• 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.




  • Football for HIV Education in South Africa

    November 10, 2014. Markus Bensch – Senior Staff – returns to his old home in Durban, South Africa to run the CAC program with long-time partners Whizzkids United.

    From October 2012 till December 2013 I volunteered for Whizzkids United (WKU) in Durban, South Africa. Back then WKU had two workplaces, the office in Durban and the Health Academy (HA) in the Edendale Township 70 km away from Durban. The administrative office was in Durban and at the HA children and youth of Edendale can access health services and participate in different programs after school. The focus of WKU’s work is HIV/AIDS prevention through football. WKU is running year-round Life-Skill sessions at local schools that use football to educate students on HIV and raise awareness for the services and programs at the HA.

    Ten months after I left WKU I was lucky to be able to come back, see some of my old colleagues and friends and conduct a one-week CAC program together with my current colleague Kelly Conheeney. I’m happy that I can say colleague, because Kelly just decided to be on board full time with CAC for 2015. Welcome Kelly!!!

    For CAC it is the 5th year that we’ve trained the coaches from WKU and Edendale Township with the difference that the Football for Hope (FFH) Center that WKU has been rewarded with is finally finished and the previous two workplaces are now united at the Center. We were lucky that we could train with the coaches on the brand new artificial pitch and make use of the multifunctional room in the new building.

    Kelly and I welcomed 19 coaches on Monday morning. But first I received a very warm welcome from my old colleagues. It felt for me like I never left and I realized how much the WKU staff had taken me into their hearts. I was very happy to work with some of my old colleagues during our program.

    We started with a general introduction into Football for social impact and into the work of CAC, because it was most of the participants first time attending a CAC training. When we got on the pitch and introduced “Circle of Friends” and “Messi Skills for Life” we realized they enjoyed those games and were capable of identifying the social impact messages of the games very quickly. Circle of Friends is CAC’s most played game, because every session starts with this warm up. Players stand in a circle and one person starts to show an exercise while moving through the circle and finding a person on the outside for an exchange that includes a move (i.e. high five) and the use of voice (i.e. shouting your name or favorite football club). Now different players start to move through the circle doing the exercise that was shown to them and finally finding a person on the outside for the exchange before this person starts to do the same. This game is so much fun and often encourages people to introduce silly as well as challenging moves which creates an exciting atmosphere. This group was so enthusiastic and it was so much fun that from the 2nd day we let them lead the circle and introduce their own exercises. This game works brilliantly to warm up our bodies, but also to warm up and make use of our voice. Another social impact is to communicate with other people in the circle, concentrate to do the exercise correctly and to remember the exchange on the outside.

    One of the focuses of the training was HIV/AIDS education, because the battle against this disease is one of the biggest challenges for South Africa as a whole and the community of Edendale. So we played all our five Adebayor games that teach through football how everybody can protect him/herself from getting infected with HIV and take care of his/her sexual health. In the afternoon different participants were responsible to coach the CAC games they learned to the students that came to the HA. One of the female coaches just adapted our “Can Adebayor see HIV?” into a conflict resolution game and asked “Can you see who stole your pen?”. In the original version two lines of players with their hands in the back are facing each other and alternately have to guess who on the other team has the bottler cap or small stone in his/her hands which represents HIV. The social impact of the game is that you can’t know just by looking at the other person if he/she has HIV or not. The only way to know is to get tested. The young woman changed the social impact of the game and taught the youth that you can’t know who stole you pen just by looking at the other person and she discussed with them different peaceful ways the resolve conflicts. We were very happy to see that participants were so quickly capable of adapting games and make them their own.

    Two of the challenges for WKU over the past few years were to secure that participants from past years would come back for further training and to implement CAC games into their curriculum and trainings. The lack of implementation was also due to the fact that the construction of the FFH Center didn’t start for years and once it started it took more then a year to finish it and during that time WKU had to run their services next to a construction site. Together with the management we set some goals for the next year and we very much look forward to see our games being regularly played at the FFH Center and implemented in the schools in Edendale.

    We want to say “Thank you!” to WKU for being again such great hosts for our training. A very special “Thank you!” goes to our two host families in the Edendale Township who spoiled us with warm African cordiality, which includes delicious local food! To stay with locals always adds a very special flavor to our unique programs of letting us experience the local vibe and give us a better understanding of the local conditions.




  • “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!


  • 5 Months, 5 Countries, Beautiful Memories

    Senior Staff member, Markus Bensch writes about his first five months with Coaches Across Continents.

    September 4th, 2014. While writing this I’m sitting in the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul waiting for my connecting flight to Nuremberg, Germany. It will be my first time back in my country of origin after I started to work for Coaches Across Continents in late March. What has it been like in the past five months? Amazing, challenging, rewarding, tiring, refreshing, fun, exciting, and shocking … All those and many more adjectives can describe my experience with CAC and the people I worked with. I want to start with the most recent one that I had in Rwanda, because it’s the one that is the most fresh and that was also the most intense in so many ways.

