the game is that when you segregate or discriminate, you are putting one group above another, and conflict is bound to follow.  Dr. Holly Collison, who is studying and researching in the field of Sport for Peace and Development for Loughborough University, also joined the discussion.  Her short participatory activity in the middle of the discussion showed that through communication you can learn about others, both your similarities and differences, but that communication is key.  The more you communicate, the more you understand about each other and how similar we all are.  And this is what the coaches and their fellow Rwandans are still doing today.  Even after 21 years, peace remains a process.