    We were running four different programs in Rwanda with our partner Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) represented by its founder Eric Murangwa and his colleague Didier Bana. There have been previous blogs from Nora, Tom and Yael as well as from Francis saying how impressed we’ve been about the participants, their eagerness to learn, and their motivation to make a difference for their community and Rwanda as a whole. There is so much dedication towards development and change that when you speak to Rwandans at some point during the conversation they all mention the genocide in 1994, it seems that a lot of the dedication and motivation comes from this horrible killing of over 1 million people. On my last day before I left Rwanda I caught the chance to go to one of the memorials that can be found in all different parts of Rwanda. Didier from FHPU, an excellent guide, accompanied me on this trip. We went to Ntarama, a catholic church where one of the mass killings took place. As so often in history the church collaborated with the perpetrators and helped or even justified and blessed the killings. More than 5,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutus in Ntarama on the 15th April 1994 after spending 6 days in and around the church trying to escape the killing. The local tour guide took us through the different buildings around the church and I faced the most shocking picture in the room where the Sunday school took place. There was a bloodstained wall witnessing the killing of the children that were hiding on the church compound. Their heads had just been smashed against the wall and the blood remains on the wall until today as reminder of this horrible killing. And right next to it I saw a 2 meter long pointed wooden stick and the guide explains to us that this was used to kill the women after they have been raped by impaling them from their privates through their head. My breath stopped for a moment, followed by pain in my body, the feeling of emptiness and crying. I feel that with my tears I can give back these victims at least a little tiny bit of compassion and human kindness that they have been missing so much in the last moments of their lives. It’s horrific what humans can do to each other when they’ve lost their humanity. On a sheet that is covering some of the coffins inside the church is written in Kinyarwanda the following sentence: “If you would have known me and if you would have known you, you would have not killed me!” This outcry tells us the reason for this mass-killing and how it could have been prevented.

    But Rwanda is not only about its past and the genocide. It is first and foremost a beautiful country with amazing people. I’ve experienced so much friendliness and so much help when I tried to orientate myself as a stranger in a new country. And I’ve experienced so much kindness and humanity; I’m particularly impressed by the honesty of many Rwandans. In my one week holiday in Rwanda I also saw the beautiful nature of this country. My favourite experience was the two day cycling tour from Gisenyi to Kibuye along the Lake Kivu in the west of the country. Knowing that Rwanda is called the country of thousands hills, you can imagine how much I was physically and mentally challenged in these two days.

    These are the most recent experiences and definitely also one of the most intense of the past five months and will remain and definitely influence me in the time to come. Looking at the wider picture of the past five months I’ve been a part of or in charge of 14 different CAC programs in 5 different countries. And I can just confirm the CAC saying “Every program is different!”. I have had a great introduction by Nora in Uganda and Sophie in Tanzania to the CAC philosophy and curriculum. I want to say “Thank you!” to both of them for their support. After 7 weeks I felt well prepared to run my own programs. To lead the programs in Zimbabwe and South Africa was the next major step for me. I think I learned a lot in this time and as Nick did testimony in my last skype call: “I became less German!” I’ll take that as a compliment and I’m curious what I’ll become. More African? More Cosmopolitan? More relaxed? Hopefully a bit of everything!

    The most rewarding in the past five months was to see how all the groups I worked with differ. The surprise that comes up with each group makes my work so interesting and exciting and at the same time challenging, because it requires the openness on my side to support the development that comes up within the group initiated by the individuals. It is very exciting to put self-directed learning into practice and I like the challenge to get better in it with every single program. Development and Self-Directed Learning is not only reserved for our participants, but through my work it reflects on me and questions my beliefs, assumed limitations, and gives me the opportunity to broaden my borders and develop skills.

    I want to say “Thank you!” to Nick and Brian for giving me this great opportunity to be a part of the “CAC family” to develop my skills and personality and contribute towards “Football for social impact.” Last but not least I want to say “Thank you!” to all the people who work off the field and behind the scenes to make my work on the field possible and easier. I just recently learned that CAC is a fast growing business and we already count 60+ people who are involved in our vision of using football for social impact and contributing time towards CAC. I’m proud to be one of them!



  • Sedikwe Sa Bagwera (Circle of Friends) in Mokopane

    July 17, 2014.  Traveling from Zimbabwe overnight on Friday night, we were suppose to get to Polokwane, South Africa Saturday morning at 7:20am. TIA – This is Africa (as one of the locals taught us) was very clear during that bus ride. As we were entering our 4th hour at the Beit Bridge border, I could do nothing but laugh at the fact that we had been in and out of the bus 3 times, they went through our bag twice, and at the time we were suppose to arrive in the Limpopo province of South Africa, we were still in line at the border. Finally, after hitting the road again around 9am, I started to realize why patience is a virtue. The 17 hours traveling made me appreciate what was to come next way more. A Red Cross representative (our partner in Mokopane) picked us up from Polokwane and drove us the 50km to Mokopane. Right away, we knew it was going to be something special. We were staying at the hotel with all the participants, a shuttle was driving us to and from the facility (so “Africa time” was not a factor), we were getting fed three times a day, the sessions were on a turf field at the FIFA For Hope Center Mogalakwena, and we had more than 40 participants. What else could you ask for?

    Once we got to the hotel, I opened the door and saw three double beds, a TV, air conditioning, a big bath, a shower (with hot water) a tea/coffee machine (which is comfort food for me) and there even was wi-fi available! It is crazy the difference that two weeks can make (see Connection Not Found: Please Try Again blog). We, as Coaches Across Continents, welcome all circumstances and enjoy both also! After meeting with George Mamabolo, the South Africa Red Cross manager of the Limpopo Province, it was clear why the program was so well organized. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture was sponsoring the whole program. That way, it was possible for coaches from all over the Limpopo province to come and be a part of the program.

    Finally, Monday morning came, and it was time to start with the program. Over the next two weeks, we played over 50 games from our curriculum, had two sessions of coach backs (where the coaches coach either our games or new games), had two tournaments with the community, our compulsory child’s rights discussion, a discussion on characteristics of a good coach, but most importantly, had tons of fun and smiles. During the first week, we focused on identity building and HIV/AIDS, as requested by the coaches. The coaches were all really eager to learn, and it made the sessions very interesting and very impactful. During the second week, we focused on child’s rights, drug and alcohol abuse and on environmental education. During all the games, it was awesome to see them recognize what needed to be done and how they could work together as a community to improve. With all the games we played, I think my personal favorite was 95% football (invisible soccer).The teams came up with different strategies that made the game really interesting. One of the teams even called their players by different names so the other team would not know who they are passing the ball to. The game was filled with smiles, conflicts, solutions and laughs; making it a really successful game.

    The two weeks in South Africa were awesome, as we had a good program, but so much more. It helped me learn a lot about the impact we coaches can have in coaching for social impact and it helped me learn about myself a lot, as I was sometimes push to surpass my limits. Not to forget about the different words I learned, my favorites being Yebo (yes) and Laduma (goal). My dance move repertoire was also expanded, and my coordination improved greatly, thanks to Circle of Friends (Sedikwe Sa Bagwera) dancing exercises. After having a nice celebration last night with the participants, it is now time for me to head home. My adventure with CAC has been really enriching and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer – beside maybe being in Brazil to see Germany in the Final. One thing for sure, no where would I have learned as much! Now, time for 40 hours of traveling!



  • Football for Health & Wellness

    We can all agree that being active and playing sports is an incredibly healthy decision for our physical well-being. More and more people are beginning to understand how important a role sports can also play in improving our emotional well-being. CAC uses football to teach both of these messages. We also use football games to educate our participants, who then educate the youth they work with, on how to stay healthy, to practice good hygiene, to think about the food and fluids they put into their bodies, and to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

    cepeda face

    At the most fundamental level we teach Health & Wellness games in order to get the heart pounding, the lungs gasping for air, the muscles aching, the sweat pouring forth. One such game is Marta for Health & Wellness. In this game there are cones scattered about in a space with about 3-4 yards between each one. We will have two groups in this game – one group will work, the other will rest. Each will go for 30 seconds and in that time they have to get to as many cones as possible doing different movements at each one. For example, the first round they might touch the cone with their hand igniting more of a speed and changing direction challenge. Then they might jump over the cone with two feet – over and back – before they move on to another cone. Then maybe one foot, then the other. There are all sorts of variations to this game, but they all have the same purpose – get to work!

    Either after we finish, or between each exercise, we ask the participants how they feel. We see what information we can pull out of them, not as a test, but to help them understand why it is important to think about exercising in ways that extend beyond becoming better footballers. We ask pointed questions, as we do not want to lecture but, rather, to encourage the participants to think for themselves. In this manner our discussions about health and wellness become locally relevant and we learn about the various cultural factors that influence our ability to stay healthy, in body and in mind.

    DSC09762 (1280x960)

    These Health & Wellness games lay a strong foundation for us to build from when going more in-depth with topics such as nutrition and sexual health. One of our long-time partners, Whizzkids United, has the most comprehensive HIV education program that we have encountered in our work. Their new Football for Hope Center is at their office next to the hospital they partner with in Edendale, a community outside of Durban, South Africa. This relationship allows them to not only educate about HIV/AIDS but to also incorporate HIV testing and counseling, and thorough, long-term follow-up care into their programs. It is small-scale, but it is big impact. Our role in this partnership is helping Whizzkids capitalize on their charge of the Football for Hope Center. Their coaches learn all of our games with particular attention paid to our HIV module. These games embody the messages about sexual health meaning whatever happens during the game is what shapes the discussion.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows that before our program only 29% of our participants could teach young people how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS using a football game, whereas after a CAC training, that number jumps to 93%.